First of all, Mike and Sarah Howe—the adventure-seeking, high-spirited personalities and powerboat enthusiasts behind the Howe 2 Live brand and YouTube channel—consider themselves extremely lucky to own the first production 440X catamaran from Marine Technology Inc. Second, the team at MTI in Wentzville, Mo., feels just as lucky to have the Howes as the first customers to take delivery of one of the company’s stunning new outboard-powered 44-footers.
The first production MTI 440X catamaran was recently delivered to Howe 2 Live’s Mike and Sarah Howe. Photo courtesy ZipZapPower.
In case you missed it, MTI debuted its prototype demo boat ahead of schedule during the Florida Powerboat Club Key West Poker Run in November, and has production hull No. 2, which just so happens to be powered by the newly announced Mercury Racing 400R V-10 400-hp outboard engines, on display in the Miami Beach Convention Center at this week’s Miami International Boat Show.
The Howes’ new boat—a gorgeous white, orange, black and gray cat that contrasts the mostly blue color schemes of their previous 390X and 340X models—is powered by twin Mercury Racing 450R engines, the same engines that were on the couple’s 39-footer. While the Howes loved their 34- and 39-foot cats, and they admitted they were doubtful MTI could build anything more impressive than their 390X that starred in many Howe 2 Live adventure videos, the couple from Maine referred to the 440X as “the pinnacle of performance boating evolution.”
And to be able to have the first one makes it somewhat more special to them.
Sarah Howe can hardly contain her excitement when it comes to her new MTI 440X catamaran. Photo courtesy Howe 2 Live
“I can’t even tell you how fun this has been—from the build process and the way we decided to take delivery to spending the time learning together and getting to dial it in with my good friend (and soon-to-be 440X owner) Shaun Torrente,” Mike Howe said after spending the majority of the two weeks of February enjoying the boat and testing it to the tune of approximately 1,200 miles. “Honestly, I kind of have to pinch myself every now and again and ask, ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ The boat is ‘sawesome,’ that’s a new word I made up for ‘so awesome’ (laughs). I know I’m gushing a bit, but for me, and I’ve literally been in some serious high-performance machines in my life, the 440X is the pinnacle of speed and efficiency. I didn’t think it was possible but MTI completely raised the bar.”
The reason the Howes have covered more than 1,000 miles already is because they decided to get the boat from MTI at its concierge and service center at Haulover Marine Center in North Miami and take the long way, by boat, to Shaun Torrente Racing in Southwest Florida, before heading south to their second home in the Florida Keys. In doing so, the couple left Miami and headed north to check something off its bucket list—boat across the state of Florida through the canals, locks, rivers and “Florida’s Inland Sea,” also known as Lake Okeechobee, the largest freshwater lake in the state. (Check out the “map of the 700-mile adventure” below that was provided by Mike Howe.)
“Lake Okeechobee didn’t take us very long—we ripped across that thing in like 16 minutes,” Sarah Howe said, then chuckled. “Everybody was saying what a big lake it was. It sure didn’t feel that big.”
“I would like to tell you that the crossing was some sort of major adventure or challenge, but it wasn’t; it was actually dreamy,” Mike Howe said. “It was sunsets and cruising these really cool, narrow rivers that are uncrowded. It was just me and my wife and it was awesome. I would do that loop again for sure.”
Sarah Howe agreed and wants to do it sooner than later, especially after facing her fear of “getting through the locks.”
“I actually Googled how to go through a lock—I wanted to make sure I didn’t commit any cardinal sins,” Sarah Howe said. “I was worried the lockmasters would be some grumpy people annoyed at us in our fast boat, but everybody was so nice. And once we got the first one done, it was so simple. It was so cool to see those doors open and see the level of the lake way different than where we were.”
Mike Howe added some insight for anyone looking to do the crossing.
“If you do that run, you should know Lake Okeechobee is not exactly a thriving community,” he said. “You’re out there—you’re in the Everglades-ish area and you’re enjoying Mother Nature. We didn’t have any technical issues so you want to make sure your boat is doing well when you get up in there because there’s not much around.”
“And check the locks schedule,” Sarah Howe added. “I found out from the first lockmaster that one of the locks we had to go through that day was going to be closed the next day. It didn’t affect us but we wouldn’t have known that otherwise had we come through a different day.”
After making the crossing, the couple landed in Alva, home of STR, and spent a few days testing before driving the 440X south to the Keys.
“Everyone has been asking us how the 440X compares to the 390X,” Mike Howe said. “I’m comfortable in saying the sea capability between the 390 and the 440 is the same jump that we experienced from the 340 to the 390, which was astonishing back then. The 440 is in a class of its own, no doubt about it.
“Sarah and I couldn’t be happier with the boat’s capabilities,” he added. “Its performance is very close to that of the 390; it even surpasses it in certain aspects. But the biggest difference is its true offshore seaworthiness and rough-water ride. We found ourselves in two straight weeks of Florida winter—15- to 30-knot winds—and we boated every day in comfort and at good speeds nonetheless. We had a blast. The 440 proves that size does matter offshore.”
Check out the slideshow above for more images of the first production MTI 440X courtesy of Howe 2 Live and ZipZapPower.
Overall, Howe called the boat a perfect match between power and length and seaworthiness.
“Sarah called it a unicorn vessel, which is a great description,” he said. “I’m a believer in the saying, ‘You get what you pay for,’ and that’s always been the case with our MTIs. The new 440X is top-notch. MTI did such a great job with the interior and the overall fit and finish. The extra cockpit width is an upgrade from the 390 as well. It’s very comfortable.
“We have 1,200 miles on this boat and guess how many issues? Zero,” he continued. “It’s remarkable that since we left Haulover, the boat has been absolutely perfect.”
Howe added that he plans to release a series of enticing videos documenting the new 440X in the coming days. As always, thousands of interested viewers, including this reporter, will be logging in to check out the famous YouTubers’ next adventure and get a closer look at their all-new MTI, a boat they say is a game-changer.
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