Deep Impact: One of Speedboating’s Greatest Turnaround Success Stories
Once upon a time, center consoles were exclusively associated with sportfishermen and bluewater tournaments. Over the years, they became faster, roomier and more competitive. The evolution of the center console from fishboat to high-performance juggernaut has been our industry’s most astonishing chapters, and a major player in this transformation is Deep Impact of Miami, FL.
Launched in the 1990s by the father-son team of Armando Gomez Sr. and his son Armando Jr. (known as “Bambi”), Deep Impact pioneered the center console as a go-fast muscleboat. In 2014, Deep Impact dealer and speedboat enthusiast Mark Fischer—owner of the dealership BoatsDirectUSA.com, as well as the wildly popular used-car buying website OffleaseOnly.com—purchased the assets and trademarks of Deep Impact, with plans to continue building the line as Deep Impact Custom Boats. Since purchasing the company, it has flourished under his leadership, and the lineup (including the 369 Sport, 399 Sport and 399 Cabin) has been refined, improved and become one of the most popular choices for powerboaters, while his Blackwater line continues to dominate the fish-boat market. Critical to the factory’s success is boatbuilder and designer Eugene Uriarte, who oversees the intricate production that goes into every Deep Impact boat.
Taking control of Deep Impact is “really where the fun started,” Fischer says, “because we took everything about the boat for the better. We retooled the decks, the console, the top…Pretty much the only thing that’s original about the 390 is the John Cosker bottom. Everything else underwent a complete redesign.”
Fischer and his wife of 31 years, Eileen Fischer, had moved to Florida in the late ‘90s. He joined Stu Jones’ Florida Powerboat Club in 2001 and purchased his first brand-new powerboat, a 29’ Powerquest with twin MerCruiser 454s. “I bought it because I wanted to go to the Bahamas,” he recalls. “Stu told me that if I bought a boat with twin engines, even a 29-footer, that we could go to the Bahamas.”
And what a wild ride it was! “It was our first event,” he recalls with a chuckle. “They neglected to mention that we would run into five- to eight-foot seas. In a 29-foot boat, it was an interesting first experience. And then we got stuck in the Bahamas for a week because the seas were so rough. Many people probably would not have come back after that!”
Since then, Fischer has owned a series of performance boats, but perhaps none so famously as his 43’ Nor-Tech Where’s Eileen? (named after his wife) and his 53’ Nor-Tech, Where’s Eileen Now?, both of which have been featured in these pages in conjunction with FPC’s various adventures on the water.
“Part of the reason I’m in the boat business isn’t to make money,” he explains. “It’s because I’m passionate about the product, and I always have been. I got into this because of our passion for Deep Impact, and the way the boat rides. I’ve been on every freaking boat on the planet, but when I get back into my 399, I don’t think there’s a better handling, better performing boat on the water. It’s quiet and dry and handles like a hot rod. It has an amazing bottom, and it’s just an amazing boat.”
Later this year, Deep Impact will unveil its newest creation: the 499, poised to become the industry’s hottest luxury center console. It will feature a beam of 13′, up to three rows of seats, a full length sun pad in front of the console, full forward seating and lounge and full stateroom with full stand-up head and galley area inside the console. Powered by quint 450R or quad 600s, it’s expected to reach speeds exceeding 80 mph while keeping the proven step bottom, fuel efficient, soft ride that Deep Impact is known for. The team at Deep Impact is hoping to debut the 499 at this year’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, Oct. 26-30.
Today, Deep Impact’s exclusive dealer is Plantation Boat Mart of Tavernier, FL, on Key Largo. It is owned and run by Dennis De La Torre, whose family purchased the dealership in 1996, and it remains a family-owned marina. He says it’s only natural that Deep Impact would appeal to the poker-run crowd.
“It was by far the forerunner of the go-fast center console—wider, longer, more stable and way faster than anything else that was out there during those times,” he says. “It had a low center of gravity, and it just that look that appealed to a guy with multiple homes who liked to cruise around in a sandbar-style boat. That’s where the Deep Impact fit right in.”
De La Torre is assisted by factory rep Brianna Murray, who heads up all of the sales and customer service at Plantation Boat Mart, as well as the production at the Deep Impact factory.
“She’s a powerhouse,” De La Torre says. “Not only in the Deep Impact and PBM world. She has sold and brokered everything from flats boats to megayachts, focusing mostly on the world’s largest and most elite center consoles. Her name is very well-known in the industry. She’s dealing with build sheets and the customers. She sells all the Deep Impacts and Blackwater Yachts.”
Murray doesn’t waste time acknowledging her humble beginnings: “I started as a part-time receptionist,” she says. “Since then, I’ve kind of forced my way into every sort of avenue in the boat industry, from accounting and service to warranties, deliveries and personal assistance. I’m dealing with customers and forging relationships and improving work environments. Plantation Boat Mart is my home.”
She pays tribute to De La Torre’s commitment to excellence and his pride in bringing joy to the consumer. “People follow him, whether he’s selling lawn mowers or boats,” Murray says. “We don’t sell you a boat and tell you ‘good luck.’ When Dennis sells a boat, he’s selling to part of his extended family. That’s one thing that I’ve always truly admired.”
Speedboat reached out to several Deep Impact customers to get their take on the builder, the dealership and the products. Eddie Collier, a Nashville-based automotive dealer, was flying back to the USA from Aruba and making plans for his upcoming weekend, which would involve looking at a few used boats. “I called Plantation Boat Mart and Brianna said, ‘Can I ask you to come to me last?’ I said, ‘As a car dealer, you have my respect now.’ So I agreed to come to her last.” He met with Brianna on Monday and had committed to buying a 399 Sport on Wednesday.
“The boat handles so well,” says Collier, who sometimes runs it on Mississippi’s Pearl River. “There’s an area we call ‘the Squiggly’ because it’s not even 40 feet wide and there’s nothing but U-turns. I went there in December and I was able to run that boat on the Squiggly in the 50s. It takes off fast, and we got it up to 87 mph with 11 people aboard during the Emerald Coast Poker Run.”
Collier says his experience working with the crew at Plantation Boat Mart exceeded his expectations. “Everybody there, including Dennis, Brianna, Jomar in the service department and everybody in the parts department—they all do a wonderful job. Throughout the process of building the boat, when I would come up with colors and stripes and different things I wanted to do, they made everything extremely easy.”
Kris Luykx, who uses his 399 Sport on Georgia’s Lake Lanier, is a 66-year-old who has done a lot of “wheeling and dealing and selling” in his life, and he says he hasn’t anyone as good as Brianna when it comes to salesmanship. “To be honest, I’ve never met anybody as good as she is. I buy a lot of stuff, and my experience with her is the best I’ve ever had.”
Sean Porter of Texas purchased a previously owned 33 Open after Deep Impact had ceased production on the model in 2019. While converting the powerplant from twins to triples, Porter found himself in need of some dash components that only the factory itself would be able to provide.
“I reached out to Brianna, and she put me in touch with her service manager,” Porter recalls. “He hooked me up with what I needed, and the team provided me with some excellent insight on how to get the maximum performance with my new setup. They’ve definitely been a family, for sure.”
Joe Calabro of Livingston, NJ, to learn about his experience with the company. Calabro, a former offshore throttleman whose racing career dates back to the mid-1980s, is the second owner of a 399 Deep Impact. He runs the boat on both the Long Island Sound and off the coast of South Florida.
“The hull design of the Deep Impact, in my experience, is excellent,” he says. “With the quad 400s, I’m running in the mid ’80s. It handles the rough Florida water very well.”
Calabro says his 399, which is currently at Haulover Marine Center in Miami, is the perfect South Florida boat. “I like running it offshore,” he says. “It handles decent sized water. It’s a good, solid boat. It tracks real nice, carves a turn very well. It’s a well-balanced boat.”
Dealing with Brianna and the crew at Plantation Boat Mart, he says, has been a genuine highlight of his Deep Impact experience. “I deal with Brianna, and she’s wonderful,” he enthuses. “At Plantation Boat Mart, they really take care of you. If I have questions or if I need anything, they ship it up to Jersey for me, no questions asked.”
With a proven product and a top-notch staff, it’s no wonder Deep Impact’s business has continued to thrive. “We’re sold out until the fourth quarter of 2023,” De La Torre says. “People just want to put their deposits down so they can secure their next place in line.”