Down for Anything
By Kevin Koenig
There’s real passion behind the Palm Beach 55, which I tested off the Gold Coast of Australia this past May. The commitment to perfection of Palm Beach’s founder—champion sailor Mark Richards—is evident throughout the boat, as I would come to find out. And my goodness is she capable in a bit of a swell.
The 55 is notable for her fit and finish. The joinery on my test boat—an aspect Richards has been a stickler for since his early days as a shipwright—is sublime. The saloon bar looks like a solid piece of teak even though it isn’t. The seams are so tight that I literally had to lean over and study the wood for a while until one finally emerged like Waldo in a crowd.
Below, my boat had a forepeak master with nice headroom, as well as a guest with twin berths to starboard. However, Palm Beach will customize the accommodations layout just about any way you like. Which is good, because at about $2,600,000 the Palm Beach 55 isn’t cheap, but she’s a damn fine vessel.
The hull is foam-cored and hand-laid using high-end vinylester resins. Richards prefers to roll out or squeegee his laminates by hand, he says, so he and his workers can better control their distribution, and the consequential weight and strength factors. The hull is warped, and has a super-fine entry at the bow that flattens out markedly to a mere six degrees of deadrise at the transom, a characteristic which helps with stability, both at rest and underway. A keel aids in tracking. The hull is very streamlined, lacks any strakes, and is designed to slip through the water like a dolphin. And despite the formidable conditions I tested her in, the boat was absent of creaks or groans due in no small part to the fact that all of her structural components are solidly glassed directly into the hull—a process that takes time, but pays off in all sorts of other great dividends.
At the beginning of the 55’s test, before I took the wheel, the Palm Beach captain buzzed down an inland waterway towards the inlet doing 30 knots. There was a 40-foot sailboat moored in open water off to port ahead of us, her captain lazing in the cockpit. As we breezed by, our wake normally would have rocked the sailboat, and yet it didn’t. The 55’s hull creates such minimal turbulence in the water that her wake is nearly negligible.
In the inlet, the boat met 7-foot rollers and sliced so cleanly through them at 20 knots that the handwriting in my notebook didn’t even change. And outside the inlet in even bigger seas the boat performed outstandingly well, landing softly in the troughs and tracking straighter than a fat kid running down an ice cream truck.
The relatively low-horsepower, twin, straight-shaft 670-horsepower Volvo Penta D11s were sitting pretty below in a spacious engine room that was particularly notable for its teak sole. Yes, teak. In the engine room. The 55, with her 59-foot LOA, can hit top speeds cresting 30 knots with those engines. And that’s thanks to her slippery hull and a displacement of only 36,400 pounds, which derives from the fact that the entire boat, hull, deck, furniture, everything, is cored.
Palm Beach Motoryachts, 877-291-4220; www.pbmotoryachts.com
: 36,400 lb.
: 687 gal.
: 317 gal.
: 2/670-mhp Volvo Penta D11 diesels
: various Volvo Penta and Cummins power configurations
: ZF, 2.05:1 gear ratio
: 30 x 34 bronze Teignbridge 5-blades
Fixed rear cockpit awning ($15,000); bow rider seat ($12,000); full Garmin electronics package ($9,200); hydraulic tender launch system (upon request).
Air temperature: 70°F; humidity: 30%; seas: flat for speed numbers, 6-9' in open water; load: 225 gal. fuel, 300 gal. water, 5 persons, 1,500 lb. gear. Speeds are two-way averages measured w/ GPS display. GPH estimates taken via Volvo Penta display. Range is based on 90% of advertised fuel capacity. Sound levels are measured at the helm. 65 dB(A) is the level of normal conversation.