It wasn’t long ago that the idea of a triple-engine installation conjured up images of exotic hardware and space-age engineering. We’ve all seen them, and marvelled at their complexity. And then wondered who on earth buys them.
Times are changing. Just as we all remember when a midrange flying-bridge cruiser was about 40 feet long with six berths and a painfully small third cabin, we can accept that the competitive core of today’s market is now represented by such sleek craft as the new Pearl 65. And the Pearl is unusual in being fitted, in standard form, and for perfectly sensible and practical reasons, with three engines on pod drives.
Pearl is a minnow compared to its main competitors. A small but high-quality British outfit, it knows it has to offer a genuine alternative. The fiberglass work is contracted out to Taiwan, and the moldings are shipped over for fit-out and completion in England. Like the Pearl 75 introduced four years ago, the company’s new 65 has a high-concept interior by designer Kelly Hoppen, and cutting-edge European styling and naval architecture from the experienced British design studio of Bill Dixon. And if its customers don’t feel quite as bold as the shipyard when it comes to innovation in engineering, they can choose two 900-horsepower Volvo Penta diesels, on either IPS drives or conventional shafts, instead of the standard three 600-horsepower Cummins on Zeus pod drives. Nevertheless, Pearl is quietly confident that the manifest benefits of the triple installation will make it the most popular choice.
As everyone knows, pods allow the engines to be fitted farther aft, leaving space in the hull for accommodations. Three small marine diesels also take up less hull length, and tend to use less fuel for a given horsepower than two bigger ones.
A main-deck layout featuring an aft galley leading out into the cockpit works well, lending extra privacy to the raised, midships saloon seating area. The long overhang both shades the cockpit and adds useful bridge space, where there is a well-placed and sociable center helm station. The lower-deck layout is straightforward and efficient, and Dixon has not fallen into the trap of trying to cram too much in: he’s got a big, beamy hull to work with and he has filled it, mostly, with big, generous spaces. The 65 might have four cabins, but making one of them a modest twin-bunk affair—occupying a space on the port side which can be an office area—confers great benefits on the other three.
Out on the water off Palma, Mallorca, on a warm, late fall day, the 65 performed and handled like a thoroughbred. Acceleration was smooth and urgent, and the yacht topped out at 30.5 knots, with a comfortable range of cruising speeds, planing as low as 14 knots. The triple installation didn’t feel at all quirky or unusual—it just felt right. There is plenty of torque available where it’s needed, and the steering was light and positive, inducing just the right amount of heel in hard turns.
Unwilling to pass up the opportunity, I couldn’t resist a little experimentation. From a standing start, with the center engine switched off, the 65 managed to climb onto plane and recorded a maximum speed at full throttle of 22 knots, in spite of the massive drag of the dead pod drive. Fuel consumption was around 63 gallons per hour. The boat was less happy with one of the outer engines taken out, but it still got up onto the plane and managed a maximum of 18 knots, while full speed with the center engine alone was 12 knots. Back in the harbor, Cummins’ excellent SmartCraft joystick control proved intuitive and user-friendly.
And the only question regarding that radical, triple-engine installation is why more of Pearl’s mainstream competitors don’t offer anything similar. Give them time: They probably will.
Atlantic Yacht & Ship, 954-921-1500; www.pearlyachts.com
: 78,400 lb. (full load)
: 845 gal.
: 238 gal.
: 3/600-hp Cummins QSC 8.3 with Zeus pod drives
: 3/600-hp Cummins QSC 8.3s with Zeus pod drives
: 2/900-hp Volvo Penta IPS 1200s; 2/900-hp Volvo Penta D13 shaft drives