After running the numbers, it was time to feel this boat from the helm. I put the throttles forward, and Water Witch offered a gradual ascent to plane (see acceleration curve). Once over the hump, she continued a steady stride to WOT and tracked straight with little wheel input. The seas had no impact on her ride. There wasn't a bump or a thud to be had, even when I put the power-assisted wheel hardover and she turned at WOT in about two and half boat lengths. Kyle enthused, "That was some turn." I looked back at Bob, who was sitting in the companion chair smiling. I thought the sea trial was going well for them, too. After some more at-speed maneuvers, I took the boat back to neutral to see how Water Witch drifted in a swell, which she did quite well. Her roll was relaxed and gentle, and I felt little movement at the helm. At deck level, I imagine, there would be almost no movement.
I finished my run and asked Kyle and Bob if they wanted the wheel. Bob, still smiling, declined. But Kyle wanted to back down the boat. He stood on the platform, faced the cockpit, grabbed the controls, and put them in reverse, and the 60 accelerated to about 7 knots. I could see Kyle envisioning a marlin slashing about as he braced against the boat's teak coaming and water poured over the back of the transom, up to the mezzanine area, turning the golden teak cockpit sole into a saltwater swimming pool. He thought it was "cool." Sculley Jr. wanted to show Kyle just what this boat was capable of and, after taking back the wheel, backed Water Witch down with a vengeance. Teal water flew over the transom, and the high-water alarms began blaring. The water quickly evacuated through the efficient down-angled scuppers. I looked at Bob and saw he was wearing a smile even bigger than the one before.
Once the deck cleared, I headed to the saloon to check out an interior finely finished in satin and high-gloss cherrywood, as well as high-end equipage from Sub-Zero and Kitchen-Aid in the galley and Panasonic and Bose in the saloon and three staterooms. (A fourth "semi-stateroom" with bunks is located in the below-decks'companionway). All the staterooms have LCD TVs with on-demand entertainment. Not too shabby for a "fishing" boat.
And speaking of fishing, our boat was tournament-ready with stainless steel fishboxes, livewells, optional electric reel outlets, a Hoshizaki ice maker, 41-foot Rupp outriggers, and a 15-foot Rupp center ,rigger, as well as a tuna door, Release fighting chair, underwater lights, and electric teaser reels; and of course, that copious rod stowage. Water Witch is 68,000 pounds (loaded) of pure battlewagon.
So what was the West Coast take on East Coast custom boatbuilding? I stopped by Sculley's slips later in the afternoon following the test to pick up some media materials and noticed Bob and Kyle onboard a new Sculley express. They were chatting and enjoying a cool drink. Bob was still smiling, and they were also celebrating the fact they had just purchased their own 54-foot Sculley. I guess that says it all.
Sculley Boatbuilders (252) 473-6855. www.sculleyboatbuilders.com.
Gear on Board >> Palm Beach Helm
Water Witch's helm is set back nine inches from where this builder usually places it to enhance cockpit communication with the captain. That relatively minor modification will come in handy when backing down on big fish. There is one drawback though: If you're around my height (5'7"), you won't be able to see the bow.
Spotlight On | Rods, Reels, and Gaffs
One issue onboard any sportfisherman is making space for all the gear. There are rods and reels to catch bait and for bagging blue marlin, as well as light-tackle rods and more. Sculley addressed this issue onboard Water Witch by having Bausch Tower construct the custom flying-bridge hardtop you see here. The latches simply turn, and the doors drop to reveal rod stowage in otherwise unused space.
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