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Carver 55 Marquis

What made a believer of me was the thunk I heard when a sizable wave from someplace—maybe from one of the big, slab-sided Great Lakes ore carriers that constantly ply the cold, grayish waters of Wisconsin’s Green Bay—slammed the port bow like a sledgehammer.

I mean: Thunk!

“Jeeze,” I exclaimed, directing a speculative grin at Randy Peterson, who was sitting next to me in the copilot’s seat on the flying bridge, snuggly ensconced in a foul-weather coat—even by Wisconsin’s early-summer standards, temperatures were a tad frosty as we idled out of the ship channel, heading for open water.

Peterson grinned back, obviously proud to be working for Carver and its recent offshoot, Marquis Yachts, a Lexus-like division building the 65, 59, and our just-launched prototype, the 55 Marquis. Strictly speaking, Peterson’s a propulsion and systems-engineering manager, but he’s seriously dialed into other facets of boatbuilding at Carver and Marquis, including belt-and-suspenders construction techniques. “Solid, eh?” he said, making a fist.

Earlier, I’d toured Carver’s plant in nearby Pulaski to see how Marquis builds the 55. The construction process begins with a three-piece, pull-apart mold, an expensive, complex, and innovative piece of tooling that allows designers to run wild, taking curvaceousness to new levels, deepening style lines, and otherwise integrating shapes into the hull and superstructure that are way more dramatic than you’ll see on most other yachts, even those being built in Europe.

Lamination methods are extra-tough. The solid-glass bottom of the 55 is laid up by hand with Knytex substrates and a vinylester barrier coat to prevent osmotic penetration. Hull sides are cored with closed-cell foam below the waterline and end-grain balsa above. Balsa is also used to core the superstructure, which the Marquis craftsmen additionally stiffens with a matrix of stanchions and frames of tubular and bar-stock aluminum, all thoroughly glassed into the periphery of the interior.

Construction details are even tougher. A grid of massive fiberglass stringers and transversals is glassed—not just tabbed—into the bottom while the hull is still in the mold, a unibody approach that integrates, strengthens, and stiffens. Two thick fiberglass liners are secured with Plexus methacrylate adhesive atop the grid forward of the engine room and then glassed into the hull sides, all the way around—another unibody-type measure. And the theme continues with bulkheads, both forward and aft, bonded into the hull sides with the same all-the-way-around thoroughness and a hull-to-deck joint permanently secured with 3M 5200 polyurethane adhesive.

“Well, here we are—sea-trial city,” I said to Peterson, adjusting the collar of my own foul-weather coat as we approached the Bay proper. “What say we see if this baby runs as solid as she’s built?”

I leaned forward from the ultra-comfy, posterior-pampering Aqua-Journey helm seat I was sitting in and dialed up 2000 rpm on the best binnacle engine control in the world as far as I’m concerned: the single-lever electronic marvel from Volvo Penta. Combine an elegant CAN-bus vessel-management system with transmissions that shift electronically, and whataya get? Silky, authoritative operation and lightning-fast, fingertip response. In seconds we were doing 27 mph.

Visibility from the Aqua-Journey was excellent in all directions, and at no point did bowrise obscure the view ahead. Smoothness and ease were the watchwords, and not a fleck of spray anywhere. The helm station itself (which essentially duplicates the lower station, opposite the dinette) was smartly prioritized. Two Raymarine flat-screen displays (with cartography, radar picture, speed, depth, and other parameters selectively available) were front and center, just forward of an easy-to-see compass. And although the Volvo Penta digital engine readouts were off to the left and a little tough to monitor, I found that the Voyager TV screen, autopilot, VHF speaker, and stereo were all clustered usefully nearby.

I swept the 55 into a long, straight, rousing run. Our average top speed was 33.7 mph, which seemed as solid as everything else about the 55, especially considering the boat was topped off with fuel and water. I did a turn or two, eventually concluding that the radius was overwide, a condition Peterson attributed to an undersized hydraulic system that was preventing full travel on the rudders. I also groused a bit about the indicators for the electric LectraTab trim tabs on the dash. While the tabs themselves worked nicely, the indicators were, to my way of thinking, reversed, side to side, making it hard to stay on top of the trim situation.

As Peterson and I returned to the marina, the already frosty temperatures were dropping noticeably due to an approaching cold front and 10- to 15-mph zephyrs gusting across our slip. While sightlines from the lower helm were fine through the windshield and workable through the glass slider at the rear of the saloon, I decided to back the 55 home using the upper station, where visibility seemed better. The maneuver went smoother than a hound dog’s nose for three reasons. First, the 55 is heavy; she stays put, even with gusts broadsiding her. Second, visibility was great; with my back to the helm, I could easily look down the stairway to the cockpit on the starboard side and see the starboard quarter. And third, I had lots of low-end diesel torque on tap—I didn’t need the 12-hp QL bow and stern thrusters at all.

Once tied up, we were ready for a little warmth, so the 55’s engine room was as gratifyingly toasty as it was impressive. Entered via a cockpit hatch and lazarette ladder, the space is expansive and straightforwardly engineered. Access to the mains is good, both inboard and outboard. Steel engine beds fabricated in-house are massive and confidence-inspiring. An innovative system automatically toggles between shore- and genset power, nixing mistakes associated with sliding bars and other complicated switchery. And although the height of the place was just 5'6", I was told Marquis plans to drop the centerline walkway on future models, remove the six 8D batteries underneath, reposition them in the lazarette, and add 13 inches of headroom.

We wound up the day examining our Marquis 55’s sumptuously furnished interior. It offers three staterooms and two heads on the lower deck; a saloon, forward dinette/helm area, and galley just abaft it and to starboard on the main deck; and separate stairways from the saloon to both the cockpit and flying bridge, which has an L-shape settee, wet bar, spot for a dingy and davit, and of course, a helm station with two helm seats.

A conventional envelope? Yeah, but Marquis slips some unusual features into it, like specially treated windows that both bathe the master stateroom in natural light yet guarantee privacy. And like the eminently practical split head on the lower deck with MSD access from both the VIP and the guest quarters, but direct access to the shower from the VIP alone. Add UltraLeather upholstery, rich American walnut joinery, stainless steel accents, and high-end appliances to such features, and it’s easy to see why Peterson and the rest of his pals at Marquis have a real hit on their hands.

“Great boat,” I told him as we parted company.

“I know,” he replied with a smile that was both good-humored and absolutely matter-of-fact.

Marquis Yachts
(920) 822-3214

This article originally appeared in the August 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.