Hatteras 68 Convertible — By Richard Thiel —
Thoughtful design and scrupulous execution produce a boat that maintains her manners even in the worst conditions.
If you’re a regular reader of PMY boat tests, you’re familiar with a disclaimer we too often use that goes something like, “Since the conditions were dead-calm on test day, I couldn’t evaluate her seakeeping abilities.” Well, you won’t read anything like those words in this test. The early-December day I was aboard the Hatteras 68C produced some of the snottiest, nastiest, most all-around uncomfortable conditions I’ve ever had the misfortune to experience. The thermometer had inched its way to 31ºF, but 25- to 30-knot northerlies made it feel like seven. Although we weren’t offshore where the seas were eight and building, we were in the ocean, just outside Beaufort Inlet in central North Carolina, in steep, closely spaced threes and fours that promised jaw-crunching impacts, especially on the quarters.
I can’t say the test was uneventful—imagine shooting a radar gun in those conditions at her top speed of 39.4 mph—or that the ride was smooth, which would have been the case only aboard an aircraft carrier. But I can say the 68 was well-mannered, surprisingly dry, and devoid of jarring. At every speed she ate it all up—even if we did not.
One reason she did is traditionally conservative construction that emphasizes strength over lightness. The 68C is simply devoid of squeaks and groans. Another is her hull-and-powertrain package, a remarkable piece of engineering. This is the second Hatteras—the 54 was the first—to diverge from the principals of the late Jack Hargrave, which marked Hatterases virtually since day one. Her deadrise is moderate, from 22 degrees forward to just two degrees at the transom. To avoid a harsh ride—especially with an oversize 21'6" beam—convex forward sections shoulder away seas and soften both horizontal and vertical impacts. Double chines and generous bow flair control spray; on test day it seemed the chines did most of the work. Two strakes per side contribute dynamic lift, stability, and tracking, but I felt they, too, knocked down a lot of spray. Whatever does what, I can tell you that this boat is dry.
Prop pockets not only reduce draft (5'3") and shaft angle, but also propeller-tip clearance—by ten percent, says Hatteras—increasing efficiency the same way ducting does on a jet engine. It’s a tricky calculus: too little clearance, and vibration increases, especially at slower speeds. There’s none of that on the 68.
Instead of being mounted on the transom, the trim tabs are recessed into the end of each tunnel, where they operate in high-velocity water coming directly off the seven-blade props. More efficient, they can be smaller and require less deflection—reportedly 70 percent less—while maintaining effectiveness.
The 68 is also reportedly the first boat anywhere with tapered rudder bearings that use the weight of the stainless steel rudders to constantly tighten themselves and so compensate for wear. Also new are crosscut strut bearings that improve water flow, and thus lubrication, and a cylindrical keyway and key that reduces prop-shaft stress where the propeller bolts on.
Still another innovative hull feature that’s both practical and aesthetically pleasing is the removal of engine-room vents from the hull sides. They’re under the cockpit coamings, where there’s less direct spray, although demisters are still fitted. The absence of hull-side vents and saddle tanks also increases engine room space: I measured nearly three feet from the starboard Caterpillar C32 to the outboard air conditioning compressors. Combined with 6'4" headroom, the cockpit-accessible engine room is truly spacious. As for the fuel tanks, there are five FRP ones—three mains forward and two day ones aft—necessitating a transfer-pump system.
Next page > Part 2: The 68 is so full of smart engineering details that it’s easy to forget that her primary purpose is fishing, until you look around her cockpit—all 195 square feet of it. > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
This article originally appeared in the February 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.