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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Island Pilot 535

The Complete Yacht

This boat’s standards list includes dynamic positioning and a Seakeeper gyro-stabilizer.

There’s no denying the striking one-of-a-kind appearance of Island Pilot’s new 535. In fact, to a guy like me, who’s subject to the wiles of seafaring romance and always has been, her profile has got a somewhat cinematic flair. It’s a logical first impression given that Island Pilot’s founder, Reuben Trane, dabbled in moviemaking years ago, well before boats became his overriding passion. Check out the broken, nearly flat sheerline; the dense array of ports, hatches, and windows surrounding the lower helm station; the bold, in-your-face angularity of the lofty superstructure. All these conspire to make the 535 seem more like a patrol boat out of a nautical thriller than a recreational cruiser.

But appearances can be deceiving. And while the newly launched flagship of the Island Pilot fleet certainly sports the demeanor of a no-nonsense patrol boat, she’s stuffed with more goodies than a midshipman’s seachest. Examine the data boxes that accompany this boat test and you’ll see that the standards list includes not only the latest in pod-type propulsion—a couple of 700-hp Volvo Penta IPS900s with three joystick-enabled docking stations—but also Volvo’s new dynamic positioning system and—to maximize comfort at anchor and in slo-mo mode—the latest in roll-reduction technology from Seakeeper: the M7000 gyrostabilizer.

Add to these a host of only slightly less noteworthy features, among them an advanced electrical power-management system from Mastervolt (including two 7-kW Mastervolt gensets), full electronics suites from Garmin for both the upper and lower helm stations, an Amanzi RIB with outboard and davit, and enough top-shelf appliances and entertainment choices to satisfy a hedge-funded jet-setter, and it’s obvious the 535’s a turnkey product. Sure, minor furniture adjustments and brand-name substitutions are possible, says Trane, but otherwise Island Pilot’s sales approach is simple: Give us $1,495,000 and we’ll give you a boat equipped with just about every piece of ancillary equipment you ever dreamed of.

I sea-trialed this paragon of abundance in the Florida Keys recently, first near Pumpkin Island on the protected waters of Card Sound (where I recorded speeds, fuel-burn rates, etc.) and then, to gauge open-water handling, in the deeper offshore waters out near Carysfort Lighthouse. Conditions in both venues were relatively mild, with two-footers prevailing on the former and choppy three-footers on the latter.

I was impressed in a lot of ways. The 535 ran like a freight train out near the lighthouse, for example, tracking steadily and splitting the bumpy seas with ease thanks to a seriously deep-V hull (transom deadrise: 23). Visibility out of the lower helm’s huge (4' x 5'8") windshield panels was excellent, and the average top hop of 35 mph I recorded promised more than enough verve to outrun storms and otherwise cover significant distances in a hurry. Additionally, some decent displacement-speed efficiencies surfaced. Indeed, thanks to the wonders of modern, computer-controlled, common-rail diesel technology (which prevents engine fouling due to unburned fuel), it’s possible to dial back the IPS900s to, say, 1000 rpm for lengthy periods, which significantly cuts fuel costs while maintaining a reasonable speed.

I did notice, however, that in tight turns, the boat evinced what seemed like an excessive tendency to lean inboard. More to the point, after I’d put her into a fairly tight turn at three-quarter throttle, I was loathe to try a WOT version. And the placards at both stations warning that hardover turns at high speeds may cause “loss of boat control that could result in serious injury or death” did little to diminish my concerns. Trane, though, was completely comfortable with the phenomenon, attributing it to the blending of IPS technology with deep-V design and assuring me that normal operation would seldom, if ever, entail high-speed-hardover turns anyway. “It’s spooky,” he admitted, “but not dangerous.”

The 535’s maneuverability dockside, on the other hand, was unassailable. Once we’d returned to port, I put the boat through her paces in an empty fairway, backing her down, doing a couple of full rotations, and then joysticking her sideways into her berth. The IPS drivers operated seamlessly, producing excellent directional authority and virtually no athwartship rocking motions.

Two points arising from my subsequent tour of the 535’s varnished-teak interior are worth mentioning here. First, the 535’s layout is undeniably cruise-capable. Not only does it boast every conceivable convenience, from rheostat-controlled Imtra LEDs to flat-panel TVs virtually everywhere I looked, but the expansive living spaces are towering as well. I found headroom of at least 6'6", whether I deployed my tape measure below in the full-beam master aft or the VIP forward; in the saloon/lower-helm area on the main deck; or in the galley/dinette area in between.

My second point is the thoughtfulness with which the 535’s machinery spaces have been laid out. Not only could I access the stand-up engine room via a full-height doorway from the cockpit, I could step down into it after levering up the entire cockpit sole via electric actuators. And because there was little more than two IPS900s, a Mastervolt genset, and a fuel manifold (with sight gauge) inside, the place seemed uncluttered and felt elbow-roomy.

The “equipment room” further forward was similarly straightforward. Accessed through a hatch in the galley sole, it houses (in addition to the second Mastervolt genset) the imposing sphere-like Seakeeper gyro, which I’d taken time to vet during the sea trial. It reduced offshore roll by approximately half (from eight to four degrees, as measured by the PMY inclinometer) when deployed as we drifted in the trough near the lighthouse.

Given the Island Pilot 535’s stand-out appearance, the comprehensive standards list, and the savviness of her layout, I’d say she’s a total top-shelfer, particularly when stacked up against cruisers that are capable of slo-mo operation only. There is that inboard-lean thing of course, which discerning buyers will want to experience themselves before writing any checks. If you do and are as comfortable with it as Trane is, I’d say you’ve found yourself one complete yacht.

Island Pilot

This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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