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Boats

Mikelson 50 Sportfisher

No Fences

With an efficient hull, moderate power, and generous tankage, the Mikelson 50 can take you where you want to fish.

I winced upon hearing that dreaded phrase, "You should’ve been here last week," coming from Dick Peterson’s lips. We’d been planning a combination fishing trip-boat test for the Mikelson 50 Sportfisher for quite some time, and I was eager to tangle with the albacore that frequent Southern California’s coastal waters. But even though the tuna had disappeared prior to my arrival, the situation was easily resolved: We simply changed tactics and went anyway. After all, the research must go on.

I met Peterson, president of Mikelson Yachts, his partner and Mikelson co-owner, Pat Sullivan, and their angling buddies John Kennedy and Skip Foster at San Diego’s Shelter Island marina. As the twin 450-C Cummins diesels warmed up, easing us into the harbor, my mind wandered back nearly 20 years to when I was a young recruit enduring U.S. Navy boot camp at San Diego and pleasure cruises weren’t in my immediate future. I snapped out of the daydream, however, when Peterson came alongside the harbor’s floating bait dock and attendants began filling the transom livewells with frisky baitfish.

I examined the 50-footer’s cockpit. I was sure it would be easy to grab fresh bait or spot-check the twin 40-gallon transom baitwells, thanks to the Plexiglas viewing window. Forward, two large, lighted fishboxes and a smaller catchall locker offered room for our catch, and there was plenty of additional gear stowage, always at a premium on sportfishermen. For instance, steps in the forward corners of the cockpit provide access to the side decks and open to provide a handy spot for items like docklines and towels. A port hanging locker was perfect for foul-weather gear and even wet suits and dive tanks. Against the bulkhead that separates the cockpit from the saloon, I found a large sink and bait-prep area, complete with twin tackle drawers and cabinets underneath. Lee outriggers, a Release fighting chair, and a transom door completed the imposing package.

The 50’s nonangling features were equally impressive. Getting to the engines so I could run the fuel-flow numbers was going to be easy, thanks to twin electric worm-gear lifts that open the cockpit sole. Alternately, you can enter through a companionway hatch. The gleaming-white gelcoated spaces within offer plenty of room for routine maintenance and space for ancillary gear like the 12-kW Northern Lights genset.

After securing the bait and watching Foster and Kennedy rig tackle for the outing, I climbed the ladder to join Peterson at the enclosed flying-bridge helm for the run offshore. Both Peterson and Sullivan, who has a Mikelson 43 Sportfisher, believe in owning and fishing the boats they sell, so they can better evaluate what works and what doesn’t. Indeed, Peterson frequently cruises the Baja peninsula on fish/dive excursions with his family, which explains why our boat was so well rigged for both.

Of course, getting to the lower reaches of Baja requires a boat with good cruising range, something the 50 definitely has. Her fuel-efficient hull is the brainchild of Tom Fexas, who Peterson claims "over-designed the boat, it’s so structurally sound." The engines are a bit further forward than is typical for this sort of boat and thus lower in the water, yielding a lower center of gravity. A notched running surface at the stern adds lift and so gets the boat on plane faster. The laminate is a combination of Hexel/Knytex knitted fiberglass and Divinycell foam coring, producing a hull that is rigid, strong, relatively lightweight, and, as I would discover later, smooth-riding.

Once clear of Point Loma and into the open ocean, Peterson ran the Cummins up to 2300 rpm (22 knots), where the 50’s nimble handling and seakindliness impressed me. She didn’t pound at all, even when she occasionally fell off the backside of a whopping roller. And when we throttled back to 9 knots, fuel consumption dropped to a miserly 4 to 5 gph, producing nearly 2 mpg, an important advantage in traversing the long distances typically encountered on the West Coast.

"Range really matters out here," Peterson explained. "Boats will go to Cabo to fish or up to Alaska for cruising and sightseeing. We had one customer with a 50 who ran from San Diego to Cabo at different speeds, fishing some along the way, and he burned 593 gallons of fuel. That kind of efficiency is definitely a selling point for our boats."

If there is a drawback to the 50’s performance, it’s the top-end sacrifice inherent in choosing a couple of comparatively small engines. At her WOT of 2600 rpm, she’ll do 27 knots, which is a shade off the 30-knot minimum demanded by many convertible buyers. It certainly doesn’t seem to bother Mikelson customers, 70 percent of whom have previously owned a Mikelson.

While I sat in one of the helm chairs and chatted with Peterson on the bridge, I grew to appreciate its layout and design. Before he began building semicustom yachts (the company averages 18 boats per year), Peterson cut his teeth on a rough-and-ready delivery business, so he quickly learned that form follows function, a premise well represented wherever I looked. For instance, the bridge overhang has a separate set of controls so the helmsman can keep abreast of the action in the cockpit. A curved wraparound settee aft of the helm offers plenty of room for family and guests, while the accompanying table with cushion lowers for a spare berth.

All electronic components are located on the steering console instead of in an overhead electronics box to avoid neck strain, and the EZ2CY front panel and isinglass side shields offer excellent visibility to scan for "sleeper" striped marlin and swordfish. In addition to an engine room video monitor located on the helm, our test boat was equipped with a Furuno GP-3300 GPS plotter, FCV-292 Sounder, and 72-mile radar, along with a Ritchie compass. Peterson had also installed a Yacht Mind marine monitor system by Reliable Marine Electric, with electronic safeguards for fire, theft, and accident prevention and communication relays to the appropriate authorities.

Unfortunately we didn’t have to call the harbor fire department to report a red-hot albacore bite, but we didn’t get skunked, either. After trying a few drifts among the charter fleet off Mexico’s Coronado Islands, we ran out of the wind and into a lee cove to look for halibut. The flatties were elsewhere, but we did have fun with more than a dozen calico bass that were brought to the stern and released. The next species on the list was sand bass, and Peterson skillfully kept the boat over a school while the rest of us enjoyed a brief flurry of action with another dozen fish. Giving it the old college try, we finished the day by casting around floating kelp for yellowtails. Foster had one nice strike, but the fish eluded the hook.

On the way back to San Diego Harbor, my thoughts turned to some of those long-distance fishing trips this boat was made for. I was curious what the 50 would be like to live aboard, so as soon as we docked, I switched my attention to the 50’s interior. I found her to be as beautiful inside as she was functional outside. Mikelsons are built in Taiwan and Malaysia, so the wood and joinery are top shelf. "We spend a lot of time doing custom work on a production boat," Peterson explained.

The saloon was bright, in large part because Mikelson installs a windshield where many East Coast builders don’t. Heat isn’t as much a factor on the West Coast, and the added glass area really makes a difference. The spacious saloon features cherry with maple and teak trim, and the port-side galley has all the necessities, including a 100-pound-capacity freezer flush-mounted in the deck, standard Norcold upright refrigerator, GE microwave/ convection/broiler oven, and Seaward Princess stovetop, along with stowage and a pantry along the port passageway.

Accommodations are comfortable and generous. The guest stateroom has a lower double and upper single berth, more stowage, and its own head. The forepeak master stateroom has a queen-size bed and excellent ventilation, thanks to twin portholes and an overhead hatch. The master head, hanging locker to starboard, and complete entertainment center round out the creature comforts.

After a day of fishing (and testing) the Mikelson 50, I was impressed. Thanks to an efficient hull and moderate power, she has more range than most fishermen have endurance. She comes standard with most everything you need to head offshore but is available with a slew of optional equipment that allows you to customize your 50 for your special needs. She also has beautiful joinery and comfortable accommodations. I couldn’t have asked for more. Except maybe a few albacore.

"Range really matters out here," Peterson explained. "Boats will go to Cabo to fish or up to Alaska for cruising and sightseeing. We had one customer with a 50 who ran from San Diego to Cabo at different speeds, fishing some along the way, and he burned 593 gallons of fuel. That kind of efficiency is definitely a selling point for our boats."

If there is a drawback to the 50’s performance, it’s the top-end sacrifice inherent in choosing a couple of comparatively small engines. At her WOT of 2600 rpm, she’ll do 27 knots, which is a shade off the 30-knot minimum demanded by many convertible buyers. It certainly doesn’t seem to bother Mikelson customers, 70 percent of whom have previously owned a Mikelson.

While I sat in one of the helm chairs and chatted with Peterson on the bridge, I grew to appreciate its layout and design. Before he began building semicustom yachts (the company averages 18 boats per year), Peterson cut his teeth on a rough-and-ready delivery business, so he quickly learned that form follows function, a premise well represented wherever I looked. For instance, the bridge overhang has a separate set of controls so the helmsman can keep abreast of the action in the cockpit. A curved wraparound settee aft of the helm offers plenty of room for family and guests, while the accompanying table with cushion lowers for a spare berth.

All electronic components are located on the steering console instead of in an overhead electronics box to avoid neck strain, and the EZ2CY front panel and isinglass side shields offer excellent visibility to scan for "sleeper" striped marlin and swordfish. In addition to an engine room video monitor located on the helm, our test boat was equipped with a Furuno GP-3300 GPS plotter, FCV-292 Sounder, and 72-mile radar, along with a Ritchie compass. Peterson had also installed a Yacht Mind marine monitor system by Reliable Marine Electric, with electronic safeguards for fire, theft, and accident prevention and communication relays to the appropriate authorities.

Unfortunately we didn’t have to call the harbor fire department to report a red-hot albacore bite, but we didn’t get skunked, either. After trying a few drifts among the charter fleet off Mexico’s Coronado Islands, we ran out of the wind and into a lee cove to look for halibut. The flatties were elsewhere, but we did have fun with more than a dozen calico bass that were brought to the stern and released. The next species on the list was sand bass, and Peterson skillfully kept the boat over a school while the rest of us enjoyed a brief flurry of action with another dozen fish. Giving it the old college try, we finished the day by casting around floating kelp for yellowtails. Foster had one nice strike, but the fish eluded the hook.

On the way back to San Diego Harbor, my thoughts turned to some of those long-distance fishing trips this boat was made for. I was curious what the 50 would be like to live aboard, so as soon as we docked, I switched my attention to the 50’s interior. I found her to be as beautiful inside as she was functional outside. Mikelsons are built in Taiwan and Malaysia, so the wood and joinery are top shelf. "We spend a lot of time doing custom work on a production boat," Peterson explained.

The saloon was bright, in large part because Mikelson installs a windshield where many East Coast builders don’t. Heat isn’t as much a factor on the West Coast, and the added glass area really makes a difference. The spacious saloon features cherry with maple and teak trim, and the port-side galley has all the necessities, including a 100-pound-capacity freezer flush-mounted in the deck, standard Norcold upright refrigerator, GE microwave/ convection/broiler oven, and Seaward Princess stovetop, along with stowage and a pantry along the port passageway.

Accommodations are comfortable and generous. The guest stateroom has a lower double and upper single berth, more stowage, and its own head. The forepeak master stateroom has a queen-size bed and excellent ventilation, thanks to twin portholes and an overhead hatch. The master head, hanging locker to starboard, and complete entertainment center round out the creature comforts.

After a day of fishing (and testing) the Mikelson 50, I was impressed. Thanks to an efficient hull and moderate power, she has more range than most fishermen have endurance. She comes standard with most everything you need to head offshore but is available with a slew of optional equipment that allows you to customize your 50 for your special needs. She also has beautiful joinery and comfortable accommodations. I couldn’t have asked for more. Except maybe a few albacore.

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This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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