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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Mikelson M50 Sportfisher

Evolution of a Species

It may be time for east coast anglers to find out why the Mikelson M50 Sportfisher continues to be popular with west coasters looking to go beyond the horizon.

It’s hard not to see a smattering of another famous Fexas design—the Midnight Lace—within the profile of the Mikelson M50. The frameless windows and flared bow have pleasing similarities to the Lace. 

“Our primary market for Mikelson Yachts is anglers requiring long-range capabilities; about 70 percent of our customers are previous owners,” said vice president Patrick Sullivan.

Originally the Sportfisher was sold as a 48 Sedan, evolving into a 50 with hull number 19. In the 1990s, the hull mold was redesigned and the integral swim platform deleted. 

“Usually conditions on the trip north have us running into a horrible 5-foot, head-sea chop,” said Mikelson Captain Paul Fecteau, describing the typical 850-mile or so run back from Cabo San Lucas. “Many larger boats with hard chines and flatter bottoms can’t make the speed we can on this 50-footer.”

The solid ride is the result of the hull design as well as the placement of the engines and fuel tanks. V-drives allow Mikelson to mount the engines under the cockpit sole. Our test boat had a pair of the now-standard 600-horsepower Cummins QSC 8.3 engines. The common-rail diesels and the Centek underwater exhausts—with search-tube design and idle by-pass—provide a quiet and smoke-free environment.

The engines are accessible via a centerline day-hatch in the cockpit sole and, when needed, two huge, 12-volt activated hatches expose the entire diamond-plated engine room. The optional watermaker and air compressor for refilling dive tanks are housed here as well. A bank of fuel/water separators are on the forward engine room bulkhead.

Three fuel tanks, a large one on centerline and two others outboard, are situated deep in the hull, creating a low center of gravity. A manifold system allows the engines to draw and return from/to any tank; the tanks are cross-connected and gravity-fed. The 1,000-gallon capacity provides an impressive range, approximately 900 miles at 9.6 knots and 450 at close to 19 knots. 

Fecteau eased the M50 out of her slip without even contemplating touching the bow thruster toggle switch. As we passed a large channel marker in San Diego Harbor, it was quiet enough on the bridge to hear barking harbor seals vying for a position in the sun.

Behind the gelcoat facade is a weight-saving, Divinycell-cored hull. The bulkheads are constructed of marine ply and the stringers of foam-cored fiberglass; both heavily built. It was easy to feel her rigid construction and seakeeping capabilities even in calm seas. The bow lifted slightly as we powered from idle to wide-open throttle. She planed off at 2100 rpm and found her comfort zone at 2600. At that rpm the engines were at 75-percent load, fuel burn was 44 gallons per hour, and the GPS displayed 22 knots. 

The 50-footer truly impressed in a simulated fish-fighting exercise. She proved nimble, quick, and vibration-free when backing down, and was equally impressive spinning in slightly more than one boat length.

It’s an easy climb—via six molded-in steps—to the full-beam flying bridge. The console is huge with sufficient space for large screen displays. All of the remotes, switches, breaker panel toggles, and gauges are unencumbered. Air conditioning is optional, as are the Stidd helm chairs. A semi-circlular settee with table, a small sink portside behind the Venturi windshield, a chart flat, and a refrigerator are all nice cruising features. There is an aft station on the bridge, maybe a little overkill since there is also a cockpit station and tower controls.

The marlin tower is accessed through a hatch in the hardtop and is a great perch for spotting bustin’ fish. Lee double-spreader outriggers are affixed to the bridge sides. A 12-station rocket launcher holds plenty of weapons.

The M50 Sportfisher doesn’t taper aft so the cockpit is full beam. It takes a little time to get used to the height of the sole off the water due to the clearance necessary for the engines below. But in short order, the high freeboard actually had a nice secure feel to it. 

The cockpit is all West Coast-style. Rails are constructed of stainless steel, rather than aluminum. It’s a sharp look. The baitwells are large capacity, lighted with windows. The fishboxes were minimal on hull 88; however, the boxes can be expanded and chilled on this semi-custom boat. A hanging locker to port can be customized for additional rod stowage or a dayhead. The transom door opens to a platform secured by a waist-high rail, perfect for fighting a fish under the right conditions and on/off access for dive enthusiasts. 

The side decks are snug, yet very secure—nonskid underfoot and tall rails and handholds make the trek forward in most seas comfortable. The optional bow pulpit with rail is pitch-bait heaven; it’s rock solid, no springy, diving-board construction here. The windlass is mounted below a hatch to keep the bow obstruction-free. The lower position of the anchor rode makes for better anchoring, according to Sullivan.

The M50 is user-friendly from bow to stern and in between. The cockpit door opens into a huge cherry-finished saloon, the size of which is not usually found on a 50-footer. The boat’s near 17-foot beam becomes very apparent here. Mikelson used a satin finish on the flat surfaces and high-gloss finishes on the joinery caps; the look crisply accents the quality workmanship. 

Behind the first cabinet door to starboard are various gauges and stop/starts for the watermaker, genset, satellite TV, tank tender, and inverter. This is smart positioning for quick access. To port is the aft-located galley, complete with stowage galore for those long offshore runs. And there’s a four-burner Kenyon cooktop that can actually fit four pans, though it had no fiddles. The cored-granite countertops are lightweight, and have sufficient surface area—enough so the builder could eliminate the split matching sink covers.

Cold air flows evenly over the colossal U-shaped dinette and opposite ultra-leather settee via handcrafted valences that are likely to be efficient even in the hottest climes. Light switches are easily found within custom strike plates.  

Below a hatch in the saloon sole is a compartment that houses a hot water heater, battery charger, and inverter. It’s here that long-range provisions can be stowed alongside a washer and dryer. There’s plenty of space for separate units. In the saloon proper, there are three overhead hatches in the headliner that provide access to a functional rod locker, not an afterthought. A bevy of 50-pound-class rods (or even larger) could be nicely secured in the fabricated mounts. 

The master is forward with a centerline queen, twin hanging lockers, and a private head. Mikelson can accommodate most owner requests for alterations; that’s the beauty of a semi-custom build. 

The guest cabin has a unique pullman-style berth that an adult can comfortably fit on. The berth follows the line of the hull and is wider at the head, tapering slightly at the foot.

The bulk of Mikelson Yachts’ production hangs on the left coast. But given my recent experiences onboard the fast, far-ranging, and capable M50 Sportfisher, I think there may be a few East Coasters who’ll be tempted to make that trip through the Panama Canal they always wanted to do.

Click here for Mikelson's contact information and index of articles ➤

This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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