Ocean 54 Super SportBy Capt. Patrick Sciacca
The torrential rain is falling as if someone is attempting to wring the blackening storm clouds dry in one twist. Forty-knot northeasterlies cause large rain droplets to quantum leap past me, horizontal to the fast-moving, outgoing, full-moon-affected tide at Atlantic City's Trump Marina. The flags are double-starch stiff, and the wind groans through the towers and rigging of nearby boats. I look towards the wall of water that was once Absecon Inlet and begin to rethink my career choice. At this point the warm casino behind me is looking like a much better bet today.
I lean my head into the whipping wind and work my way towards Dock E, where Ocean Yachts' Capt. Gene Hawn stands in the saloon doorway of the 54 Super Sport and looks at me as if we're the two craziest people on the planet—and the only ones, given the scarcity of life on the docks.
"Want to get wet?" asks Hawn. "Sure," I say. I don't need to rethink my occupation; I live for this stuff! The 54 is pointing toward Absecon's wall of water as the incoming, wind-blown rollers meet with the swift-moving, outgoing tide, forming steep, boat-beating crests. As we head out, the 54's fine entry pierces them without so much as a slam on the way back down to earth as the two optional 1,360-hp MAN diesels turn about 1750 rpm.
The waves are rapidly growing as the 54 runs down the jetty on the south side of the inlet. Hawn throttles the MANs back to about 1100 rpm, and rollers become breaking waves. I guess they're about ten feet high and ten seconds apart. It's getting ugly.
The 54's solid-fiberglass hull bottom rises over a wave and punches down through the breaking water. Her sharp entry transitions to a deep-V-like profile amidships with 22 degrees of deadrise that then transitions to a flatter aft section, ending at a 13.5-degree deadrise at the stern. Her Dave Martin-designed planing hull is proving its worth.
The salt water is exploding over the standard hardtop and cascading down the front of the 54's optional three-sided EZ2CY enclosure like a Guinness stout settling into a pint glass. Yet the boat is stable, and the flying bridge stays mostly dry, except for some water rolling back under the enclosure via a small notch all the way forward. The notch, which provides great visibility forward, is on centerline just ahead of two optional and heavily gasketed bait freezers. Not a drop of water rolls into them.
It's nice to that know if you're ever in 40-knot winds, at least the bait won't get ruined. Kidding aside, it's that level of detail that causes my confidence to grow in this boat's ability to handle what I see in front of me. And what I now see is nearly 12 feet high and apparently angry at us.
A wave is crashing into the boat from the starboard side, and all 61,000 pounds of the 54 heaves to port as ocean meets Ocean. We take hold of hardtop piping and handholds. I make sure the optional 36-foot Rupp outrigger on the starboard side is still with us and note that the two optional 15-inch 6100i Northstar chartplotter and sounder displays are reading just fine. The 54 takes the roll in stride and recovers quickly and smoothly. I see white water everywhere but am quite comfortable with the fact she's making about 14 knots in some of the worst slop you may ever encounter: a Nor'easter.
We can't see the next waves coming now, but it's a helluva ride. The 54 is going into the trough and up again, yet her movement is quite tolerable considering the conditions and her roll motion is gentle.
She's just as comfortable in following seas. I attribute this to her running angle. Martin designs his hulls to run a bit more bow-high than what is typical. For instance, at cruise speed (2000 rpm), the 54 runs at five and a half degrees, which is between a half degree and one degree higher that what many consider average for this application. Martin believes that the greater angle helps in a following sea, and at this point I'd say he's right. With only a little tab, the bow continues to ride high in a following sea, which makes her less likely to stuff. Visibility is not compromised.
While this offshore adventure is fun, it's time for me to get this 54 in where I can take some numbers. Since there's no way to get speed and fuel data in these conditions, we make our way to the relative comfort of the ICW. The torquey MANs hum below with confidence, and 31x39, five-blade Hall & Stavert wheels bite hard. Soon we're back in the inlet where the six-footers are comparative child's play.
Finally we enter the ICW, offering just a few feet of white-top chop. "What kind of numbers are we going to get?" I wonder. Hawn throttles up the big diesels, and the groaning wind turns to a roar as the 54 is quickly on plane and making 2325 rpm (WOT) and roaring back. Her top average speed is 44.8 mph, or 39 knots. The engines are at 100-percent load, and everything is smooth. Of course this speed is coming at a price of 140 gph. Hawn brings the engines back to 2000 rpm, and at a dialed-in 80-percent load the 54 makes 38.1 mph or a 33-knot cruise, while burning an even 100 gph. In this chop the 54 performs like a champ. I take the wheel, and everything from her power-assist steering to the single-lever Glendinning controls is smooth, intuitive, and flawless.
I can see the entrance to Trump Marina, and the sight is a welcome one because I'm thinking about heading below decks to cobble together a sandwich from whatever's in the four standard under-counter Sub-Zeros, then adjourn to the amidships master for a well-earned nap. As I lay down, I conclude that the 54's a classic combination of beauty and beast. Her lines are clean, and her optional light-green hull is a real eye-catcher. And while she may get your attention initially with her looks, she'll keep you with her ability.
This article originally appeared in the December 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.