Paul Mann 68 — By Capt. Bill Pike —
Second To None
PMY fishes a superlatively seakindly, exquisitely detailed battlewagon—the Paul Mann 68.
Paul Mann and I were just finishing up with a helicopter photo shoot when the Icom IC-602 VHF on the flying bridge crackled to life. “Just hooked up a bigeye…200 pounds or more!” enthused a drawly, disembodied voice, most likely belonging to one of the skippers working out of the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, a neighboring enclave of charter boats. The accent was typical of those who scour the waters of the Outer Banks for fish, both during summer and winter. The boat was east of us apparently, some 40 miles out. And the bigeye hook-up was a startler—offshore fishing was, by all reports we’d heard, terrible at present, primarily due to a recent storm.
Mann gave me a conspiratorial look. It was 9:00 in the morning. We’d actually boat-tested our custom-built Paul Mann 68 the day before, in nearby Roanoke Sound, recording, among other things, a rousing top speed of 44 mph. So I’d come along on the shoot just for grins basically—my flight didn’t leave Norfolk, 100 miles to the north, until later that afternoon.
“We could go fishing,” Mann suggested, peering questioningly over his sunglasses, “but you’ll have to reschedule your flight, Bill—we’ll not be back ‘til late.”
I deployed an eyebrow by way of an answer, a move Mann acknowledged with the mixture of sublimated glee and strategic seriousness that hallmarks true fishermen the world over. The two of us then conferred on our exact destination du jour, plugged some waypoints into the Northstar 952 GPS plotter on the dash, and agreed that the total lack of food on the boat—except for a bag of doughnuts we’d snagged at Pirate’s Cove Marina that morning—was of little consequence. As Mann started down the ladder into the cockpit to rig baits, he admonished, only half jokingly, “I’ll be down here for an hour or so…don’t hit no boxes, boards, or big turtles!”
I throttled the 68’s 1,550-hp Caterpillar C30 diesels up to 2000 rpm (rather sportily, I might add) and swung a broad arc that simultaneously put us on course and on plane. Acceleration was bullet-fast, particularly for a stoutly constructed, 65,000-pound plank-on-frame wooden vessel. Within 20 seconds we were doing 35 mph across a seemingly smooth expanse of two- to four-foot head seas glittering like diamonds in the morning sun. Whoooooeeeeeee!
I began playing with the Release Palm Beach-style wheel in my hands, gauging the boat’s responsiveness. Indeed, engine-driven, power-assist hydraulics produce the type of superb steering control that’s quantifiable in one sense at least—there were three turns lock to lock on the Release, instead of the seven or eight turns commonly associated with unassisted systems. And the whopping size of the 68’s rudders, coupled with a hull form that runs prouder as speed over the ground increases (see “Boatbuilding by Eye,” this story), made for handling characteristics that were flat-out thrilling. At one point in the jaunt, I encountered a dicey sprinkling of pulp logs that most likely had fallen off a storm-tossed freighter. Safely negotiating the mess was like joy-driving a Maserati MC12 through an obstacle course.
This article originally appeared in the February 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.