Paul Mann 68 — By Capt. Bill Pike —
Second To None
Part 2: “If I can’t get both my hands on a pump in an engine room or pull an engine if I need to,” he says, “then somethin’s wrong.”
Unfortunately, the tuna fishing was lackluster by comparison. Once we’d settled into full, bigeye mode, I sat in the cockpit’s shady, air-conditioned mezzanine area mostly, watching an earnest assortment of live baits, teasers, and artificial arrays, while Mann conned the 68 from the flying bridge, now and again commiserating via VHF with nearby skippers, some of whom were operating boats he’d built for them years before. We trolled…and trolled…and trolled, with nary a whiff of luck. Eventually, I lapsed into a mental review of what I’d seen of the 68 the day before.
Fit and finish came up first. For years now, South Florida builders of custom sportfishing vessels have had an arguable lock on exquisitely detailed joinery—North Carolina builders built great sea boats, but their detailing was not quite up to snuff by Florida standards. This state of affairs may be changing, however, if the tour I’d taken of our 68’s three-stateroom, three-head interior is a reliable guide. Hand-picked cherry veneers, book-matched and sequenced from right to left, overhead to sole; expertly milled, miterless corners in the cabinetry; soles with half-inch solid cherry planks and strips of maple, all precisely chamfered on the edges; and Izit Leather-covered settees hand-crafted by VanBrunt Upholstery of Wanchese, North Carolina. The detailing I saw was not just custom, it was artisanal-grade.
Engineering was the other big-time subject I contemplated. Mann grew up working Carolina charter boats out of Oregon Inlet, eventually running his own vessels and then building others for customers and friends. If ever there was a hands-on CEO with practicality as a priority, he’s it. “If I can’t get both my hands on a pump in an engine room or pull an engine if I need to,” he says, “then somethin’s wrong.” In line with this thinking, I encountered a raft of sagacious features in the 68’s machinery spaces, including the installation of easy-to-access filters on all raw-water intakes; the use of seachests to obviate through-hulls; the juxtaposition of ancillaries for redundancy’s sake (like the robust Headhunter StingRay and Mach5 pumps shelved on the forward firewall so one pump can take over for the other should a breakdown occur); and the contrivance of a general working environment that’s mechanic-friendly—I counted nine lights overhead in the engine room and am constrained to remark on the extra-excellent access to the mains, both inboard and outboard, fore and aft.
After trolling unsuccessfully for five hours, Mann and I decided to bag it. Although we were the last diehards to leave the field of battle, we were among the first to get home. But then, what else would you expect from an expertly finished custom battlewagon, with meat-eatin’ firepower and a running surface that’s slicker than a greased porpoise?
“Put ‘er on autopilot…relax a little,” said Mann as I swept past my fourth charter boat.
“Nah,” I replied, “steerin’ this baby’s just too dang much fun to quit.”
Paul Mann Custom Boats ( (252) 473-1716. www.paulmanncustomboats.com.
This article originally appeared in the February 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.