Pershing 52

Larger Than Life

Above and below decks, this express cruiser from Pershing seems to have more of it all.

It’s the practice of some sculptors to render their figures on a natural scale enlarged by about 15 percent, a shrewd exaggeration that aggrandizes the subject with uncanny subtlety. The statue exists in human terms a viewer can relate to, while it also possesses the force of a thing larger than life. It may seem odd that a day on the Pershing 52 could bring to mind the French sculptor Rodin and the Greek Phidias, but here is a fast cruiser that seems unusually grand. In every direction there is just a bit more than you expect.

Pershings are based on a concept that once demanded limited proportions. Think of some express cruisers and you picture runabouts stuffed with crypt-like interiors and dinettes above deck designed for anorexics. Pershing blew that notion out of the water with its 88-footer, a true Colossus of Memnon. But other boats in the builder’s fleet solve the problem of scale more subtly. The 52 is among them.

Take the accommodations. The 52 sleeps six—not with the help of a curtained midcabin and converted settee but in a master with en suite head with shower forward and a pair of twin-berth cabins aft sharing a full guest head. Hanging lockers, compartments under berths, and hull-side cabinets abound, providing plenty of room for personal gear. The dinette opposite the galley can comfortably seat eight when you unfold its polished cherry table and put to use a pair of stowable stools. To port the well-outfitted galley is designed to become nearly invisible behind the highly varnished cherry found throughout below deck. Its stainless steel sink and two-burner Euro-style Ceran stovetop disappear under hinged sections of cabinetry whose undersides are sheathed in brushed stainless steel. With the Frigo Nautica upright refrigerator/freezer also behind cherry doors and a microwave oven hidden in an overhead cabinet, the galley looks more like a richly paneled bar complementing the seating area. This is an elegant and pragmatic feature on an express cruiser where commonly not a great deal of cooking goes on. For example, the owner of our test boat often likes to run from his slip on Turnberry Isle, north of Miami, over to Bimini to grab lunch.

Most likely that hour would be enjoyed above deck. From the cockpit, the 52’s outsized proportions are most dramatic, and the sense of flowing acreage here has as much to do with design as dimensions. Opposite a wetbar fit with a cold-plate ‘fridge, icemaker, sink, and grill, the port-side dinette forms slightly more than a semicircle around a table that folds to half-size to give the seating a more lounge-like character. Aft of the settee, the 52 really opens up. A sunpad to port of the teak-covered egress to the swim platform is big enough for three, and the teak-soled swim platform, too, is expansive–at four and a half feet long, large enough to carry a RIB.

On our test boat the platform was empty, but there was still a RIB onboard, deflated and stowed in a transom garage that’s big enough for a PWC. The hydraulic remote-controlled passerelle to starboard can double as a davit to launch tenders and toys.

Of course, these generous dimensions wouldn’t be nearly so significant if the boat weren’t fast, too. We ran trials in the open Atlantic off Turnberry with a light offshore wind and seas of just a foot or so. With Darren Datson, Pershing’s service manager, at the helm, twin optional 1,050-hp MAN diesels propelled the boat to just two-tenths shy of 55 mph at WOT (2300 rpm). At 2000 rpm we cruised at 41 mph on the nose, giving us a range of more than 350 miles from the 711-gallon fuel capacity.

How does the 52 manage this? A number of factors make contributions. First, of course, were the MAN D2840LE403s, which surpassed the standard twin 800-hp MANs by a total of 500 hp. Now there’s added scale for you. Second, although the 52’s hull bottom is solid fiberglass, her sides as well as her deck and superstructure are cored with closed-cell PVC to keep weight down and make it easier to lift more of the 21-degree-deadrise deep-V form out of the water. And finally, like all Pershings longer than 45 feet, the 52 has a little something extra under the water, too: Arneson surface drives, which are famous for boosting top speed by reducing running-gear drag.

The thrill of driving this scaled-up express was considerable. With some instruction from Datson on trimming the drives for cruising speeds and turns, I ran the coast for a while, doubling back now and then in true-tracking, dramatically banked turns tight enough that I had to move fast to dodge our own angry wake. Visibility forward was unobstructed, and aft I had a wide-open expanse. But during turns I found myself (at about six feet) crouching a bit to get a good look through the side windows, which narrow as they sweep forward.

Our decibel readings at these speeds were, for the most part, typical of fast open boats, on which the rush of wind and water plays a role. But at 2000 rpm we did spike to 91 dB-A–65 dB-A is the level of normal conversation–mainly, I suspect, due to the vibration of a strange, triangular "chart holder" that Datson said would have made more sense to me if I’d seen the size of certain European chart books. Back at the dock, after Datson had proved the Arnesons’ close-quarters operation in a flawless landing, I had a closer look at the curious sheet of hinged Plexiglas and determined it would be easy to remove without affecting the cockpit’s attractiveness.

Other items at the helm were much more substantial. An extensive custom electronics package, assembled by Concorde Marine Electronics of Fort Lauderdale, which works closely with Pershing, included a Northstar 952X GPS, Furuno NavNet radar/chartplotter, Navigator autopilot, and Raymarine 430 loudhailer.

When it came time to drop down into the engine room through a 26"x32" hatch in the cockpit sole, I was afraid I’d find the one space onboard that didn’t match the 52’s general scale. But as I stood nearly erect in the wide ally between the MANs, I learned otherwise. I worked my way outboard of the diesels without much trouble and, once there, found more that two feet of working space inboard of the hull sides. All the major noisemakers were quarantined here, including a 10-kW Kohler genset in a soundshield and handlers for the 32,000-BTU Marine Air air conditioning. Among other considerate touches, lighting was well placed and the air-conditioning pumps were mounted high on the forward bulkhead for on-your-feet servicing.

In the final analysis, it’s not so strange that ideas about sculpture would occur to me onboard a Pershing. The Italian builder’s sweeping lines epitomize the radically formal European styling that has transformed the appearance of yachts worldwide. But it would be a serious error to go too far in comparing the 52 to statues. I mean, c’mon. This thing really moves.

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

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

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