Pacific 540 Sport — By Richard Thiel
|They build boats a little differently in New Zealand, and you don't need to look any farther than the Royal Pacific 540 to see how.|
Some people say you can tell a lot about a boat by where she was built, that a boat built in proximity to some particularly nasty body of water must by definition be able to negotiate it. If this theory is valid, what would that say about a boat built in New Zealand, an island country surrounded by two of the world's most ill-tempered bodies of water? Although I've been aboard just two Kiwi-built vessels, I'm beginning to believe that their geographic origins have given them a special take on boatbuilding.
The second of those two, the Royal Pacific 540 Sport Fisher, is sold outside the United States as the Formula Cruisers 540; the builder can't use the name Formula here because Decatur, Illinois-based Thunderbird Products has a prior claim to it. The 540, like all Formula Cruisers, is built to something called the New Zealand Survey and BIA New Zealand Boat Builders Standards of Excellence, plus Australian commercial standards called the M and I Code. What all that boils down to is these boats are pretty damn strong. Formula Cruisers general manager Grant Senior told me with Russell Crowe-like aplomb that he reckoned a 540 could survive a drop off a two-story building, "although the windshield might pop out." I'm pretty sure he was being serious.
What makes the 540 strong isn't just her laminate schedule, although Senior goes on at some length about the way unidirectional fabrics are aligned with directional forces in places like the stringers and hull-to-deck joint. But there's nothing terribly high-tech here. The hull bottom is solid FRP, with Divinycell above the chines and in the deck. Bulkheads are glassed in, but not tabbed. They're holed so fabric tabs pass through them, providing a more secure bond. Rudders are 2205 stainless steel instead of bronze, as are their 21⁄2-inch shafts. Prop shafts are three inches in diameter and supported not only by cutlass bearings in struts, but also by bearings in pods protruding from the hull (see photo, page 69), where there are also Orca water-injected shaft seals. The pods are shaped to divert water around the shafts, reducing turbulence.
Apparently some thought has gone into water flow. The 10-inch underwater exhaust ports are faired and positioned to aerate the chines and reduce drag. Inside them a dorade system keeps water from reaching the engines during aggressive backing, and I do mean aggressive. Senior says they've had the 540 at 13 knots in reverse with no water intrusion--except in the cockpit, of course. It filled--no lazarette hatches leaked, he assures me--but also emptied in just 14 seconds, much of the water exiting the "doggie door" flapper in the transom door. The Kiwis are apparently big on backing down hard--the stainless steel trim tabs are secured with stainless steel chains to keep them from folding under.
Beneath the cockpit's 4'x4' aft hatch is a large lazarette containing two of the four welded stainless steel fuel tanks (each with a large inspection plate). But only the port-side one has a sight gauge. Oversight? Nope. A pipe connects the quartet, and that aft port tank is by a slight margin the lowest, so it always drains last and you can use virtually all 1,000 gallons. (All four tanks have mechanical gauges, too.) Sharing this space is a 15-kW genset; its Racor is way aft--not easily accessible--but thanks to the Westerbeke's remote location and standard soundshield, it's virtually inaudible from the saloon or staterooms.
Even the water tank, in a watertight (one of four) compartment accessed via a hatch in the forward end of the cockpit, has a sight gauge. Also here are large port and starboard FRP battery boxes, each with an internal fan ducted to the outside to keep the batteries cool and prevent fume buildup. The duplex engine Racors are within easy reach, next to standard Fuel Mags that kill algae and above the aforementioned fuel crossover pipe, which like all fuel lines is stainless steel.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.