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Kelsey’s also particularly proud of the yacht’s seakeeping abilities, which are meant to stand up to bigger cruising dreams than basic island hopping. “If you look at the height of its bow and park it nose to nose with a lot of 150-foot tridecks, it’s about the same,” he says of the 123. “It’s an amazingly dry boat. You can go cruising. And it’s the quietest boat in its class. I would put it up against anything. It’s insulated from A to Z, the entire interior is floated—it’s possibly the quietest boat we’ve ever built.” (Kelsey declined to name the insulating materials, and decibel readings were not available.)
Regan, during my tour of the master stateroom, verified as much when he quipped, “It’s silent up here when you’re underway. You can’t hear the engines at all.”
Even the toys onboard Muse are meant to satisfy adult desires. The Sea Doos aren’t governed down as they often are onboard yachts (each do about 75 mph), and a 32-foot Conquest center console is towed as a secondary tender that’s appropriate for anything four couples might want to do. As Collins put it, “In the Caribbean, if you want to go exploring or do watersports, it’s hard to put eight people in a 13-foot rubber boat.”
Beyond citing Muse’s adult appeal, Kelsey would say about the owner only that “Americans really like the 123.” He added that he found it interesting that so cosmopolitan a yacht had such a home-grown audience, but it’s that very fact that makes him believe Palmer Johnson is moving in the right direction with all its new designs.
“I’ve given up on demographics because I’ve been proven wrong every time,” he explains. “When we started the Sport Yacht, we figured the client would be 35 to 40 years old, and we had a 70-year-old buy one. We thought the buyers would be males, and we have two female owners of Sport Yachts. Every time we think we know who our customer is, we get proven wrong. And that just goes to show you that something sells if it looks good. It goes across all demographic lines. It’s no different than in music or automobiles or anything else. We have a very good line of crossover products.”
Kelsey hopes demand will continue to be strong—he says it’s the best he’s seen it since he learned the business from his family, which ran Palmer Johnson for 40 years before he took over a few years ago—but he’s concerned that his shipyard might not be able to keep up if even more customers leave European competitors like Heesen and Codecasa in favor of the Wisconsin yard.
The 123s are built on spec; the next one, Hull No. 3, is scheduled to deliver by October, and another probably can’t be started until at least then because of all the Sport Yachts under construction. “As we launch them, they sell immediately,” Kelsey says. “Right now, it’s a capacity issue. We have many different models, but only so many slots in the barn. It just comes down to how many men you have and how much capacity is available.”
This article originally appeared in the February 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.