Sunseeker Predator 68 — By Capt. Ken Kreisler
|Sunseeker’s latest proves herself a high-spirited, luxurious cruising yacht, even in sloppy conditions.|
It was blowing a steady 20 knots out of the northeast off of Florida’s dicey Hillsboro Inlet—there’s a sign posted at the drawbridge leading from the ICW to the ocean warning that local knowledge is advisable—as I wheeled the Sunseeker Predator 68 through her paces in the four-foot slop with the more-than-occasional six-footer thrown in. Accompanying me was Capt. Ralph Casler of Sunseeker Florida, the local Sunseeker dealer. My last look at the tachs showed the twin 1,300-hp MAN diesels turning about 1800 rpm, and the Furuno Navnet 1943C screen told me I was doing around 31 mph.
A cold front had swept in overnight and taken out the mild, calm weather most of South Florida had been experiencing. I looked east to the Gulf Stream and noticed what appeared to be distinct ripples on the horizon—like those fake waves you see being moved by hand at your child’s third grade production of The Little Mermaid. I hit WX on the VHF and got the following mechanically staccato message: “...with the Gulf Stream experiencing seas of 10 to 12 feet...” Oh well, no lunch at Old Bahama Bay today. It’s one thing getting caught unaware in weather and quite another to go looking for it.
Nevertheless, I had the Predator 68 running quite smoothly considering the conditions we were in and noticed little or no wallowing or pounding as the sleek hull moved through the choppy water. Sure, I was working the wheel hard, but that was to be expected. So far this boat and I were getting along just fine. However, I was on a mostly southerly course, and once I turned the 68 around to see what she could do with the seas on the bow, the situation would probably be a very different one.
It was. From the almost predictable rhythm of that aft quartering sea, I was greeted by liquid turmoil. Now at 31 mph there was a fair amount of pounding, especially when the four-footers became sixes. I did manage, on several occasions, to send copious amounts of ocean across my starboard bow. It washed across the foredeck—a foredeck that with its sloping configuration looked like an Olympic ski jump from where I sat—and up onto the three wide forward windows. As the wind then sent it up and over the hardtop, I was glad I’d decided to keep the sunroof shut. (At the push of a button, a large section of the hardtop slides aft.)
Throttling down to 1500 rpm, I had her running at about 25 mph (22 knots), much more comfortable. Here there was no pounding, and when one of the waves decided to stand up a little taller, the 68 put her shoulder to it and pushed right on through. Even with these seas, I noticed her quick, precise handling when I brought her about on several maneuvers.
Working the throttles and guiding the 68 through the water resulted in an exciting ride. She was putting on a good show, even in this sea. And that’s just what Sunseeker had in mind with the Predator series: boats that are fast, even in less-than-ideal conditions. Afterwards, on protected waters, I posted an average WOT speed of almost 44 mph (38 knots) at 2300 rpm, a fast-cruise speed of more than 41 mph (36 knots) at 2250 rpm, and a slow-cruise speed of more than 31 mph (27 knots) at 1750 rpm.
While I was having quite the time running the 68 up and down the Pompano Beach coastline, it was time to get her back to the dock. We had three bridges to clear, and hoped to make Sunseeker Florida’s facility in Pompano Beach in about 45 minutes.
The wind was still up as we approached the tightly packed marina—I had only seen boats moored this close at boat shows—and there was a fair amount of current running. However, the 68 answered the helm as quickly astern as she did forward, and with only a few nudges from the bow thruster, Casler had her in with barely a ripple to the boats to either side. Showing her stuff once again, this time in an unpredictable docking situation, the 68 was making a good first impression.
One should never underestimate the importance of a good first impression, and few builders are better at making an impression than Sunseeker. The 68 is one of four performance motoryachts offered by the Poole, England-based builder; her sister Predators include a 56, 61, and 75. (The 108 and 95/100-foot Predators are considered to be part of the Yacht series.) While each comes with different amenities and features, all share the same superb fit and finish and attention to detail. You only have to take a look around the 68 to see proof of that.
This article originally appeared in the January 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.