San Juan 48

San Juan 48 Motor Yacht By Capt. Bill Pike — November 2003

The Compleat Express
Everything’s standard on this express-type lobster yacht—from flawless finish to thoroughbred performace.
 More of this Feature

• Part 1: San Juan 48
• Part 2: San Juan 48
• San Juan 48 Specs
• San Juan 48 Deck Plan
• San Juan 48 Acceleration Curve
• San Juan 48 Photo Gallery

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“Holy smokes!” I exclaimed while pouring the coal to San Juan’s new 48 Motor Yacht, a sleek, blue beauty with the styling machismo of a Maine lobster boat, the fit and finish of a jet-set Italian villa, and the engineering subtleties of a BMW 7-Series sedan. Did this baby perform or what? She was virtually leaping on plane!

A grin enlivened my countenance. In seconds the boat was swooping across the choppy surface of Fidalgo Bay like a low-flying fighter plane, with whitecaps blurring past, picturesque Anacortes, Washington, in the background, and her Series 60 MTUs purring away like big, contented 825-hp kittens. I glanced down at the readout on the Furuno NavNet. Top speed: 45 mph or thereabouts. I could hardly believe my eyes. Already? The sense of control I enjoyed—and the tranquil ambiance at the helm—were indicative of a much gentler pace.

A rousing turn seemed in order. With an index finger I rotated the destroyer-type wheel to starboard tentatively, then (quite satisfied with the result) spun it with a vengeance, ultimately carving a tight, foaming white crescent in the cold, blue waters of the bay. For the pure livin’ heck of it, I then carved two more hard-over crescents and a half-dozen compact figure-eights, every one a joy. Such wholehearted agility, enlivened by a constant sense of seamless solidity underfoot, was more fun than a barrel of boat-show tickets, of course, but it was also evocative of  a strong, integrated approach to construction.

The 48 is composed of just four basic parts: hull, deck, interior liner, and superstructure. All are vacuum-infused using pricey E-glass, CoreCell coring, a high-end hybrid epoxy-vinylester resin, and in the hull alone, lots of impact-resistant Kevlar. Combine such a highly technical, lightweight assemblage into a single, unibody chunk, add four, cored-glass, watertight structural bulkheads, a PVC foam-filled E-glass stringer grid, and a box-type hull-to-deck joint, both chemically bonded and mechanically fastened, and what results is a sensation of pure, velvet-gloved brawn underway, despite the boat having a mere 32,000-pound displacement.

But construction’s not the entire story. The 48’s propulsion system also plays a major role in her performance. Rather than the waterjets and computerized joystick-type engine controls that hallmark boats from competing companies, San Juan opts for a straightforward approach: inboard diesels routed through close-coupled V-drives to straight shafts, with big props in tunnels and big rudders for lots of steering control, especially in following seas. Single-lever DDEC electronic sticks at the helm put the finishing touches on the package.

Drivetrain simplicity alone has little to do with the smoothness of the 48’s open-water ride or her cornering agility, however. Instead, the key is the savvy way the system was designed, built, and installed. Consider, for example, the 7'5" breadth between the props, as well as the rudders, a design element that boosts turning leverage and maneuvering oomph big-time. And then, not only does the boat’s Marol rotary-actuated hydraulics make steering fingertip easy, the system mechanically blocks rudder chatter from the helm and obviates wheel creep, in turns as well as on the straightaway. To further enhance smoothness, rudder stocks are stabilized in gutsy stainless steel fabrications bolted into stainless steel plates that are laminated into massive hull foundations during the infusion process. And the standard-issue, computer-balanced Austral propellers on our test boat were top-shelfers. Teamed up with prop shafts hand-picked by San Juan’s engineers with the reported fussiness of operating-room technicians, they helped make the ride as vibration-free as it was fast.

Next page > Part 2: The San Juan’s machinery spaces were masterfully done too. > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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

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