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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Mikelson 59/63 LRSF

If there's one rule of boatbuilding that's been proven time and again, it's stick with what you know. Even if you really do have the best designers and engineers in the world, don't try to build fishing boats if your forte is aft-cabin cruisers.

Based on that premise, the guys from Mikelson must have rocks in their heads. Over the past 23 years they've created a tidy little franchise building a line of roomy, efficient, soft-riding, West-Coast-style sportfishermen. So why has this San Diego-based duo introduced a long-range cruiser called the Nomad? Why not leave that to builders like Nordhavn, up the road in Dana Point?

Well, the first thing I learned when I stepped into the Mikelson offices on San Diego's Shelter Island is that the Nomad isn't your typical long-range cruiser. That is to say, she's not a displacement-style trawler. Actually, I'm not sure what to call her—she's a hard boat to categorize. If you run her judiciously, she can give you great range—better than 4,000 miles—and her round bilges make her easy to power and should give her good seakeeping. But the unusual hull form is about more than just soft chines. Largely the brainchild of Mikelson president Dick Peterson and executed by naval architect Tom Fexas, it allows for considerably more than pure displacement speeds while maintaining good efficiency. At a trawlerish 10.1 mph, our test boat, with full fuel and water, a lot of gear, and a dirty bottom, burned 4.6 gph, for an impressive 2.2 mpg. But at an untrawlerish 11.6 mph, she burned only 9.6 gph for 1.20 mpg. Not bad for a twin-engine, 85,000-pounder (half load). The best part is if you need to get somewhere in a hurry, the Nomad's twin 660-hp Cummins QSM11s can get you there at almost 20 mph, although efficiency drops to 0.31 mpg.

As to seakeeping, I can't comment, since the Pacific was dead flat on test day. I can only refer you to anecdotal evidence from Nomad owners like Mike Shannon, owner of El Jefe, our test boat. He's already logged more than 550 hours aboard her on trips from San Diego to as far as Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and he raves about the boat's handling in all conditions. Some of that performance is probably due to full foresections that gently shoulder water out of the way, some to those round bilges and some to the relatively flat aft sections that provide enough lift to allow the boat to efficiently exceed theoretical hull speed. Short spray rails forward make sure the Portuguese bridge stays dry, while all the way aft and just below the waterline, four-foot-long "bilge keels," a fixture that's found on many commercial fishing vessels, are designed to damp roll motion.

Mikelson calls the Nomad an LRSF, for long-range sportfisher, but that's not an entirely accurate nomenclature either. Oh, she's definitely equipped to fish. In her standard 59-foot form, an eight-foot-long cockpit combines with an 18-foot beam to create a real angler's playpen—and that's not including the lanai deck. Standard angling equipment includes two huge wells for bait or fish in the 2'6"-deep swim platform, of all places (where it's a snap to boat fish into them), an in-transom baitwell, a bait-prep center with two cabinets and 12 drawers, and a pair of rocket launchers on the cockpit overhang that are hinged for easy access. If you like to fish with a crowd, the Nomad is also available in a 63-foot version, with all that extra LOA going to the cockpit.

But Peterson says only a minority of Nomad owners are hard-core anglers. Just as many, if not more, are divers, one reportedly telling him that this is the best dive boat he's ever been on. The biggest group is comprised of cruisers who like to fish, dive, and just hang out. And everyone seems to have one thing in common: They couldn't find what they wanted in a production boat. They wanted a boat that could be tailored to their specific needs, and customizing boats is Mikelson's forte.

The basic Nomad has a saloon off the lanai that's sufficiently elevated to provide 6'2" headroom in the superbly laid-out engine room beneath; it's accessed from the cockpit by way of crew's quarters. There's a pilothouse-galley-dinette area a few steps up and a full-beam master and two guest staterooms forward on the lower level. But that's just a starting point. If you compare El Jefe (Hull No. 5) with Hull No. 1, Peterson's old boat, they're hardly alike. Shannon enlarged the lanai settee and table and eliminated the stairway from the saloon to the midship master, relying on a single companionway that leads from the pilothouse down to all three staterooms. For this he gave up the standard full-beam master head. He added a third head to the port-side guest stateroom by shortening the V-berth. (Actually, there's a fourth head: a compartment on the port side of the lanai, a Mikelson trademark.) And he reconfigured the galley so that it includes an eating bar and Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer drawers that allow for a pass-through, aft into the saloon.

But his biggest change was adding a flying bridge, which completely changes the appearance—and even the feel—of the Nomad. To listen to Shannon and Peterson explain why this boat should or should not have a flying bridge, respectively, is to understand why the Nomad has proven so popular: One boat can't make everyone happy.

In any case, owners have configured the top deck in a variety of ways, including a semienclosed bridge and an open area with a control station and an observation deck. And while all boats have a boat deck that can carry up to a 16-footer, nearly everyone has sliced and diced it to serve their particular needs.

Perhaps most remarkable is how delighted Shannon is with his boat—after all those miles he says he wouldn't change a thing. And this from a guy who's a perfectionist, making his own set of CAD drawings—including exhaustively researched specs for the dinette table based on visits to untold numbers of diners—and traveling to the shipyard in Taiwan three times. He says Mikelson was a pleasure to deal with, and while Peterson admits (and probably gives thanks) that most owners don't get quite as involved as Shannon, he avers that every one has made changes to the original concept and that no two Nomads are alike.

So maybe Peterson and vice president Pat Sullivan don't have rocks in their heads. Maybe they are sticking with what they know. They've always offered the opportunity to customize their boats, and their boats have always been known for their efficiency and soft ride. And besides, they're sold out on the Nomad for 18 months. I guess they must be doing something right.

Mikelson Yachts
(619) 222-5007

This article originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.