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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Sculley 60 Sportfisherman

I'm not a clotheshorse by any stretch, but I remember when I bought my first "real" suit. This wasn't just an off-the-rack-and-hope-it-looks-good garment—it was tailored to fit me. The break at the shoes, the length, the fit around the waist just—well, suited me. This perfect fit was accomplished because the suit's material was first-rate, my tailor was skilled, and the tailor listened to exactly what I wanted.

Custom boatbuilders are a lot like my old tailor—you could even call these boatbuilders boat tailors. They take their hull designs and aim to fit an owner's wants and needs into them. It so happens that back in 1999 North Carolina resident Jim Sculley, who coincidentally owned many custom boats over the years, decided to take his knowledge as an owner and become a boat tailor himself. Enter Sculley Boatbuilders. The first launch, a sportfisherman dubbed the Sculley 58, was built of cold-molded okume plywood and featured a Donald Blount-designed hull bottom. She was well received, and two were built and quickly sold.

Now custom boats take a lot more time to design, plan, construct, and tweak than a production boat, and new models don't usually come quickly. This was not the case at Sculley. To the builder, the 58 was just right on many levels, but the Sculley team thought some improvements could be made on the initial model and soon brought a 60-footer—aptly named the Sculley 60—to the table.

The 60, which I tested out of Sailfish Marina in West Palm Beach, Florida, was built on the same basic hull design as the 58, but modified by Sculley's in-house design team, which includes former Buddy Davis vice president, Jim Polatty. "We made a larger planing surface aft, which has provided more lift," says Sculley's marketing man, the other Jim Sculley (big Jim's son), adding that the 60 comes out of the hole quicker than the 58 and averages about a knot or so faster overall.

The 60's hull, like the 58's, is built keel-up (upside down) using cold-molded construction. The boat's jigs are pre-cut and assembled to make the hull form. Three 9-mm layers of okume plywood make up the bottom and two 12-mm layers are used for the hull sides. Do the math and you're talking about a one-inch-thick bottom and slightly less on her sides. The layers of plywood are impregnated with epoxy to help make the 60 a monocoque structure. In addition, the boat has three watertight bulkheads (located forward, amidships, and aft) that help keep any potential water-intrusion problems localized and beef up the hull's structure transversely. That's some heavy-duty construction, and during my test with Sculley (the son) and company sales' director Ken McLeskey, the two said they wouldn't have it any other way. "We want to build boats so you can run in rough water as fast as possible and still be comfortable," Sculley says, noting that he's seen the 60 knock down eight-plus-footers with ease.

The 60 has a heavy build without a heavy weight; with a 68,000-pound (dry) displacement, she's comparable in weight to her peers, and, like Sculley says, she moves quite well and comfortably when paired with standard twin 1,480-hp MTU 12V2000 Series diesel inboards. (You can also pick an engine package that fits your particular speed needs. After all, this is a tailored boat.) These powerplants happen to be in one of the cleanest engines rooms I've seen in recent memory. The whole area is Awlgripped white (standard) and has about six-foot headroom and walkaround access to both engines.

How well does she move? With McLeskey at the wheel, we prepared for speed trials on nearby and calm Lake Worth (not optimal conditions for testing an offshore boat). Our 60 hit a comfortable cruise of 37 mph at 2000 rpm while burning 104 gph. At WOT (2350 rpm), she made an eye-tearing (if you don't have the optional isinglass) 42.8 mph, and those diesels got hungry, drinking 148 gph. However, to put this into perspective, how often are you really going to light her up?

McLeskey handed me the wheel and I gave the boat's Palm Beach helm setup a go. I noticed at the wheel that the Hynautic hydraulic steering was real-time quick, and although my unfamiliarity with the Sturdy single-lever electronic controls and the 60's three separate running modes (hi idle, low idle, and troll) made for some awkward opening moments--especially since leaning forward to adjust the running modes on the electronics panel meant I had to stretch my 5'7" frame over the helm pod and protruding controls. McLeskey's tutorial helped me gain rapid confidence in handling the 60.

One great custom touch that did feel made for me was her standard helm-chair platform. The Release chair sits on a teak-soled platform atop her extended deckhouse, which enhances cockpit visibility while backing down and lends itself to good visibility forward at speed. However, even with the chair's added height, I couldn't clearly see the bow over her large flying-bridge superstructure at slow speeds. This could cause an issue when maneuvering the 60 in close-quarters.

However, one place where visibility abounds on the 60 is her uninhibited cockpit, which is rigged per Sculley Sr.'s vision with the hardcore tournament fisherman in mind. How about a standard stainless steel transom fishbox with livewell? Or a standard stainless steel in-deck fishbox large enough for a dozen or more 50-plus-pound tuna? The material is scratch-resistant and easy to maintain. These fishing amenities are all mounted cleanly and flush, so all you see upon stepping aboard the 60 is room for fighting fish. This wide-open area should appeal to all standup fishermen and fishermen that love to fish and hate to clean. (There is a standard deck plate under the cockpit sole for mounting a fighting chair, should you want to install one.) On the options side, the 60 is available with refrigeration for the aforementioned fishboxes, a stainless steel bait-prep station, 41-foot Rupp outriggers, a Pipewelders tuna tower, a recessed teaser-reel box on the flying bridge, spreader lights, an Eskimo ice maker with cockpit dump, and no fewer than 13 rod holders. And if you see something missing for your angling arsenal, Sculley will gladly add it. One particularly cool feature is the 60's down-angle side scuppers that prevent water from running up onto the deck and at the same time quickly evacuate any water that does enter through the transom door. You could tell an angler built this boat.

Now what good is all this gear if you don't get a chance to try it? The three of us made a quick run to the marina and picked up local fishing experts Capt. Joe Drosey and his mate Scott Taylor from the charter boat Osprey to see if they could help us find some fish. About a mile or so off the beach, the captain ran a kite off one of the flying-bridge rocket launchers with three goggle-eye baits floating off three Shimano TLD 30s, while we trolled at about 21?2 knots. Troll mode came in handy, as we were able to move ahead slowly enough to keep the kite flying in a light wind. Within a couple of minutes the long bait was hit and I hooked up, but the fish (we never saw what it was) bit through the 30-pound mono. Shortly thereafter, Sculley bagged a mahi-mahi, which quickly went into the refrigerated in-deck fishbox to be saved for dinner. (For those of you intent on long-range fishing trips, the in-deck box can be cooled to –20F.) There were a couple more bites before the sun got low in the sky and it was time for these fishermen to run the Sculley 60 home.

For the run back, McLeskey and I retreated to the air conditioning of the saloon (there are five air-conditioning zones), which is accented with an optional satin-finished curly cherrywood that is reminiscent of pearl inlay. The curly cherrywood, which represents a departure from a more traditional teak or cherry interior, makes for an attractive and easy-to-maintain finish that has shine without being high-gloss. Sculley told me during the test that they wanted a durable sportfisherman that had a fit and finish to match performance and fishability. I would say that from her roomy saloon with 6'6" headroom to the equally spacious three-stateroom layout (all featuring the curly cherrywood) below decks with master amidships, this builder has married form and function quite well.

McLeskey and I discussed circle-hook techniques as he sat back on the optional lounge to port and I took a seat on one of the optional bar stools on centerline. The bar stool offered me a great view of the galley-up to port, which sports a four-burner ceramic cooktop, two Sub-Zero refrigerators and freezers, and enough stowage space to keep you well-fed on long-range trips to the edge.

As we got close to Sailfish Marina, McLeskey scurried up to the bridge to bring the 60 into port, and he spun her big-flared bow and backed her into the slip like a hand returning to a familiar glove. It reminded me of that suit I was telling you about, it just fit right. Perhaps if you take this cleanly finished Carolina-flared design as is, or tailor her with a new interior, gear, and fishing amenities of your choice, you may find that the Sculley 60 Sportfisherman is a battlewagon suited just for you.

Sculley Boatbuilders
(252) 473-6855

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

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