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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Pershing 50 Express Cruiser

Be careful what you wish for. This timeless adage struck me as I recalled the remark I had made a few days earlier, when Shannon McCoy, marketing director for MarineMax, asked me what the plan was for testing the new Pershing 50. Ignoring the apparent contradiction in my reply, I said, “Let’s try to find some decent-size waves so we can see how she handles a seaway and some flat-calm water to do our speed runs.”

As test day dawned, the wind was blowing like stink out of the southeast, and had been for several hours. Official weather advisories put the seas at six to eight feet in the Fort Lauderdale area, with the prognosis that it would get worse before it got better. Heading out of the Fort Lauderdale inlet, I got a sense that the weather advisory was a bit on the low side. Darren Datson, Pershing’s product manager, and I were the only ones heading out. Big motoryachts that would normally run up and down the coast were keeping to the Intracoastal, and even battlewagons were heading in. Working the 800-hp MANs between 1200 and 1400 rpm, we muscled our way out of the inlet, thinking that the precipitous waves might abate as we got offshore a bit.

Wrong. In mountainous seas, we more than once launched the entire hull off the crest of an oncoming wave, briefly lost in a trough, only to have the bow rocket skyward as the next breaker roared in. Two things impressed me most. First, the hull never seemed to slam or pound, its V bottom landing in the troughs as gently as a cat on thick carpet. Second, though there was plenty of wind-blown spray, a wide chine and generous bow flare kept the foredeck surprisingly dry.

There was little doubt we had fulfilled my first goal, finding “some decent-size waves” to assess the Pershing’s abilities in a seaway, and taking the seas head on, she was more than equal to the task. Just for a moment, as we prepared to turn back toward the inlet, I wondered how we would fare when we put those towering seas on our beam. No time to worry about it, and no need either, as it turned out. We did a quick 180, poured on the juice, and dashed for the inlet on the crests of the following sea, with nary a cause for concern.

Finding “some flat-calm water” for our high-speed test runs necessitated a 90-minute trip south on the Intracoastal to an open stretch just north of Miami Beach where we could run at full speed. Along the way, I learned what Pershing was trying to achieve with the new design, particularly in relationship to its existing 52-foot model. In short, the builder had three objectives: updated styling, an improved drivetrain, and more competitive pricing.

Since the company’s inception, Pershing has maintained a consistent styling theme that makes it one of the more recognizable brands on the water. Over the years, most recently with the introduction of the Pershing 76 Next Generation, the style has evolved but has never radically changed. And so it is with the Pershing 50, also in the Next Generation lineup, the next step in the company’s evolutionary chain.

Some of the styling changes are subtle, like the rounded tail fins and faux vents near the stern on either side. Other nuances combine functionality with eye appeal; for example, a tiny rail of stainless steel placed behind each mooring cleat not only looks classy, but it keeps dock lines from rubbing on the deck edge and scuffing the fiberglass.

And some of the styling changes are “in your face” bold, like the Kevlar instrument panel at the helm station. There’s no top coat on the resin, so the fabric weave is visible, giving the panel an imposing military/commercial look. And the instruments are clustered in a vertically oriented array, rather than spread out horizontally. Last but not least, the whole panel is encircled by a fiberglass rim finished in silver gelcoat, making the helm station feel like the cockpit of a fighter plane. Thankfully, the sexy helm layout also works well, with the most critical gauges near the top of the panel and everything in a straight-ahead field of view.

Opposite the helm station is a U-shape settee with a dining table in the center. May seem like nothing notable there, but not so fast...both the settee and the table have a twist. The forward portion of the settee is actually a pair of swivel chairs that can be raised up and turned to face forward (as a double companion seat, opposite the helm) or lowered and turned aft, toward the dinette and other guests seated in the cockpit. Pretty slick trick. And the dinette is not the usual “removable” kind that begs the question of “where to stow a 27”x54” dining table.” Instead, two leaves fold inward, reducing the tabletop to a 27-inch square, and then (here’s the tricky part) the whole thing lowers hydraulically into a recess in the cockpit sole, out of sight and out of the way.

Aft of the settee is a sunpad that should accommodate three adults (with room for three more on the foredeck sunpad). But beneath the aft sunpad, there’s a 4’x7’ hatch that lifts to reveal a two-foot-deep stowage locker for fenders, lines, and other things you want close at hand. As if that weren’t enough, beneath the aft portion of the sunpad, a hatch opens into a 4’x8’6” space nearly six feet deep that could serve as stowage space, a dive locker, or even as crew quarters.

Below deck, the Pershing 50’s accommodation spaces are an exquisite testament to Italian styling and craftsmanship. Supple fabrics and richly lacquered wood surfaces are visual delights, while the curved bulkheads and partitions in the saloon belie the sense that one is indeed inside a floating vessel. Folding sections of wood countertop hide the two-burner Bosch cooktop and a deep stainless steel sink. But a two-inch rim along the edge of the countertop, and built-in racks for cups and plates show that her builders have not forgotten she is a boat capable of coping with sea conditions such as we had just experienced.

I finished my walk-through of the yacht’s interior just about the time we arrived in North Miami, to start our high-speed test measurements. With the 50 at full throttle, my radar gun recorded an impressive two-way average speed of 50 mph, with the twin 800-hp MAN diesels spun up to their rated 2300 rpm and the Arneson surface drives trimmed up for maximum speed. But I have to admit, that acceleration from a standing start was, to put it mildly, on the leisurely side up to about 1800 rpm. At that point, the props seem to get a bite, the rooster tail flies, and the yacht comes nicely up to her top speed. I did notice one slight quirk, however: Above 35 mph, with the Arneson drives trimmed up, steering and control seemed a bit skittish. Datson assured me that this was because we were running at high speed in the relatively shallow waters of the Intracoastal, and that in deeper water tracking was stable and predictable.

Sea conditions offshore still precluded a high-speed sprint in deep water to settle the question. Next time I’m planning a boat test, I’ll be more careful what I wish for. Maybe I’ll just wish for a boat as nice as the Pershing 50.

Marine Max
(866) 693-3293

This article originally appeared in the June 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.