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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Pacific Mariner 85 Pilothouse

Okay. Let’s get a couple of things out of the way right off the bat. First, you’re likely to wonder a little when you check the specifications for the Pacific Mariner 85 Pilothouse Motoryacht shown here. I kid you not: The standards list is so extraordinarily lengthy and replete with aristocratic brand names that it reads like a Russian novel. Second, if you’re the type to read fine print, you’re also likely to wonder a little when you peruse the specifics given under “Conditions”—you know, the verbiage concerning sea state, wind speed, etc. that appears just below the performance on the same page. What the heck were 30 people doing onboard the boat when I recently sea trialed her in Skagit Bay, not far from LaConner, Washington, the town where she was built?

The first mystery’s easy. The 85’s sold in such a solid turnkey fashion that, except for a flying-bridge hardtop and teak aft deck, there simply are no options. Standards include everything from remote engine/bow thruster control stations for docking (one in the cockpit and two others on either bridge wing) to a galley stocked with preeminent appliances, Reed & Barton flatware, and—would you believe?—a Starbucks Barista coffee pot!

The second mystery? Pacific Mariner was jammed tight against the 85’s delivery deadline on the foggy, rainy morning I arrived. Owners Troy and Bonnie Ducharme had signed a contract well over a year prior based solely on their four-year love affair with a Pacific Mariner 65 Motoryacht, the only model the builder previously offered. The Ducharmes were on fire with expectation, camped out at a hotel in town, and very antsy to start heading south for Mexico, the Panama Canal, Venezuela, Barbados, and finally Florida, for the Miami International Boat Show. “Bill,” apologized Pacific Mariner president Jack Edson, “No way around it, man—I gotta keep the guys workin’ while we do the test.”

This turn of events had ramifications, of course. On the test-data front, although the sound levels I recorded in the pilothouse were stunningly low—the 85 is easily the quietest boat in her size range I’ve ever tested—they were undoubtedly higher than they might have otherwise been, mostly because numerous sound-deadening panels had yet to be installed. And then, the weight of 30 workers onboard, coupled with the weight of their tools, was prodigious—it more than likely reduced the top-end speed I measured by at least a knot.

There was a comedic ramification as well. While I was standing at the lower helm driving the 85 back to the dock after the sea trial, a shipwright was installing headliner panels directly over my head with a big electric drill. His helper, a guy with a hearing problem perhaps, was positioned several feet astern, trying to hold up his end of the panel with acceptable precision. Coordinating such an operation was understandably frustrating to the shipwright, and at the precise moment I was swinging the corner into LaConner Narrows, a rock-infested, current-ravaged stretch that opens into LaConner harbor, he yelled, “No! To starboard...TO STARBOARD!”

My eyes shot back and forth like sombody’d tossed a hand grenade. Jeeeze...was I about to nail some gnarly, unseen obstruction dead ahead with a $4.7-million yacht?! I spun the wheel to starboard, and the boat responded with remarkable speed and sensitivity thanks to extra-robust power-assisted Teleflex hydraulics and a steering system that boasts just three turns lock to lock.

Edson, standing with arms akimbo on the back of the Stidd I had nervously braced my butt against said. “Ah...Bill, John was talkin’ to Ed, I believe. Go ahead and bring ’er back to port.”

The directive had gravitas to it, despite Edson’s calm tone. I spun the wheel back to port, to get the bow swinging fast, and then countered with just enough starboard wheel to steady her up. Whew! The whole maneuver took a couple of seconds at most. Didn’t even need to goose the starboard engine to facilitate.

“Jack,” I remarked appreciatively, “this baby’s quicker’n a cat!”

She’d been quick out on Skagit Bay, too. In two- to four-foot seas, I measured a top hop of 31.4 mph—a spirited number, given the extra weight onboard. Moreover, sound levels were especially low given the considerations I’ve already mentioned, and they might have actually been lower. Edson had two high-end sound meters with him during the trial, and they both read 2.9 dB-A less (on average) than the Radio Shack sound meter I was using. Why? It’s quite likely the Radio Shack, which normally does a fine job with the higher sound levels typical of most boat tests, is not as accurate on the low end.

Visibility was excellent from the pilothouse, too—I could even see the stern from the lower helm’s starboard side. And visibility from the bridge? We docked the 85 port-side-to using one of the wing control stations. Nothing beats surveying a vessel in her entirety while working a set of single-lever, electronic sticks in conjunction with a gutsy hydraulic thruster. Not only is it fun, but it also means the 85 can be easily operated by two people, even one in a pinch.

The dazzling finish of the interior complements the 85’s impressive handling and maneuverability. Joinery excellence comes from woodworking subcontractor ProNautic Custom Yacht Interiors of Sydney, British Columbia. The taste with which fabrics and woods were chosen is attributable to Edson’s wife, Sheri. And generally speaking, the layout’s both smart and conventional. There’s a pilothouse/galley/dinette on the upper deck (with Freeman watertight doors to port and starboard), along with a day head and a big, beamy saloon (with dining area) abaft. Below are four staterooms (master aft, VIP forward, plus guests port and starboard), with two more staterooms for crew in the lazarette. Noteworthy virtues include huge saloon and wheelhouse windows that offer views even while you’re seated, and a glass bridge with state-of-the-art components mostly from NEC, Furuno, and Simrad.

If performance and comfort are the reasons for the 85’s existence, engineering excellence is the means of achieving those goals. Sound and vibration are attenuated via clamshell-shape, “vectored-cowl” exhaust ports under water—they nix vibration and station-wagon effect by diverting exhaust gases laterally, away from the propeller tunnels. Other measures that reduce sound and vibration include the extensive use of 3M Thinsulate insulation in living areas; double-density Soundown foam in the engine room; isolation mounts on pumps, motors, and exhaust mounts; double-isolation mounts, underwater discharges, and secondary mufflers on the two Northern Lights gensets; and sound-absorbent pads under all carpets.

The engine room itself is a masterpiece. With rough-weather access via a cockpit hatch and routine access via one watertight Freeman door at the transom and another farther forward in the crew’s quarters, the place is laid out so that everything is easy to access, maintain, and repair. The forward firewall’s an excellent example. Arranged at or near eye level with circuit-board simplicity are a Sea Recovery watermaker, soft-start Aqua Air chilled-water air-conditioning units, Racor duplex filters, a Headhunter waste-treatment system (legally overboard—dischargeable almost anywhere in the world), and an ample chest of Snap-On tools.

Some weeks after I’d finished the test, I telephoned the boat to see how the Ducharmes were doing. They were ecstatic. Peace and tranquility reigned.

“She’s wonderful,” enthused Troy.

"Oh yes,” concurred Bonnie, casting about for words momentarily. “She’s simply our dream machine, Bill, in every sense those words convey. Our wonderful dream machine.”

Pacific Mariner
(360) 466-1189

This article originally appeared in the February 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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