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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Sculley 64

You may not believe this, but testing a fully custom, $2.65-million sportfisherman was hard work. Not so much the part where I walked around the Sculley 64 and took notes. Nor the part where I measured speed, fuel burn, acceleration, and all that other stuff. And certainly not the part where I took her wheel. No, the tough part was the evaluation. What can you find wrong with a boat that costs $41,406.25 a foot? Her helm doesn’t have enough drink holders? The MSD is too loud? Truth is, even the curmudgeonliest cynic would be hard-pressed to find much of anything amiss with the Sculley 64. The real challenge is to accurately describe her without revealing the fact that you want this boat.

Easier said than done. Pompeola (wave-breaker in Spanish) blew me away. Even months after the test, I still get goose bumps remembering my hands on her wheel at nearly 40 knots as she blew through the four-footers outside of Miami’s Government Cut. I remember her sound, too—not a squeak, rattle, or groan, just the perfectly muffled rumble of a couple of 1,550-hp C30 Caterpillars. I think, If I could just run her one more time...

I wasn’t prepared for the 64. Oh, I knew I was going to test a custom sportfisherman, but I knew nothing about Sculley Boatbuilders. I didn’t know its COO is Jim Polatty, who started with Buddy Davis as a draftsman and 15 years later ended up VP of Davis Boatworks. I didn’t know that he and Jim Sculley, Sr. founded the company in 1999 with the singular aim of melding Carolina-style hulls with true yacht-quality interiors and that they took two years to develop their first hull, a 58, including 1,000 hours out on the water. And I didn’t know they were doing all this in the cradle of Carolina boatbuilding, Wanchese, North Carolina.

It didn’t take much wheel time to confirm the 64’s Carolina pedigree. Later I’d learn her solidity came from an epoxy-impregnated, cold-molded hull—the bottom having three layers of 9-mm Okoume plywood and the hull sides having two layers of 12-mm Okoume—reinforced by six-inch-wide encapsulated Douglas fir stringers with 3/4-inch steel engine beds. Topsides are composite, mainly Divinycell and Nidacore, and everything is vacuum-bagged, finished to exterior grade whether it shows or not, and painted with whatever paint and color you desire. I also learned that while there are six models from 53 to 64 feet, since each is jig-built (no mold), a Sculley can be pretty much any size you want.

And you will want this boat the minute you see her. There’s nary a corner to be found, inside or out. Beyond aesthetics, that matters because sharp corners hurt when you bump into them in a seaway. Even the side windows are convex, mainly because it looks cool. The transom is compound-curved because it sheds water better when backing down (as I observed when we filled the cockpit at 7 knots) and the bridge seat bases are angled out to make more room for your feet.

And there’s room for a lot of feet up there. The helm console is well aft to provide a good view to the cockpit, leaving an immense seating area forward. There’s stowage under every seat, and each hatch includes the seat base and back so it’s easier to get stuff (rods in the starboard side) in and out. Unfortunately, the two helm chairs are right up against the aft rail and only eight inches apart, basically trapping the outboard occupant. Of course, the electronics panel retracts into the console, and of course there’s a teak control pod, which although de rigueur in a custom sportfisherman has become something of an anachronism, since electronic engine displays replaced analog tachometers. This jewel case is occupied only by a graphic of the boat and some monitor lights.

A 24-volt distribution panel at the helm isn’t a revolutionary idea, but this one is hinged and its back is enclosed, so when it’s open, you can reach into a huge stowage area inside the console. To starboard of the console is the obligatory aft-facing seat for bait watchers and, beneath it, a drink cooler. Like every compartment that might be used as a cooler, it’s lined with stainless steel. Directly aft is the opening to the vertical cockpit ladder. Scaling it was a little dicey, but what really made me uneasy, especially when things got sporty, was the lack of a hatch or guardrail up top.

At the foot of the ladder the 11-foot-deep (not counting mezzanine) cockpit is surrounded by 15-inch-wide, teak-capped gunwales just 25 inches off the water. A tuna door—there’s no gate, to maximize transom rigidity—sits to starboard. There’s a big refrigerated fishbox to port and a dunnage box to starboard that’s big enough to swallow a pair of spare props with room for more. The mezzanine seating, protected by a nearly six-foot bridge overhang, has stowage below, and cold drinks are at the ready thanks to a refrigerated drinkbox under the saloon step.

Engine-room access is in the middle of the mezzanine, and while the hatch might be a squeeze for a big guy, what he’ll find inside is worth any effort. Immediately to your left is a 25-gallon lube-oil reservoir with quick-connects to the oil transfer pump. Engine access is superb: There’s more than four feet between the engines and three feet outboard, and at 41 inches the centerline catwalk is plenty wide enough to accommodate a row of battery boxes on each side. A sea chest and Northern Lights genset are forward of each main, and all pumps are contained within cabinets. Everything is either painted or powder-coated, creating a beautiful space that’s efficient and uncluttered.

You’d expect a boat that has an engine room like that to have a spectacular saloon. Pompeola’s is remarkable for its fine joinery, but I was more impressed by the subdued decor, the unique layout, and the coffee table. Decor is naturally a matter of personal taste on a full-custom yacht, but the cherry woodwork and tan leather was quite pleasing. Layout, too, is a matter of choice, but this one bears description. The galley and saloon are on the same level, with the galley in the port corner, separated by an angled island, perfect for someone who really uses the galley and refuses to be isolated from the rest of the crowd. If that’s you and you’ve got the necessary beam (as in Pompeola’s 18'9"), it’s a great design.

The coffee table? When’s the last time you saw a solid cherry one with a hand-painted billfish on it? In coffee. That’s right, the artist used brewed coffee as his medium and then sealed the image in polyurethane for durability.

The 64’s accommodations plan—an angled berth in the forepeak VIP stateroom, two bunk staterooms to port separated by a common head, and an athwartship master amidships—is not unique but is executed to the same standards as the rest of the boat. And, of course, you can have it any way you desire down here.

Desire, that’s what the 64 is all about—the desire of an owner to have a boat exactly the way he wants it, the desire of a boatbuilder to come as close to perfection as humanly possible, and the desire of a journalist to somehow get one more shot at driving this boat.

Sculley Boatbuilders
(252) 473-6855

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