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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Pacific Mariner 85

One of the most interesting sea trials I’ve ever done took place about five years ago on Skagit Bay, not far from LaConner, Washington. The subject, a prototype Pacific Mariner 85 (see “Dream Machine,” February 2005), was so new and untried that she wasn’t even completely finished. In fact, as I proceeded with PMY’s standard boat-testing regime, she was crawling with carpenters, electricians, and other workers, all in a fury to nail down every last-minute, pre-delivery detail.

The hubbub wasn’t the compelling aspect, though. It was the 85’s open-water performance that really snagged my attention. More to the point, the boat ran like a scared rabbit and exhibited a level of quiet I found unique within her size range. Indeed, sound levels in the 85’s wheelhouse during the trial never exceeded 65 dB-A (the level of normal conversation), even when I throttled up to an average top end of 31.4 mph. And running attitudes throughout increased smoothly—with nary an out-of-the-hole spike—to just four degrees, an opti-mum angle of attack for a big planing-type vessel like the 85.

I enjoy a little dj vu every now and again, like most other folks, and recently, I experienced just that, reliving the pleasure of sea trialing another prototypical Pacific Mariner 85. It was the first hull launched by Westport Yachts, which last summer absorbed Pacific Mariner into its stable of successful series-built motoryachts. And while Westport has softened the 85’s styling somewhat to better blend her in with the rest of the fleet, her performance on the smooth waters bordering the Olympic Peninsula, just north of Westport’s plant in Port Angeles, Washington, was, if anything, even more compelling.

Consider sound levels. The dB-A readings I recorded between 1250 and 2250 rpm in the new 85’s wheelhouse were 2 to 4 dB-A lower than those I recorded the first time out. Certainly, tweaking the installation of the 3M Thinsulate sound and thermal insulation, which was also extensively used in the original vessel, played a part in this happy turn of events. But other sound- and vibration-attenuating measures were involved as well, some employed on the earlier boat, such as noise-absorbent pads under carpeting, isolation mounts on all ancillaries, and double-density Soundown foam throughout the engine room, and some that are new, like K-Flex insulation on much of the piping.

Not surprisingly, given the relationship between the two phenomena, vibration levels were also low. While twin-screwing our 85 to get a feel for her maneuvering capabilities, I experienced virtually no low-end rumble as she swung a tight pirouette within her own length. The boat simply carved a silent, mannerly pivot. Likewise, docking visibility from either of the standard wing stations on the flying bridge was excellent, although I would like to offer one suggestion: As with many other large recreational vessels these days, the wing-station controls on the 85 are a tad more limited than some skippers may prefer. Sure, one can get by with only engines-and-thruster controls under most circumstances, but a joystick that also controls the rudders is likely to come in handy when docking broadside to a hefty wind.

As for the test, collecting speed data in the usual way proved impossible. Shortly after beginning our standard procedure, I noted that PMY’s radar gun was generating anomalous readings. When I asked the Westport reps onboard if there was a large, military-grade radar array in the area, they confirmed that there were actually two long-range stations, each used full-time to monitor commercial shipping traffic in the nearby Straits of Juan de Fuca. So, in view of my 85’s limited availability and the interference that rendered my gun basically useless, I was constrained to rely on the Furuno GP-37 DGPS that is part of the 85’s standard electronics package for my speed data, a step that based on my experience might cut her speed numbers by around a knot.

Nevertheless, the 85 posted a sporty top end of 29.4 mph, just 2 mph under the 31.4 mph top speed I’d recorded on the original 85. Whether the difference was due to the GPS-radar gun swap or the extra structure Westport says it has added—as reflected in an increase in dry displacement of 5,000 pounds)—or both, I’m not sure. What I am sure of is the cool assurance she displayed underway, thanks to her fine-bow, Bill Garden hull form; an LCG placement engendering perfect balance and precise, arrow-straight tracking; and a robust Teleflex Sea-Star hydraulic steering system with power-assist. Moreover, sightlines from both of her two helm stations are excellent and enhanced by the comfort of standard Stidd helm chairs.

As soon as we’d returned to Port Angeles and tied up, a guy who looked like just another Westport working stiff came moseying down the dock, jacket flapping and work boots scuffing. Daryl Wakefield, Westport’s president, is no corporate poser, insulated from the minutiae of boatbuilding by some posh office. During lunch at a local sandwich shop and continuing on through a tour of Westport’s furniture factory (which creates finished modular interiors from plys, veneers, and dimensional lumber), he exhibited an encyclopedic knowledge of the 85’s build process while also emphasizing the virtues of Westport’s all-U.S. work force and proprietary manufacturing techniques. “Our delivery schedules are more reliable and the quality’s better,” he synopsized.

Checking out the 85’s interior afterwards gave me no reason to quibble with that pronouncement. The layout is essentially the same as the original 85’s: five staterooms below decks: a beamy master aft, a VIP forward, a guest and another VIP in between, and crew’s quarters at the stern. The topside arrangement featuring a pilothouse well forward for good visibility, a port-side galley immediately abaft it, and a long, plush saloon stretching aft to a set of stainless steel sliders that open onto a spacious cockpit. Each stateroom has its own shower-stall-equipped en suite head, and equipage throughout is turnkey-complete—literally everything onboard our test boat, from complete electronics packages for each of the helm stations to a redundant freshwater system that sports not one, not two, but three pumps.

“Whataya think?” a Westport rep asked as I finished up my examination in a scrupulously engineered machinery space that included a couple of welded-aluminum fuel tanks (with both sight gauges and electronic monitors) gleaming from the far corner and two big, isolation-mounted electric fans for the Delta ‘T’ demister system hanging from the overhead.

“I’d say,” I concluded with a grin, “that the Pac is back. And better than ever.”

Ever had so much trouble hooking up to shore-power in the USA, among myriad splitters and confusing plug-in permutations that you wound up flipping the dockside switch with trepidation? Well, imagine the situation beyond America’s borders, where voltages vary, frequencies can be maddingly unreliable, and current comes in either single- or three-phase forms. Because so-called power converters nix all these issues, they’re becoming increasingly popular on vessels with globetrotting capabilities. Our Pac Mariner 85, for example, sported a couple of converter units from Asea (right), an up-and-comer in the field. They accept and process virtually any type of electrical power in the world, and turn it into clean usable juice. These units will even seamlessly crank a genset to maintain onboard operations should shorepower fail. Asea Power Systems (714) 896-9695. www.aseapower.com

This article originally appeared in the August 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.