Spencer 70 Enclosed BridgeBy Capt. Bill Pike
Spencer Yachts and Volvo Penta build a custom battlewagon that does it all.
I love stuff that’s new and different. And from the hints I’d gotten from the guys who had designed and built her, the triple-IPS Spencer 70 Enclosed Bridge was going to be unlike any custom sportfisherman I’d ever sea-trialed. Not only did she showcase the very first high-horsepower Volvo Penta IPS III propulsion plants to appear onboard a recreational vessel, she also sported a host of other new technologies (see “Proud New Owner,” this story) that were both advanced and unique. Indeed, as I neared the big battlewagon’s teak transom, emblazoned with a giant marlin and the catchy moniker PentaGone, I spotted the antenna for Volvo’s new Dynamic Positioning system up on the roof of the bridge enclosure. With any luck I figured I’d have a chance to check the system out during the day ahead.
Ed Szilagyi, general manager of Volvo’s Boat Engine Integration Center, the engineering facility that had labored so long and hard with Spencer Yachts to launch this boat, welcomed me with an uneasy look. “We’ve got a problem, Bill,” he said. He explained that while departing a slip the boat had occupied during the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the 70 had touched bottom, damaging her propsets. “And scheduling issues make it impossible to wait for replacements,” he added. “We’ve gotta test today.”
I empathized, of course, having run aground a few times myself. And I agreed to proceed with the sea trial as well, based on Szilagyi’s assurances that the only major performance parameter to be affected was top speed. “What we’re seeing is a two-knot drop at WOT. That’s all,” he promised.
His statement turned out to be spot-on. When we later zoomed up and down a Palm Beach stretch of the ICW, I recorded an average top hop of 36.3 knots, or 41.8 mph, exactly two knots under the 38.3-knot average top speed Szilagyi showed me on Volvo’s own sea trial report. Moreover, the fuel burn I recorded at WOT was 2.1 gallons less than the amount shown on the report and the top-end rpm was considerably below spec as well. These last two details, in league with the drive-train vibration I felt and heard throughout the engines’ rpm register, served to convince me totally—the damaged IPS Q6 propsets were indeed robbing my test vessel of WOT speed.
A second major-league parameter soon announced itself with unequivocal excellence, however. Whether at low rpm or high, the 70’s slipperiness was a real eye-popper. More to the point, even at top speed she turned in an operating efficiency of .32 mpg, a figure that exceeds the efficiency of a comparable conventionally inboard-powered 70-footer we recently tested by almost 30 percent. And although such economy is undoubtedly due to the characteristic efficiency of pod propulsion in general, high-tech construction is also involved.
The 70 is super-light. In fact her full-load displacement is just 98,000 pounds (about 12 tons lighter than that inboard-powered 70-footer), thanks mostly to longitudinally framed major components (hull, deck, and superstructure) that all are laminated with epoxy and cored with Corecell; varnished teak furnishings (doors, cabinets, tables, etc.) that are cored with Tri-Cell; and engines and fuel tanks that are significantly reduced in size thanks to the increased efficiency of IPS.
Driving the 70 in the open Atlantic in four-to-six-footers felt like playing in a slick-calm lake with a gigantic $5.7 million toy. Thanks to her electric steering system, I
S-curved the big beauty up-sea with thumb and forefinger alone, zestfully bopping back and forth across the axis of the waves. While going down-sea and then side-sea, the boat almost steered herself. And doing a simulated fish-chasing backdown demonstrated the lithe responsiveness of Volvo’s Sportfish Mode with a vengeance.
As I zoomed inbound through Lake Worth Inlet en route back to our marina, the combination of the 70’s lovely nose-up balance (running attitudes above 1250 rpm held steady at 4.5 degrees), her wheelhouse’s lofty wraparound visibility, and the navigational ease that four large Nauticomp flat-screens (with cartographic, FLIR, radar, ISIS, Octoplex, camera, and other capabilities), sent a shot of fast, freedom-lovin’ fun spiraling up my spine.
Lake Worth’s Parker Avenue Bridge shortly put to rest the issue I’d wondered about before I had come aboard: Volvo’s Dynamic Positioning System. Due to a glitch in the bridge, we were constrained to wait almost an hour for an opening. While a more conventional vessel might have required loads of throttle-jockeying and cartography-watching to hold station during such a long period, the DP system (with two GPS receivers that work in conjunction to maintain both station and heading) kept us electronically spotted with near-silent, seemingly unmoving precision, despite a significant current.
“I better take the helm now, Bill,” said Szilagyi with a grin, pointing at a shoal guarding the marina’s entrance. “It’s shallow up there, and I’d rather take the responsibility.”
He soon had the Spencer 70 docked in a cramped and oddly situated slip without any trouble at all, thanks to his position at one of the five strategically positioned IPS joystick docking stations onboard.
“Speed, wicked economy, back-down agility, and great handling,” I synopsized shortly after, “I gotta tell ya, Ed—we’re talkin’ a true super star here!”
Spencer Yachts (252) 473-6567.
Proud New Owner Clint Moore
Volvo Penta Of The Americas
Clint Moore, president and CEO of Volvo Penta of the Americas, is not only proud of his new vessel’s powerplant but also of several other features. “I wanted a unique platform for our latest version of IPS—a yacht disguised as a fishboat,” he told me.
To see what he means, even a quick tour of the 70’s four-stateroom-five-head interior will suffice. Topside, the wheelhouse is self-sufficient for safety’s sake, with a dedicated Mastervolt battery bank and charger for electronics. On the main deck, the layout offers a galley/dinette that’s socially synched with the saloon, thanks to input from Volvo consultant Mike Meyer. On the lower deck, optional hull windows (with insulated glass that nixes heat transfer and boosts air-conditioning efficiency), a separate room for rods and reels, and top-shelf Grohe plumbing fixtures create an aura of luxury. And on deck, a truly cool feature—an anchoring system at the bow that hides behind a set of automatically folding doors. —B.P.
VOLVO PENTA of the americas (757) 436-5173.
This article originally appeared in the January 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.