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Salish Sea 48

Positive Attitude

Yeah, she’s got some traditional New England flair, but the fine-running Salish Sea 48 is also a modern, smartly crafted West Coast cruiser.

We were coming back into Port Townsend, Washington, from our sea trial. I was operating the Salish Sea 48 from the upper station (my favorite spot to run a boat) and the prospect ahead looked workable—not much wind in Point Hudson Marina, a steady outgoing tide, and just enough berthing space to squeeze in nicely. But I could tell the guy seated on the comfy lounge nearby, Salish Sea’s marketing rep/management consultant Stuart Archer, was growing restive. Earlier, when I’d asked whether I might dock the 48 at trial’s end, he’d been so inspired by the top-dog performance data we were recording that he’d euphorically agreed.

But now, second thoughts seemed to be percolating, some likely focused on our 48’s rather substantial $2,232,820 price tag, and some on a question that was almost surely bugging him by now, given that the two of us had only just met—yeah, a guy from Power & Motoryacht oughta know something about boats, but could he handle one dockside without scraping off a streak of Awlgrip?

I shifted our 600-horsepower Volvo Penta IPS800s into idle, energized the joystick, and let the 48 ghost abeam of her slip. In the meantime, our third crewmember, Power & Motoryacht’s publisher Arnie Hammerman, casually descended to the huge teak-planked cockpit to deploy fenders and make ready for a portside tie, a necessary scenario (related to shorepower hookup) that meant I’d need to rotate the boat through 180 degrees and then walk her straight into a parking spot between a motorcruiser and a ketch.

“Um,” said Archer, “maybe I’ll stay up here in case you need help.”

A Bunch of Boat Guys

Doug Zurn and Stuart ArcherThe Salish Sea 48 got her start in 2005. A couple of gents—long-time boat repairman Matt Elder and long-time boat owner Pat Shannon—were having a beer in a harbor-side watering hole in Port Townsend, Washington. “We were friends—I’d been taking care of Pat’s boats for a long time,” explained Elder recently, “and he said he wanted a new one. But he also said he’d gone to a whole bunch of the shows and still hadn’t found what he was looking for.”

Among other things, Shannon wanted a 48-foot envelope, a workable three-stateroom layout within it, highly maneuverable Volvo Penta IPS (even though pod propulsion was new and somewhat untried at the time), a raft of custom comforts (like power windows, an extendable cockpit awning, and a fold-down transom), and an up-to-date but still boaty aesthetic. “Say,” Shannon theorized, “what about you build me a boat, Matt?”

Elder thought it over. He knew a lot about boats—he’d spent most of his working life in boatyards “repairing other people’s mistakes.” But he was unsure of boatbuilding’s business end. And how about the design work?

A deal was sealed over the ensuing months nevertheless. Shannon and Elder became partners, bringing in another guy, Stuart Archer, to help ramrod details and handle marketing. Then, after a spate of test drives and interviews, Elder hired Massachusetts-based naval architect Doug Zurn, who’d done well by MJM, Marlow Marine, and others.

Methods were unconventional. For starters, there was no deadline—the point was to build the best, no matter how long it took. And indeed, as the economic downturn deepened, the project stalled for a couple of years. But then in 2010 it kicked in again, with mostly local folks on the payroll—Bayview Composites of nearby Mount Vernon did the molds, Townsend Bay Marine did the glass work, and Elder’s Sea Marine dealt with most of the engineering and finish work.

Ultimately, the boat ran like a scared rabbit. 

“Two basic things account for this,” Zurn told Power & Motoryacht at press time, “bottom shape and where I put the longitudinal center of gravity.” The 48’s modified-V running surface has a relatively steep deadrise amidships (about 16 degrees) to efficiently slice water and wide chineflats and running strakes to aerate as well and generate lift. “And the LCG,” Zurn added, “is more forward-oriented, primarily because the locus of IPS thrust is also further forward.”

The 48’s salty, New England-esque profile? “I believe,” concluded Zurn, “there are ways to create a traditional look and modify it so subtly that the styling winds up being both contemporary and traditional. That’s what the Salish Sea guys wanted and that’s what I was going for.” 

“No problem, Stuart,” I replied, just as I began twisting the top of the joystick ever so slightly to port, an action that began nicely rotating the 48 in the same direction. Archer looked on with hawk-like attention. Then, about halfway through the rotation, shortly after I’d tossed some rather adroit (if I do say so myself) sideways action into the mix to compensate for a rousingly stiff current, he slapped me on the back. “Heck Bill, you got it,” he said, then headed merrily below to help Hammerman.

And I did indubitably have it. While not all vessels equipped with pod drives evince equal levels of maneuvering delicacy, the 48 was so supremely able I guess she made me look pretty darn able as well. Indeed, in addition to the superb balance she’d exhibited during her earlier open-water showing (due in large part to the placement of her mains atop her
longitudinal center of gravity or LCG), the superb array of sightlines she offered while I stood at the helm, and the inboard location of her joystick control (which made the thing eminently easy to use, whether I was standing or sitting, facing forward or aft), she had something extra—that rare, ineffable quality that not only inspires and enlivens an operator but sends pulses of pure, boat-handling delight up his weathered old spine.

Of course, the fun I was having had actually commenced with the 48’s performance out on Admiralty Inlet where we’d done the sea trial. Quite frankly, it’d been years since I’d seen such a wholly perfect set of running attitudes, a prime indicator of the superb balance I just mentioned. Most experts say the optimum angle of attack for a planing boat is somewhere between 2 and 4 degrees and, without the use of our Humphree Interceptor tabs, the 48 remained within that range throughout the whole rpm register, even while coming out of the hole.

Additionally, the 3.2:1 length-to-beam ratio of the 48’s underbody (the area “entrained by the chines,” according to her naval architect Doug Zurn) made her relatively long, narrow, modified-V running surface both fast and fuel efficient, notwithstanding construction methods that feature beefy scantlings and a moderate heft, in spite of some resin-infused weight savings. Certainly, burning approximately 59 gallons per hour for a top speed of 33.4 knots seemed pretty sweet while I zoomed along, but throttling back to a cruise speed of 27.1 knots cut the burn to 39 gallons per hour, for an operating efficiency of .69 nautical miles per gallon, which seemed way sweeter.

“Take a look at the interior,” Archer suggested as he lowered the 48’s unusual cockpit tailgate (with removable carbon-fiber arms for dinghy carriage and deployment) so Hammerman could more easily deal with the shore-power cord. “You’ll like it.”

While the positive experiences onboard that morning had already been numerous, I was fixin’ to have a repetition, as we say down south of the Mason-Dixon. Upon entering the saloon, my first reaction was silent transfixion. The gleaming maple floor (with narrow, interstitial teak strips); the honey-hued joinery (Douglas fir principally, trimmed with stone-hard Pacific yew); the contrasting green upholstery fabrics (with smooth, slippery, UltraLeather borders to facilitate taking a seat); and the matching mottled-green South American marble countertops—the eye-popping
mélange produced one of the prettiest, brightest boat saloons I’d seen in a while.

“Watch this,” enthused Archer as he zooped down the saloon’s side windows to catch the breeze and then the galley window at the rear so that, with the transom tailgate still down, I could see the tidal current whipping by, right out the stern of the boat. “The gate not only facilitates swimming, diving, and working the dinghy,” he said, “it sorta maximizes your connection to the environment.”  

Self Service:

Maintaining Your EPIRB
The Salish Sea 48 comes standard with a 406MHz EPIRB or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. The U.S. Coast Guard suggests that to maintain such a device properly it should be inspected on a monthly basis. Typically, instructions for actual testing are supplied by the manufacturer. Should an EPIRB be accidentally activated in transmit mode, the nearest Coast Guard station should be immediately notified of the false alarm.

The accommodations spaces on the lower deck were equally glamorous and surprisingly ample, with three truly livable staterooms—an en suite master up forward, a VIP with adjoining dayhead aft and to port, and a guest aft and to starboard. What I especially liked here was the Alaskan yellow-cedar ceiling planking along the hullsides—it perfectly complemented all the other lovely Pacific Northwestern woods onboard.

The last thing I looked at was the engine room, which I accessed from the saloon via a hatch backed with 5 inches of Soundown noise-blocking foam encased in a carefully crafted, white-enameled, perforated-aluminum protective cover. Stoop headroom (approximately 53 inches) was the order of the day here, along with belt-and-suspenders engineering.

Groco seacocks for the genset and other through-hulls, for example, were massive, with giant levers—no cheater pipes necessary here. The seawater and freshwater pumps, from Baldor and Stingray respectively, were also robust and outfitted with big, clear-bowl-type filters, the better to see water-supply issues before they turn problematic. Hose clamps were doubled, both below and above the waterline. And many of the ancillaries (like the Reverso oil-change unit and the duplex Racors on the forward firewall) were mounted on crisply routed StarBoard landing pads that were, in turn, bolted to underlying bulkheads or shelves. Again, belt and suspenders.

“Solid equipment solidly installed,” I
synopsized, climbing out.

“We’re a new company—it’s our first boat,” Archer replied, slapping me on the back for the second time that day, “We just wanna make sure nothin’ goes wrong.”

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This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.