Once in a while, I forget what boating’s really about. I get all tangled up in a particular vessel’s construction, say, or her engineering. I crawl around on all fours for hours, exploring engine rooms, examining the wonders of electrical systems or hull-to-deck joints. Or I spend hours checking out the latest laminating techniques on plant tours. And although most of this stuff is interesting and instructive from the boat-test standpoint, I can’t help but think I’m sometimes failing to focus on what’s most important: whether or not the boat I’m sea trialing is fun to drive.
Of course, some of the vessels I test make falling prey to this phenomenon virtually impossible. More to the point, climbing behind the wheel of one of these babies and juicing the throttles is so darn pleasurable and exciting that, afterwards, recollections of simply driving the boat seem to transcend all other details and features. My recent test of Fairline’s Targa 47 performance cruiser is a case in point. Once I’d finished with the boat for the day and retired to my Miami Beach hotel room to examine and tweak the notes I’d taken, all I could think about was how much fun I’d had driving her around the coastal Atlantic all afternoon, four- to-six-footers be danged.
I’d begun the sea trial per usual with a tentative, conservative approach to using her ultra-responsive Volvo Penta electronic single-lever sticks, her quick-on-the-draw Lenco electric trim tabs, and her silky-smooth, power-assisted Teleflex SeaStar hydraulic steering. What happened next was not typical of all boat tests by a long shot, but it was sure big-time fun! Within minutes I was so sweetly acclimated to the way the 47 responded to her throttles, tabs, and rudders once she was up and running that I slowly, steadily, and joyfully poured on all the coal available, in this case a total of 960 metric horses or, if you want to get picky about engine specifications, 960 metric brake horsepower.
The result sent chills up my spine, literally. Just imagine: I had the standard, electrically actuated moonroof powered back so I could feel fresh salt air whizzing by but not be bothered by it. I had the helm-seat bolster flipped up so I could rest easy but still see clearly over the bow and all around. I had my right forearm supported on a gunwale flat so I could comfortably and safely maintain fingertip contact with the knobs of the engine controls. I knew just what the boat was doing mechanically, thanks to a tiered array of VDO gauges that were properly prioritized and easy to read. I had legions of inviting four- to six-foot seas coming at me, seemingly all the way from Bermuda.
And the 47 ran like a rocket on shock absorbers, in spite of the fact that this particular boat had comparatively small powerplants in her engine room: a set of 480-mhp Volvo Penta 75P EDC diesels Fairline normally reserves for overseas customers, in keeping with the notion that North Americans are more into big engines and speed than fuel economy. Smoothness was the overriding theme. Whether blasting head seas to smithereens at a top speed of 37.1 mph; swooping tight, sea-gripping, inward-heeling curves; beelining down-sea, or--once I’d begun to feel truly synched into the 47’s vivacious personality--running side-sea with her sticks slam up against the firewall, the 47 drove like a gutsy, incomparably refined limousine.
Why? Balance is a hallmark of the design work of naval architect Bernard Olesinski, the fellow who drew the deep-V running surface for the 47. Simply put, boats with longitudinal centers of gravity that are too far forward tend to bow steer and show other signs of handling orneriness on plane and even sometimes at displacement speeds. Boats with longitudinal centers of gravity that are too far aft tend to struggle out of the hole and plow inefficiently once they achieve plane. Deftly splitting the difference with a dedicated, single-mold hull form, which is what Olesinski’s done with the 47, produces performance characteristics that are downright inspirational from a driver’s point of view, particularly when teamed up with other factors like savvy tunnel design, judicious rudder placement, and a beefy, engine-assisted hydraulic steering system.
Docking our test boat stern-to at Miami Beach Marina under breezy conditions put the frosting on the cake. Once I’d started the bow swinging to effect the lineup I needed to back down, I simply turned a bit toward the transom on my bolster, noted how refreshing it was to be gazing aft with virtually unlimited visibility, and slid ‘er home with just a couple of gear changes. While the 47 comes stateside-equipped with a standard-issue SidePower bow thruster, I found it unnecessary. The boat is eminently simple to maneuver, hefty enough, and deep enough--thanks to a sharp 18-degree transom deadrise--to valiantly resist the effects of wind.
My examination of the 47 dockside generated oooohs and aaaahs, regardless of the fact that it took place in the shadow of such a spectacular test drive. On the engineering front, I was impressed with the engine-room entry at the transom on the port side. It’s a stand-up affair once the hatch is deployed; all you do is step down. I picked up on numerous nifty details and features in the machinery spaces, like the seachest forward between the inboard engine bearers (it cuts the number of seawater pickups and through-hulls); the sound-insulating foam wrapping the welded-aluminum fuel tanks; the robust, tightly spaced grid of closed-cell, foam-core stringers and transversals that ruggedizes the solid-glass hull; and a hull-to-deck joint that’s both bolted and fiberglassed all the way around for monocoque rigidity.
Accommodation spaces were just as impressive, with an ample master forward, an ample VIP aft (with single berths that can be slid together), and a galley/dinette area in between. Headroom throughout measures six feet or more, each stateroom has its own facilities with an electric VacuFlush MSD and separate shower stall, and all joinery is finished with two layers of stain followed by six layers of lacquer. Intermingle such features with fine Mobella hardware, alfresco dining/lounging facilities in the cockpit abaft the helm station, and a tender/PWC garage with an optional rollers-and-winch arrangement, and you’ve got a cruise-friendly vessel of the first order.
Which is wonderful, of course. But just remember: The Fairline Targa 47’s real claim to fame is not her engineering, construction, or easy-livin’ layout. She’s a driver’s boat, pure and simple. And that’s a fact.
Fairline Boats of North America
Side-Power bow thruster; ITT Jabsco spotlight; Wema tank gauge; VDO instrumentation; AutoAnchor 500RCX controller/chain counter; Raymarine Ray240E VHF and Tridata ST60; Trend Marine opening ports; Isotherm refrigerator; EuroKera 2-burner cooktop; Sharp Jet Convection & Double Grill microwave oven; 2/VacuFlush MSDs; Bose Entertainment System; Sharp TV; JVC AM/FM/stereo/CD player; 2/Plastimo 925 manual bilge pumps; Sea-Fire FM-200 auto. fire-extinguishing system; 24,000-Btu Marine Air A/C; 11.5-kW Onan genset; Lenco electric trim tabs
Raymarine SmartPilot ST6001 autopilot; C80 radar/GPS/plotter; 16,00-Btu Marine Air cockpit A/C; Besenzoni passerelle; DeDietrich BBQ; PWC garage w/ roller assembly and winch
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/480-mhp Volvo Penta 75P EDC diesel inboards
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF 280-1A/1.77:1
- Props: 24x32 4-blade nibral
- Price as Tested: $909,000
This article originally appeared in the October 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.