The Pearl 65 carves out a niche in the well-served field of European motoryachts, but in a combination of ways you may not be expecting.
It wasn’t long ago that the idea of a triple-engine installation conjured up images of exotic hardware and space-age engineering, built with just one objective in mind—to squeeze in as much horsepower as possible. High-performance boats with jet drives, surface propellers, even gas turbines—we’ve all seen them, or read about them, and marvelled at their complexity. And then wondered who on earth buys them.
Times are changing. Just as we can all remember when a midrange flying-bridge cruiser was about 40 feet long with six berths and a painfully small third cabin, we can accept that in motor boating the competitive core of today’s market is now represented by such sleek craft as the new Pearl 65. And the Pearl is unusual in being fitted, in standard form, and for perfectly sensible and practical reasons, with three engines on pod drives.
As everyone knows, pods allow the engines to be fitted farther aft, releasing plenty of space in the hull for accommodation. Three small marine diesels also take up less hull length, and tend to use less fuel for a given horsepower than two bigger ones. The initial expense is slightly lower than an equivalent twin-engine installation, according to Pearl, and even the servicing costs of three versus two are more or less on par.
Pearl is a minnow compared to its main competitors. A small but high-quality British outfit, it knows it has to offer a genuine alternative. The fiberglass work is contracted out to Taiwan, and the moldings are shipped over for fit-out and completion in England. Like its bigger sister, the Pearl 75 introduced four years ago, the company’s new 65 has a high-concept interior, and cutting-edge European styling and naval architecture from the experienced British design studio of Bill Dixon. And if its customers don’t feel quite as bold as the shipyard when it comes to innovation in engineering, they can choose two 900-horsepower Volvo Penta diesels, on either IPS drives or conventional shafts, instead of the standard three 600-horsepower Cummins on Zeus pod drives. Nevertheless, Pearl is quietly confident that the manifest benefits of the triple installation will make it the most popular choice.
The interior is from the studio of Kelly Hoppen, a highly regarded, UK-based South African designer who describes her style as “a subtly coordinated fusion of East and West: stripped back, uncomplicated neutrality, blended with charming warmth and sanctuarial opulence.” Quite possibly: The 65’s decor certainly seems calm and balanced, with a faintly Asian scheme notable for its absence of color. This is no bad thing. It’s cool and restful. After all, when you’ve got the sea, the sun, and the scenery outside, you can hardly argue that life aboard needs brightening up.
A main-deck layout featuring an aft galley leading out into the cockpit works well, lending extra privacy to the raised, midships saloon seating area. The long overhang both shades the cockpit and adds useful bridge space, where there is enough seating and sunlounges for everyone on board, and a well-placed and sociable central helm station. The lower-deck layout is straightforward and efficient, and Dixon has not fallen into the trap of trying to cram too much in: He’s got a big, beamy hull to work with and he has filled it, mostly, with big, generous spaces. The 65 might have four cabins, but making one of them a modest twin-bunk affair—occupying a space on the port side that can be an office area—confers great benefits on the other three. For the same reason, there are only three heads, but none of them seems second best.
The third cabin has excellent headroom and full-size beds, while sizeable windows and a clear hatch overhead help make a bright and inviting space out of the forward suite, where headroom is an even more expansive 6 feet 7 inches and both the head and bed are a good size. So it probably won’t be until your VIPs venture aft that they’ll realize they’ve been a little short-changed, because the owner’s suite is properly luxurious, spanning the hull’s full beam amidships, with geometrical arrays of hull windows and a clever use of reflective surfaces to make the cabin appear even bigger.
The benefits in hull volume that come from mounting three relatively short engines well aft are perhaps best displayed in the 65’s excellent single-berth crew cabin, which sits between the master and the engine room and looks surprisingly comfortable. Access is down an easy companionway beneath a hinged molding on the starboard side of the cockpit.
Meanwhile, the design of the yacht, with a hydraulic aft tender platform fitted as standard instead of a tender garage, ensures that the machinery space is not as cramped as you might imagine. With three six-cylinder engines and a 13-kilowatt generator down there it’s not exactly roomy, but it’s still a lot more accessible than some of the other engine rooms I have seen.
Out on the water off Palma, Mallorca, on a warm, late fall day, the 65 performed and handled like a thoroughbred. Acceleration was smooth and urgent, and the yacht topped out at 30.5 knots, with a comfortable range of cruising speeds, planing as low as 14 knots. The triple installation didn’t feel at all quirky or unusual—it just felt right. There is plenty of torque available where it’s needed, and the steering was light and positive, inducing just the right amount of heel in hard turns.
Unwilling to pass up the opportunity, I couldn’t resist a little experimentation. From a standing start, with the center engine switched off, the 65 managed to climb onto plane and recorded a maximum speed at full throttle of 22 knots, in spite of the massive drag of the dead pod drive. Fuel consumption was around 63 gallons per hour. The boat was less happy with one of the outer engines taken out, but she still got up onto the plane and managed a maximum of 18 knots, while full speed with the center engine alone was 12 knots. Back in the harbor, Cummins’ excellent SmartCraft joystick control proved intuitive and user-friendly, which was just as well: Our berth was tight, and bounded on one side by a hard-looking concrete wall. It was a breeze.
As our lines snaked ashore and the engines were shut down—all three of them—it was clear that this latest member of the small Pearl family fulfills the shipyard’s objective. She’s a genuine alternative—there is nothing else out there quite like her. And although Pearl Motor Yachts is a niche builder, neither on board nor underway does the 65 feel at all like a niche product. In fact, if anything, she has the air of a trailblazer. She performs and handles as well as you’d expect of any well-made, modern flying-bridge cruising yacht, and in terms of style, quality, and especially space, her interior surrenders nothing to the big yacht builders.
And the only question regarding that radical, triple-engine installation is why more of Pearl’s mainstream competitors don’t offer anything similar. Give them time: They probably will.
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Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 77°F; sea temperature: 75°F; humidity: 71%; seas: 1'; wind: 4-7 knots
Load During Boat Test
185 gal. fuel, 238 gal. water, 9 persons, 250 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 3/600-hp Cummins QSC 8.3 with Zeus pod drives
This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.