Testing the Summit 54
Being part ofthe crew that liberated the Summit 54 from the belly of a container ship gave Editor-in-Chief Dan Harding a first impression he’ll never forget.
My orange vest flows easily around me. A hard hat rests snugly atop my head. I feel my heart rate elevate with each step up the narrow path as I watch the back of the man in front of me and remember some time-honored advice: Don’t look down. We’re climbing to the Summit.
The peak, or summit in this case, is the Summit 54—the debut motoryacht of Kadey-Krogen’s sister company—and our path is a steep ladder beside the 1,100-foot, Singapore-flagged Ever Lawful. When we finally reach the top, our captain, Kadey-Krogen Service Manager Gregg Gandy, talks to a member of the crew, who tries to give directions in broken English on where we can find our bounty. It’s a 54-foot yacht, I think to myself, how hard can it be to find?
Content with the directions we’re given, we set off to find our lost ship. Along with Kadey-Krogen President Tom Button and Vice President Larry Polster, we snake down a poorly lit corridor, out into the open air, up a vertical ladder and down a gangway. I quickly realize that finding a ship on a ship is not going to be as simple as it sounds.
Dead end. We made a wrong turn.
Gallery: Summit 54
We scurry back down the ladder and along another corridor. Opening and stepping through enormous watertight doors, I can’t help but feel amazed at the access we’ve been given. Having occupied much of my misspent youth climbing around old boats and trailers pretending I was aboard a real ship, this was something of a childhood dream come true.
Finally, we spot the Summit. Well, a piece of it, anyway. The bow juts out behind a wall of red and green shipping containers.
“How do we actually get to it?” I ask aloud to no one in particular.
“Just wait, you’ll see,” replies Polster, who goes on to explain how efficiently these ships are run. This ship picks up and drops off cargo from around the world. In this case, the 54 from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, where all Kadey-Krogens are built, is being delivered to the East Coast. The shipping company provides down-to-the-hour offload times.
Idle conversation fills a pair of minutes before … Boooooom … Boooooooom. A massive crane drops from the sky and slams down into the corners of a shipping container before ripping it upwards and whisking it away like the world’s fastest—and most effective—arcade claw machine. The efficiency is staggering. In just our one section of the ship a container is plucked from the hold every 90 seconds. I timed it.
With some of the containers removed I finally get a good look at the first model from this highly anticipated new brand. At first glance she looks ship-like and sturdy. But that’s about where the similarities in aesthetics to Kadey-Krogens end. A true semi-displacement motoryacht, it’s plain to see just how much of a departure this line is.
With our path now cleared, we get permission to climb down onto a bed of shipping containers and make haste for the boat. Stepping atop and over the gaps between containers, I’m glad I had that second cup of coffee that morning; this is not the time or place for a misstep. We climb up the telescoping ladder we brought and onto the stern of the boat. My understanding at this point is that we would have two hours to check the various systems and ready the Summit to splash. While she’s being lowered into the river is not the time to realize the batteries are shut off or a key is missing. I thought I’d help check the boat’s various systems. I thought wrong. That was our captain’s job. I was there to peel tape. Miles and miles of tape.
From the swim platform cleats to the bow pulpit, nearly every inch of the 54-footer was wrapped in wide strips of duct tape and/or bubble wrap. It’s said that a boat doubles in size when it comes time to wax or bottom paint. I can confirm: It triples in size when you’re peeling off protective tape.
My desk-job-soft hands didn’t know what was coming. I picked and tore, yanked and swore. For the better part of two hours I worked to remove as much tape as I could. By day’s end we filled three oversized garbage bags with the stuff. I did my best to hide the fresh blisters on the outsides of my knuckles.
There was still more to remove, but after two hours our time was up. We depart the Summit—with a few detours and wrong turns thrown in—and head back down the side of the ship to the river to admire the 54’s first kiss with American waters. Watching the crane swing and lower a 54-foot yacht as if it were a bath toy made me realize just how many unsung, hard-working people have a hand in bringing a new yacht around the world and safely to an owner. I felt thankful to have seen and learned about this piece of the boatbuilding puzzle and excited about the journey ahead.
After a quick jog down the river towards open water we found a simple marina and fuel dock that served as base camp for the night. We took on water, fuel and provisions, slowly settling into our new home aboard the Summit. Choosing sleeping quarters was an easy chore; the unfussy crew of three had three staterooms at our disposal—an en suite master amidships, a guest cabin to starboard and a VIP forward. I settled into the guest cabin. Having spent my younger life in a tight bunk bed, this stateroom was palatial by comparison. Complete with a TV, reading light and charging ports, it had everything I needed. Well, almost. It was around this time we realized that a shipping snafu left us mattress-less. In what would become a warped game of sun-pad-cushion Tetris, we shifted and slid cushions around until we each had something resembling a soft place to sleep. Well, again—almost.
I’ll spare you the play-by-play, but I woke up in a ball on the floor wrapped in a mattress cover. It was like college all over again, but with older bones and stiffer joints. First light offered a relief of sorts. I met my crewmates topside. There was no need to ask how everyone slept. Bloodshot eyes and half-hearted smiles told the story.
With a lot of miles between Savannah and our final destination of Stuart, Florida, ahead of us, we made quick work of early morning chores and were underway before the sun crested the horizon. Our tossing and turning had only just begun. The promise of a 14-hour day ahead and sporty conditions offshore hung over me like a hangover. Thankfully, unlike me, the 54 was more than up for the challenge.
Sloppy, confused swells met us in the ocean. Capt. Gandy got the boat situated and on course to Titusville, Florida. A couple taps on the autopilot and we were on our way—this is where the delivery portion of our mission really began. At a steady 20-knot clip we marched up and over the swells. We settled into a two-hour-on, two-hour-off watch schedule.
I wish I could say that my time off watch elicited some deep thinking, or that with miles of open ocean in front of me I was forced to contemplate how small we are in this great big world. Nope. Mostly I just contemplated where to take my second nap of the day.
Being on watch was a bit of a different story. I prefer having a purpose and something to keep my mind occupied. Far beyond cellphone range, my mind wandered more freely; it’s always interesting to see where it goes.
I cracked my notebook during one of my stretches at the helm to jot down my impressions of the 54 underway. I scribbled:
•Construction feels exceptionally solid. No creaks or moans (except from the crew) in these snotty conditions.
•Visibility from the lower helm forward is excellent, among the best in this size range. Aft visibility isn’t as good; when up on plane the bridge deck blocks some of your view beyond the initial wake. Shouldn’t be a problem from the flybridge.
•Side decks are the perfect size. Even when carrying lines and fenders there’s plenty of room to walk, work and peel tape.
•The flow between social spaces works well, we’re rarely bumping into one another.
• Really need to test the built-in blender in the cockpit. Hopefully tomorrow.
Day turned into night as we idled up to the fuel dock in Titusville. After nearly 300 miles our crew was tired from the long day, but the 54 seemed like she was just getting warmed up.
The next day we finished our delivery with a straight shot down the ICW. It was stop and go, as trips along the ICW tend to be, what with no wake zones, sailboats, kayakers and bridge openings. But we were still eating up the miles under sunny skies and atop flat water. It was along the ICW that I really grew to appreciate just how unique this boat is in the Kadey-Krogen portfolio. The day before, under gray skies with rolling waves as far as the eye could see, I lost any real sense of speed. We could have been going 7 knots or 27—it was hard to tell. But blasting past homes and center consoles alike it was clear that this boat was born with running shoes on and her laces tied tight.
A little quick math made me realize that our two-day delivery would have taken the better part of a week, or at least a few overnighters, in a traditional Kadey-Krogen trawler with a 7-knot cruise. There’s nothing wrong with slow and steady, to each their own. A few years back I was part of a delivery crew on a Kadey-Krogen 55 Expedition and had more fun than I expected.
Before this delivery I wondered about the decision to make Summit Yachts a separate brand. I thought perhaps it would be better served as a model line under the Kadey-Krogen umbrella. Blasting down the ICW opened my eyes to how different these boats truly are, and how the Summit will likely attract an entirely different boat buyer. The decision made more sense.
Quick, modern, well-appointed, seaworthy and backed by the reputation for quality construction that Kadey-Krogen is famous for, I think this adds up to a new line that will only grow and expand in the years to come. I hope, years from now, I climb aboard a new Summit 90 and bore some broker half my age with this story of how I was part of the crew that brought the original Summit to Stuart. “And back in those days we didn’t even have mattresses…”
Exhausted, hungry and with blisters on my hands, I made my way through security at Palm Beach International and hunkered down. I didn’t exactly climb Everest, but the Summit nevertheless satisfied the urge for adventure I’d been feeling the weeks and months prior.
I was reflecting on the trip when a young boy walked past in rubber kitchen gloves and a face mask. He pulled his mask down to take a bite from his Dunkin Donuts bagel. Behind him a couple strolled by in what looked like hospital masks. I didn’t fully comprehend it then, but I was about to begin a whole new adventure. One with more twists and turns and surprises than a container ship from Singapore.
The COVID-19 pandemic would force the cancellation of the Palm Beach boat show that the Summit team had worked tirelessly to ready the boat for. She would not meet the masses under a bluebird, South Florida sky but rather would sit idle dockside for the weeks and months after. It’s an unfortunate start for this fledgling brand, one no one could have seen coming. I believe adversity, if it doesn’t break you, has a way of making you stronger. The Summit 54, at the time of this writing, is scheduled to debut at the Newport boat show this fall.
I’m an optimist but I look forward to getting aboard the 54 at the show, finally getting to test that cockpit blender and seeing the Summit enjoy its day in the sun.
Summit 54 Test Report
Summit 54 Specifications:
Displ.: 55,400 lbs.
Fuel: 750 gal.
Water: 215 gal.
Power: 2/542-hp Cummins QSB6.7s