Photos by Steve Momot
Patriot, a 54 Yellowfin, blurs the lines between a convertible flybridge and a high-performance super console.
I like to walk the docks of the Ft. Lauderdale boat show in the quiet hours before the show opens. You can take in the latest boating hardware without bumping elbows with the masses.
It was during one of these quiet interludes this past October when I spotted a unique vessel amid a sea of 300-foot superyachts along the face dock. Yellowfin Yachts splashed its first 54-foot center console in 2020, and I had seen one in Palm Beach, but the boat tied up in front of me was different. This boat had a proper flybridge, and it looked handsome. The rake of the bridge matched that of the windshield. The proportions were exact. The lines sexy. And the power package intense—four 600-hp V12 Mercury Verado outboards standing stout on the transom.
I took out my phone and was about to step on the boat to shoot a quick video when a small sign above the dive door that read “No Access” gave me pause. I scanned the area. No one was around. Should I just jump on the boat? As tempting as it was, I chose not to. I stood on the dock and shot a video of the boat. We posted it to the Power & Motoryacht social media pages. At the end of the video, I said that I’d love to go for a ride if the folks from Yellowfin were listening. Well, the manager of the boat, Jim Hill, saw the video, tracked me down and reached out. We talked and texted, and a few months later, I got my wish.
Hill is a lifelong boater and former navigator in the U.S. Navy. He and his wife, Amy, have six kids between the ages of nine and 24. They’re active in many causes, including the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, and often take disabled military veterans out on the water. They boat with large groups and were looking to move up from a 42 Yellowfin they purchased in 2018.
“Our family needed something that wasn’t on the market, a fast center console that can take whatever seas you can throw at it with a flybridge for extra seating, comfort and visibility,” Hill said. “A hybrid between a flybridge convertible and the 54 Yellowfin center console was the obvious solution.”
Hill reached out to Wylie Nagler, the founder of Yellowfin and the designer behind all of the company’s vessels. “Jim asked me to pencil up a flybridge because he wanted some seating up there for his kids,” Nagler said. “You don’t have that luxury in a tuna tower, to put that many people up there. So we drew it up with a little more protection and a more traditional style without losing the fishability of the boat.”
Yellowfin 54 Flybridge
Nagler sketched out a design on the floor of his shop and lofted the lines. When I asked Nagler if he was inspired by the classic sportfishing convertibles or aimed to create something more of his own, he said it was a bit of both. “It’s my personal styling but at the same time I have admiration for the big custom sportfish guys,” he said.
The flybridge looks at home on the boat, which is not an easy feat. If not designed properly, a mismatched flybridge can cause a boat that looked sleek as a coupe or express cruiser to lose its signature lines. That did not happen here. Not by a long shot.
When the time came to meet up with Patriot’s captain, Brett Magers, I found the 54 sandwiched between a custom Spencer in the mid-60-foot range and what looked to be an equally large Viking. Seeing these three vessels in a row felt like looking at a case study of sorts. The Patriot’s footprint and beam-to-length proportions were in sync with the big sporties, at least to my eyes. But what you gain with the Yellowfin is speed, a shallower draft and a ton of deck space for seating up to 20 passengers. Sure, you could point to a long list of features in the convertibles that you miss out on with the center console, but that’s why both types of vessels exist. However, the growth of the center console segment (both in sheer boat size and popularity) is outpacing that of the traditional convertible.
“My secret formula to having my wife and family fully support a life-long boating addiction is to make sure that our boat checks the boxes for everyone in the family,” Hill said. He listened to family complaints about cabins in convertibles feeling claustrophobic and diesel fumes wafting into the cockpit when fishing. And from the captain’s chair, I think it’s safe to say the Yellowfin is more fun to drive, and I was giddy as a goat to find out.
This boat gets a lot of looks and reaction. People pulled out their phones as we idled down the channel. A worker standing on the bow of a yacht hiked up his shorts a few inches to show a little leg and stuck out his thumb in a hilarious attempt to bum a ride.
Hitting the throttles out of Port Everglades, the power and two-speed transmission of the 600s rocketed the boat up on plane. There was hardly any hesitation or bow rise. This 54-footer reacts like a sports car when you push the electronic controls down. The boat hit a comfortable cruise in the 40-knot range at roughly 4500 rpm, with a lot more power left in the tank. Running with the current down the beach, the boat registered its highest speed of the day—56 knots—and the captain and I could speak to one another and felt safe in the helm chairs thanks to the shock-absorbing pedestals and teak armrests that you can use to hold your butt in the chair. But let’s be honest here, this is a large boat, and while it’s unconscionably cool to fly along at those kinds of speeds, it’s not sustainable. You aren’t going to run this boat on the pins all day—at least I wouldn’t. The most impressive number to me was the .5 to .6 mpg you achieve at cruise. Now that’s not just sustainable—it’s comfortable.
While driving from the main helm is where you want to be at high speeds, I opted for the flybridge when it was my turn at the wheel. Climbing the tower legs to the bridge was no issue, and the powder coating on the aluminum has a slightly rough, matte finish that acts like a nonskid and completely cuts down the glare. Stepping onto the bridge deck is like stepping on an entirely different boat. The bridge is spacious, with U-shaped seating forward, an oversized custom Bluewater helm chair on center and lots of standing space behind the captain. A perfectly angled leaning post is integrated into the rocket launchers so you could fish a rod up here or watch the baits.
You never really get to enjoy the power of a high-performance boat like a Yellowfin until you push the throttles with your own palms. I’m a bit timid in these situations, but I couldn’t help but smile as I powered the boat up and brought her to a slow-for-this-boat 37-knot cruise and headed due east into the swell. The boat just scoffed at the rolling 3-footers. Riding high on the rear step of the hull, the boat would’ve kept going all the way to Abaco with no issue whatsoever.
There is no doubt that this boat is a hardcore fishing machine. From the massive transom livewell to the stringer-to-stringer fishbox with freezer plates that is so big you could easily turn this vessel into a meat wagon, no expense was spared in the fishing department. And when you’re out on the grounds, trolling at 7 knots, the boat is whisper quiet. You don’t even notice the big V12 outboards. Hill opted for an inverter system drawing power from the outboards to run the boat’s electronics, A/C, freezers and the DC-powered, air-cooled MC2-X Quick Gyro. By eliminating the generator, you eliminate the need for a separate diesel tank, and there’s one fewer mechanical system to maintain, less noise, no fumes and one fewer sea strainer as well.
“MasterVolt’s lithium technology and their engineering has really impressed me,” Hill said. “We’re able to run the entire boat for about 12 hours with the engines off, and the batteries recharge in no time once you start up those silent Verados. We designed the system to be able to island hop and recharge during the day when cruising and run the A/C and chill plates and freezers all night long. No more need to have a rattling and vibrating diesel generator or fumes; this boat is as silent as a nuclear submarine.”
The helm of Patriot offers a full Garmin suite with three 24-inch screens running the latest cartography, Empire Bus switching, FLIR night vision, radar, sounder and more. I liked the integrated Garmin remote in the armrest of the captain’s chair. No need to get up to adjust the auto pilot or switch screens. The Mercury VesselView displays engine data, or you can pull it up on the big screens. The boat has a bow thruster and joystick to help maneuver it in and out of the slip. The dash has the sleek look of a modern yacht, but honestly, my eye was really drawn to the custom stitching of the upholstery, the smart use of space to store and charge devices and the overall size of the helm. There are four chairs behind the dash so you can share the journey with your pals.
The second row of seating has a soft curve to its shape, tons of storage on either side and battery stowage beneath. The mezzanine lives above two fridge/freezers and a set of drawers. When you lift the cushion, there’s a wide cutting board, sink and grill beneath. Bait prep or lunch prep, the choice is yours.
When you need a break from the sun, the cabin offers a queen berth, with a really slick fishing rod compartment underneath. There’s a dinette with lots of headroom and a wet head. It’s a comfortable, cool spot for a nap or overnight to the canyons, but I would imagine the Hills would probably opt for a hotel on runs to the Bahamas.
The bow offers more seating and storage, with great views of the flybridge looking astern, and the open water ahead. “With six kids we need zone seating to keep them separated sometimes—bow, flybridge, cockpit and lower helm and cabin with A/C, windows and portholes checks all the boxes for our family,” Hill said.
With Patriot, Hill managed to create a vessel that offers everything he ever wanted in a boat, and it came with a high price tag. He said he’s invested $2.25 million on the build, but he knows that when there’s a window in their busy schedule, Patriot will be up to it. “We keep a pretty full calendar and there’s never enough days in the month to go fishing as often as we’d like, so we needed a hull that can go out in seas that would cancel a trip for a lesser boat,” he said. After all, the most valuable commodity these days is time.
Yellowfin 54 Test Report:
Yellowfin 54 Specifications:
Draft: 2'4" (motors trimmed up)
Displ.: 28,000 lbs. (without power)
Fuel: 900 gal.
Water: 90 gal.
Power: 4/600-hp V12 Mercury Verado Outboards
Price: $2.25 million