You can’t pigeonhole the Palm Beach 50. Well, maybe you can, but I certainly cannot. It is a unique amalgamation a lot of very diverse factors, from the past and the present and from both sides of the technology divide.
Palm Beach Motor Yachts Mark Richards describes himself as a “passionate boat builder” who has always liked and worked on boats of both old and new technologies.
His CV includes such extremes as three America’s Cup campaigns and a complete rebuild of Iain Murray’s Halvorsen cruiser. He built two traditional-looking 65ft yachts from high-tech composites, with carbon masts finished to look like wood.
Two years before the Palm Beach 38 was developed, naval architects Murray, Burns and Dovell designed a boat, which Richards admired. “We went for that look”, says Mark, “but we wanted a more useable boat with a bigger cabin, and that is how the Palm Beach 38 eventuated”.
After the 38 came the 50, which stretches even further the deep-vee warped-plane hull concept. “There is nothing like it”, says Mark. “Proper deep-vees plane and need a lot of horsepower to get out of the water, and when they do even if the surface is flat they bang around a bit. The 50 is still a semidisplacement boat, designed to stay in the water and use its full waterline, even at top speed, with the beautiful fine bow remaining in the water to cut through the waves. The hull is so efficient that at 21 knots the 50 chews 50lt of fuel an hour.
The 50 looks like no other boat. It is original, but it reminds me of the Hudson River commuters, those glorious creations from the 1920s in which Rockefellers and Vanderbilts and people with names like Everest van Klondike III roared down the Hudson River, from their upstate mansions to New York City, where they were collected by Rollers and Packards and Duesenbergs and delivered to Wall Street so they could run the world in the fashion that suited them. Until 5pm when they roared back up the Hudson River at 30 knots in their 90-footers. Until 1929, when it all went a bit flat and some of their associates jumped from their Wall Street windows.
But the Palm Beach 50 is not really like those timber classics. Technology has taken over. It is not retro for retro’s sake. Where this hull departs from the boats of history is that the warped plane bottom (fine in the bow, flattening towards the stern, unlike a deep-vee of constant deadrise) has veed sections throughout. Old-style warpedplaners had flat stern sections and the stern was pinched in plan (i.e. if you were looking down from above) to keep the stern sections balanced with the fine bow.
The Palm Beach 50’s hull has 20 degrees of vee at the transom and the hull does not taper in plan, except at deck level to accept the stern’s tumblehome. Imagine walking, at ground level, aft from the bow. Behind that pretty stem the hull has a very fine entry to cut through the waves, combined with a vee of almost 80 degrees.
Nearing amidships we still have 25 degrees of vee, flattening to 10 degrees at the transom. There is a keel, which runs from the bow to a point about three quarters of the way back. The classic warped planers lift the bow as speed increases. The Palm Beach 50 lifts slightly along its entire length but, as Mark says, the hull always acts like a semidisplacement craft. With a pair of 420hp Yanmar diesels and fuel tanks that can hold 2000lt, you have a 32 knot 50 footer, which can cruise at 20 knots from Sydney to Hamilton Island without refuelling.
But it retains the best feature of the old warped-planers it can run happily at any speed because there is no planing transition. On a dreamy Sunday afternoon quiet and slow may be the way to go and if you want to run at 5 knots, or 8 3/4 knots, or 15 knots the boat will happily do so.
The hull is a sandwich of Corecell linear foam with E-glass cloth in epoxy and Vinylester resins. The engines are amidships and drive stainless steel shafts. But there are differences here, too. “We wanted to minimize electrolysis”, says Mark from Palm Beach MY, “so intakes are made of hard plastics, and the housings, P-brackets and rudders are of carbon fibre. The props of course are brass, and the trim tabs are metal, but we are working on carbon fibre for them, too.”
The superstructure and layout below decks are simple. The boat is fitted out in Burmese teak, allowing considerable customisation. On each of the two boats shown here (and the three boats on order) there is only one sleeping cabin, the master cabin forward, though the dinette table can be lowered to provide extra beds if needed.
A second cabin can be specified, using the space occupied on these boats by the commodious bathroom, which moves to the port side. The standard bathroom is huge. You can specify a clear door, which encloses the shower area, but the room is so big the rest of the bathroom will not be splashed by the shower water.
But how many berths do you really need ? “A lot of people ask us about a third or fourth cabin,” says Mark. “Sometimes you feel a bit rude, but if you ask them if they ever sleep on their boats 70 per cent of them reply that they never do”.
So the first five boats all have the single cabin layout. “It is like a luxury one-bedroom apartment”, says Mark. “You can still sleep 3-4 people comfortably (the dinette table lowers), but wealthy people do not want to live on top of each other”.
The two boats shown here have variations in layout. One driving seat is set on pedestals so the helmsman can stand at the wheel. The other is box-mounted. One has teak worktops in galley and bathroom, the other has granite.
Owners are expected to specify their own galley equipment requirements. We need the bow thruster (standard) to get out of the tight marina. A stern thruster is an option, but James reckons it is unnecessary.
“You can always dance the back around with the twins”, he says. The hydraulic Teleflex steering is not powerassisted on these boats. “We can, of course, install power assistance”, says Mark, “but the owners of these boats wanted to keep them as simple as possible”. The electronic throttles take the usual two seconds or so to engage. The Yanmars grumble quietly underfoot.
Open the throttles and the bow lifts slightly and the boat goes faster. And faster. 2000 revs gives an easy 18-knot cruise, the speed the boat maintains happily during an offshore passage, Mark tell me. “That was our running speed when we took the boat to the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show”, he says, “and we got there on half a tank of fuel”. 2500 revs brings up 22 knots, 2800 revs 27 knots, 3000 revs 28.6, which we did in a short burst as the engines were still running in. The engines rev to 3350, good for 32 knots.
The bow indeed cuts through the chop cleanly and the rest of the boat just follows, it is as simple as that. The heavily-flared bow sections throws the spray away and the wake is clean. The hull corners flat. The old-timers did too, but I would have expected the Palm Beach’s veed stern to lean the hull into the turn. Mark reckons the keel keeps her upright. She corners like a catamaran, and as on a cat your body has to deal with centrifugal force. I reckon boating newcomers enjoy the flat attitude, and the view from the low steering position is never obscured by the hull on the outside of the turn.
This attitude is fitting for a craft with such a dignified demeanour. But the bow lift obscures the helmsman’s view slightly and the tabs bring the bow down again. One of the boats shown here had bigger tabs than the other; you can specify either.
That is all there is. The wave-cleaving action is delightful and irresistible and the motion feels somehow natural and you can imagine running comfortably at sea all day. And all night, if needed. The builders have been smart in that the only external timber is the teak deck and the 10mm teak panelling laid over the fibreglass transom.
The teak interior is finished in a satin lacquer, and there are screens for each hatch and window so no light should penetrate the interior and cause weathering of the timber. The cream boat shown here had deepertinted windows than the burgundy hull and the temperature difference below decks, before we switched on the aircon, was noticeable. The aircon works well because the accommodation is simple, comprising volumes, which flow easily into each other.
The Palm Beach 50 is the most personal boat you are ever likely to see. Mark Richards likens it to a Bentley turbo. Here is a 50-footer worth more than a million dollars which downplays its visual impact, the proportions are such that the Palm Beach 50 looks smaller than it is, except in full profile when you can appreciate the hull length. Not only do you have to be able to afford one you have to be able to afford the luxury of a lowprofile, beautifully-crafted boat that does not rely on bulk or glitz to impress the hoi polloi on the marina. It will impress you, and your friends, and other people smart enough and well-enough versed in boating lore to recognise it for what it is.
The Palm Beach 50 is powered by twin Yanmar 420hp diesels and has a fuel capacity of 2000lts. At 2000rpm this means the Palm Beach 50 could run from Sydney to Hamilton Island with ease. Last year it made the run from Sydney to Sanctuary Cove on half a tank of juice. At 2500rpm the boat pulls 22 knots; at 2800rpm she does 27 knots and at 3000rpm it?s up to 28.6 knots. WOT is 32 knots at 3350rpm.
Story by Barry Tranter