A dark gray boat with four Seven Marine 627 outboards was backed into a corner slip at a boat show. I stopped, did a double take and crept around the center console, looking for a brand name on the fully enclosed helm. Then, I noticed a number of other people doing the same thing. The boat looked like it belonged to the military, but with a metallic paint job and matching performance engines that seemed luxurious.
That’s when Hunter James gestured for me to come aboard.
“Hunt” owns Gulfstream Yachts in Tampa, Florida. This boat was a prototype he built to remedy the flaws he found on other center consoles—namely, getting doused by passing showers when he was dressed and on his way to dinner after a day of fishing and diving. Having built other sportfish boats and center consoles during the past 10 years under the Gulfstream name, he created this Gulfstream Yachts 52.
Designer Ward Setzer, known for far larger yachts, drew up the plans. Setzer sees the S-shaped sheerline as one of the most distinctive parts of the boat; that, and the classic Carolina flared bow, which is a nod to his North Carolina roots. Prior to moving to Stuart, Florida, Setzer’s work focused on elegant and simple form and function, but for this project, he knew he’d also need a stepped hull for performance. So, he went to Michael Peters, who is known for go-fast hulls.
The Gulfstream has a deep-V hull and deep freeboard, along with a wide, nonskid-covered gunwale and bow, where anglers can step up to reel in a catch. The deck is single level from bow to stern. The open bow has a three-person sunpad covered with Stamskin One upholstery made to resist stains, ultraviolet rays and heat. The removable bow seating is an option; others include decks by Teakdecking Systems and the gray metallic Awlgrip paint on the prototype.
Fishing features on the 52 include two 56-gallon live wells, five insulated fishboxes, four rod holders and a Pompanette rocket launcher designed by Murray SportFishing. While the rocket launcher accommodates large rods, it also has a reverse contour for an optional fighting chair or backrest. A built-in magnetic tray holds hooks and tools. Electric reels can be powered by outlets hidden under the padded coaming, where there are also JL Audio speakers and lights. A dive door to port opens inward for boarding.
Hull No. 1 of the Gulfstream 52 has teak stairs abaft the enclosed helm, between the pullout freezer/refrigerator, sink and grill. The stairs could access a tower on the fiberglass hardtop. On boats ordered without the tower, the stairs can be replaced. Suggestions include more refrigeration, a bar or a tackle center.
Inside, the helm is to starboard. To port is a 17-inch Garmin unit that matches the skipper’s model; it’s installed for a navigator, who can sit on an upholstered cube that houses the battery and charger.
Steps descend from the salon to the king-size berth (or optional twins) and access to the water tanks. A table that converts to a berth can be added. According to James, extra cushions can be added to the salon to create a queen berth. Options for more creature comforts include three air-conditioning units, a Kohler generator and Seakeeper 6.
On the day I got aboard the Gulfstream 52, the winds, current and tide were all moving in different directions at a quick clip. The bow thruster was a big help at the dock. Soon, we were on plane at 16 knots with almost no bow rise, but as we hit open water, the quartering seas churned up and the winds rose. We turned on the Seakeeper as we carved wide and tight turns. The pounding was much less than I expected it would be, and the bow stayed dry. Roll came to a noticeable halt, and the boat maintained an even keel without chine walking.
Cutting our way back to the dock through 4- to 6-foot waves, the ride was quieter than anticipated, given the roar of more than 2,500 horses sealed out by the glass. The next day, the boat was heading over to fish the Baker’s Bay Invitational tournament in the Bahamas.
According to James, the company has received a number of inquiries from people wondering if it’s a military boat. The company was invited to the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, at which they gave sea trials to Navy SEAL teams and other military operators. James says he has a diesel jet-drive version coming out that is aimed at the superyacht market.
Gulfstream 52 Specifications
LOA 52ft. (15.85m)
BEAM 15ft. (4.57m)
DRAFT (full load) 2ft. 6in. (.7m)
CONSTRUCTION GRP and Kevlar
DISPLACEMENT 30,000 lb. (approx.)
FUEL 1,000 gal.
WATER 100 gal.
For more information: gulfstreamyachts.com