Photos by Jake Rockefeller/JR Resolutions and Billy Black
I spend most of my days writing about big boats, but I relish getting my hands on something a bit more intimate. Case in point: joining Palm Beach Motor Yachts owners at Harbour Island for their annual Bahamas Getaway, and wrapping my palms around the wheel of a Palm Beach 45. The moment I put the boat in gear and began carving S-curves, I knew I was holding the reigns of something pretty cool.
As it turns out, that’s how a number of Palm Beach owners feel, too. Many of those in the Bahamas had the means to own a superyacht, but their passion was to drive their own boat. They bring their families. They embrace the thrill of going beyond the reef. They have new experiences in new places while making new friends.
They’re the kinds of yachtsmen and women that Palm Beach has tried to please since opening its doors in 1995 in Australia. The builder has a line of yachts from 42 to 65 feet (12.8 to 19.8 meters), with a 70 in the works, many owned by the types of boating enthusiasts I met, ones who cast off lines and skipper their yachts confidently across a choppy Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.
When I took the helm of the Palm Beach 45 On The Rocks, I felt like I was taking the wheel of a Rolls-Royce Wraith. Palm Beach boats are intended for offshore cruising, so I expected her to be robust, but her agility and responsiveness surprised me.
She has a fine point of entry and a keel that extends about three-quarters aft. The narrow entry shifts the center of gravity closer to the center of the yacht—a good place for precise trim. Whether running down sea, head-on or across seas, she tracked like a sports car, carving through waves with smoothness and ease. And in rough seas, the shallow draft (the waterline to the bottom of the keel is 12 inches, or 0.3 meters) helps negotiate waves after the fine entry parts them forward of the midsection warp with 6 degrees of deadrise.
On board, it feels like someone placed a cushion between the hull and the wave crests.
“We had a coastal cruiser for about 14 years which we mostly used close to shore and for waterway cruising,” the owner told me. “I first saw a Palm Beach at the Annapolis boat show and I was intrigued, so we arranged a sea trial in Fort Lauderdale. The weather was nasty. I thought we’d have to turn around, but the owner of the boat was like, ‘No problem. Let’s go,’ so off we went. I was blown away at how well the boat handled in big seas. My previous boat wouldn’t have stood a chance in those conditions. That was the deciding factor.”
Palm Beach uses a monocoque construction process that bonds all bulkheads and interior furniture to the hull and deck as structural components. The hull has vinylester resins and a cross-linked, closed-cell foam core for durability. Rated CE Category A—the most stringent Recreational Craft Directive category—Palm Beach boats are built for extended voyages in winds higher than 40 knots and waves greater than 13 feet (4 meters).
Graceful lines give the Palm Beach 45 a timeless look, while contemporary styling dominates the interior, which has clear sightlines and a panoramic view. Accommodations are in a single- or double-stateroom layout, dressed in Burmese teak with Ultraleather upholstered furniture, stone countertops, a frameless glass-door shower and book-matched veneers. Also inside are a galley and power windows.
The owner of On The Rocks chose to customize his ride further.
“The guys at the yard started referring to my boat as Bling as a result of all the customizations I wanted,” he said. “I could tell they loved the challenge…getting to flex their full-custom muscles.”
His change list included a Mount Gay rum tap in the salon.
“I had some concerns about how it was going to look,” he said. “I thought it was a fun idea, but I didn’t want it to be an eyesore. The way the guys blended it into the woodwork with the trim was amazing.”
Other customizations included wraparound cockpit seating, overhead handrails, extended teak trim, raised-panel cabinetry, high-gloss soles and helm, and more.
“I added 150 gallons to the fuel tanks to give us 450 gallons total, which increased the range significantly,” the owner said. “Now I can run for 12 hours on one tank, and we can stay in the ocean pretty much the whole time.”
And run they do. The Palm Beach Motor Yachts Bahamas Getaway marked the first time the owner of On The Rocks made the Gulf Stream crossing.
“My last boat wasn’t built for it, so we’re loving our newfound ability to go offshore with the Palm Beach,” he said. “We had some pretty rough weather, but my biggest concern is no longer the waves. The Bahamas are tricky with shallows and reefs. Just being able to focus on the navigation and the guests instead of the weather made a huge difference in the enjoyment factor. And we stayed offshore most of the way back home to Annapolis. She’s been rock solid.”
No pun intended.
Photos | Have a closer look at the Palm Beach 45 in the gallery below:
For more information: palmbeachmotoryachts.com