Palm Beach 50 GT - SERIOUS FUN


Barry 2019-09-30

Palm Beach changes lanes with a pair of new 50GTs—Capt. Bill Pike drove both to see how these two new hotties compare.

The first model I went aboard was the Open GT50. The interior turned out to be a comparatively simple affair, albeit spiffily finished to Palm Beach standards in teak, maple and Wenge. Up forward, a sleeping cabin offered a large, residentially-rectangular berth (always easier to use and deal with than a V-berth or some other odd-ball shape) as well as shelves, drawers, lofty aviation-style bins, plenty of hanging-locker space, a Lewmar hatch overhead (with privacy screen and blind) and an adjoining head with separate shower stall.


At the rear, there was a mid-cabin with another large, rectangular berth behind a bulkheaded entryway that, in spite of a small port opening into the cockpit, seemed to produce a darkened, cave-like ambiance. And in between the two spaces, at the foot of the companionway, was a bright, airy galley-down with stainless-steel appliances, sweetly-joined maple cabinetry (containing Palm Beach-embossed silver, stemware and china) and Corian countertops.

One feature stood out. On the galley’s after bulkhead, behind swing-out maple doors, there is a Blue Seas Systems electrical panel with a Fisher-Panda monitor. “This boat has a Fisher Panda PMGi 150000—it’s fairly new to the market,” said Palm Beach rep George Sass. The PMGi system, he continued, is essentially a genset-connected inverter that puts out clean 110 or 220 AC power after removing the power spikes that occur when a modern Panda genset automatically adjusts to load changes. One of the advantages is you can employ a relatively small, high-speed diesel in the genset so an expanded rpm range accommodates very large loads as well as small ones. This makes producing onboard electricity generally quieter, more compact and more economical.


A topside tour soon followed our walkabout below. Because both the Open and the Express are sporty dayboats, the on-deck particularities, if elegant, are also straightforward. A raised, upper cockpit forward features a starboard helm station with two comfortable, sumptuously upholstered helm chairs, duplicates of the two chairs for passengers to port. The carbon-fiber dashboard at the helm is comprehensible at a glance—an essentials-only arrangement includes little more than a Garmin MFD, a Zipwake monitor, a Hepworth Marine wiper rheostat, an Electronic Vessel Control module from Volvo Penta (as well as both binnacle and joystick-type engine controls) and a Muir anchoring touchpad.

 

LET’S DRIVE

“How about I try ‘er out for just a sec?” I enthused before starting to climb behind the wheel, an action that required stepping up via a raised moulding that serves as a footrest. “We’re currently see our Open and our Express models as sit-down-to-drive boats,” said Palm Beach CEO Mark Richards, when I asked him about this on the phone several days later. Richards went on to add, however, that while spatial concerns for machinery beneath the deck necessitate the raised footrests, Palm Beach plans on offering modifications in the future so customers can opt for stand-up as well as sit-down driving.


“Check this out,” Sass noted as we stepped down from the upper cockpit to the lower one towards the rear of the boat. While the emphasis was obviously on laid-back luxury throughout (with opposed settees and a moveable table in the upper cockpit and sunpads, a reefer and a wetbar in the lower) what Sass was pointing at was a comparatively prosaic cushion he’d extracted from the upper bench—its underside was carefully cut from composite, doubled in thickness, painted grey and amply vented and drain. “Nice work,” I said appreciatively, while raising the entire upper-cockpit deck, express-boat-style, with a switch.

Power is a couple of  600-hp Volvo Penta 8D diesels attached to shrouded, 3m jackshafts leading aft to the IPS units at the transom.


The helmseat was cushy. Sightlines through the wraparound windshield were expansive. And the agility inherent in the boat’s exceptionally modest displacement \ was flat-out spine-tingling, due mainly to a sea-splicingly fine, deep-footed bow and some comparatively flat, transversely stabilizing after sections. The top hop I recorded while deploying the boat’s Zipwake gyro/GPS-controlled interceptors was 39.3 knots.

With the 50 GT Open’s giant sunroof retracted, her side widows zhooped down automotive-fashion and her back door open, the experience came close to having no hardtop at all, although sealing things up to withstand inclement weather—or enjoy air-conditioned comfort—was an instantaneous possibility.

The top speed I recorded for the Express with Zipwake deployed was 37.9 knots, slightly less than the max I’d recorded on the Open earlier. It’s likely that the extra heft of the hardtop and a heavier fuel load explain the discrepancy “What do you think of the two boats,” asked Compton, when I shook hands with him at the Palm Beach facility in Stuart that evening. “Bearing in mind, of course, that we’re building a sportboat here, not a traditional Palm Beach.”

“Seriously fun to drive,” I replied. “Very agile and elegant. GTs for sure.”

FOR A FULL REVIEW CHECK OUT THE NOV-DEC ISSUE OF PACIFIC POWERBOAT.

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