BOAT TEST: PAMA 54 PILOTHOUSE

By: TONY MACKAY

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  • Trade-A-Boat

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Your worst worries aboard the very complete Pama 54 Pilothouse will be the age and temperature of the wine and the number of freeloading guests clambering aboard the attractively priced cruiser, predicts TONY MACKAY

BOAT TEST: PAMA 54 PILOTHOUSE
Pama 54 Pilothouse

Although it is wont to happen, the words design and styling should never be confused. Styling opens up a world of possibilities which relate to taste, however, intelligent design, particularly in respect to engineering and technical matters, will be the start and finish of a well conceived boat. The Pama 54 pilothouse has been the beneficiary of considerable experience and knowledge, and once aboard, these unfold in an impressive display.

At first glance, the exterior might be classified "modern Mediterranean" with typical reverse sheer, raised bulwarks and angular windows, all of which look better at speed rather than at rest. As a boring old traditionalist I struggle with modern things of any description, however, many will be excited by the sharp lines and go-fast looks. An instant visual appeal is usually the way with anything in life, other than oysters, and you will make up your own mind. Where the real pleasure arrived for me was in the performance of the hull as a design, the execution of the engineering installation, and the very attractive and beautifully detailed interior, which is right up with the best. Lead on McDuff!

 

 

BRIDGE-EYE VIEW


There is a splendid sense of vision from pilothouse boats. Terribly shippy from your own little bridge station, one only requires the decorative addition of an admiral's hat. These layouts really are just about the best for flow-through entertaining, where all the guests are easily connected with each other. The raised wheelhouse also offers superior volume accommodations for quiet nights at anchor. Last but not least, the multiple levels allow the separation of guests who wish to do their own thing.

The Pama 54 is made in China and has been thoughtfully detailed with a comprehensive list of construction, engineering and comfort features which will ensure reliability, efficient performance and luxurious comfort. Considering the $1.25 million price tag, it is also fabulous value in a competitive market.

Naval architect Howard Apollonio, who is highly regarded in the US, has designed an extremely sleek and efficient hull which performs particularly well in a variety of conditions. His designs encompass a range of technical features, particularly in respect to weight distribution and how it affects roll speed and angle. You may be well assured that his expertise will give you a superb ride in most sea conditions and the very best efficiency for increased speed and reduced fuel consumption.

The hull and deck are handlaid FRP construction, solid below the waterline with vacuum-bagged end grain balsa core above it. The mouldings and finish are very well executed. A snoop through the bilges reveals some very sturdy steel reinforced engine beds and large-specification stringers. Clearly she will not fall apart when the going gets tough.

I could not find any areas where costs had been skimped and I was rather impressed with the finish and detailing of the engineroom spaces. Other than the cockpit, the decks are non-skid, all moulded and quite effective. In order to achieve maximum width for the saloon, the sidedecks from the cockpit to the wheelhouse are quite narrow and will present a challenge to those who are no longer svelte.

Nevertheless, access is achieved and the saloon has a very spacious interior. The foredeck is beyond the bulwarks, which are unimpeded by any foot-breaking fittings. Even the anchor winch and assorted equipment is located under the deck with access gained by large hatches.

The anchor is also bow mounted and I did ponder how it would be raised using a remote switch as it is all out of view. Similarly, it may be difficult to hose off that revolting sticky black mud which just loves to come up with the anchor chain. I would have to use this system to properly detail its practicality or shortcomings, however, the popular mud-pan system could easily be installed with a powerful anchor wash to bring up a sparkling anchor and rode.

Boarding from the aft swim platform, I enjoyed a well-designed combo rail and cleat for aft lines, which doubles as a secure handhold for coming aboard either from the marina or a tender. A clever collapsible swim ladder stows under the laid-teak platform and there is generous storage in two huge lockers which will swallow fenders, cleaning equipment or a barbecue.

Two side gates lead to the teak-topped cockpit with a forward-facing sofa and varnished table that will seat six. A very stylish flying bridge ladder is complemented by varnished teak steps which also match the varnished teak cockpit coaming. It looks very smart.

There is a cupboard in each wing and one conceals the remote control for the ZF gearboxes and the bow and sternthrusters. Mooring will be a breeze with this almost essential accessory.

While the cockpit is not huge, the swim platform will easily accommodate a few deckchairs within its railed boundary and this will be a rather pleasant spot to either fish or watch the sun go down, suitably hydrated.

 

 

SUPERYACHT ENTRANCE


The saloon doors are a rather exceptionally curved double sliding-door arrangement in polished stainless steel, fit for a superyacht. Entering the huge saloon one is immediately impressed by the wave-shaped sofa to starboard reflecting the wave-shaped wall unit to port which houses a concealed large-screen TV, some generous storage and a cocktail fridge with glass-storage cupboard.

Picture windows with pelmets frame the view and a teak-and-holly entrance pad segues onto superior quality carpeting which highlights the linen-blend sofa and chairs. Unlike some other offerings, there is a feeling of serene quality which exudes from the hand-matched American cherry veneers, crown cut for more pattern and interest.

A satin finish avoids the headache inducing super-gloss finishes which have invaded this market. You will sit and relax and, as the hours drift by, look around and appreciate the very good taste which has been involved in the detailing of the saloon and, in fact, all the cabins.

 

 

GRAND GALLEY


Forward and up, we arrive in the galley, dinette and wheelhouse section - the observations of the saloon finishes are echoed here, too, particularly the galley, which I felt was one of the smartest and most tasteful that I have encountered. The wave-shaped cupboards with superb mouldings and matching veneers are just delightful to the eye.

There are separate 12V fridge and freezer units, combo microwave oven, Fisher & Paykel dish-drawer to avoid dishpan hands, and plenty of clever storage possibilities. No one will be unhappy here, particularly with the view in all directions and the ability to connect with the skipper or guests seated at the dinette.

The helm station is comprehensively equipped with an array of instruments and electronic equipment. A proper helm in varnished cherrywood is coupled to power steering, which is very responsive and accurate. The helm is vertically mounted, which is so much more desirable than the angle-mounted car steering wheels that seem incongruous on a large cruiser. Triple wipers with washers, digital Caterpillar displays and well laid-out electrical circuit boards will assist the skipper in control of the various systems.

A weather-tight pantograph sidedoor is to starboard, while an internal staircase leads to the flybridge, opening with a large door under the protective canopy of the flybridge roof. An overhead ventilation hatch completes the fresh-air input and if it becomes too hot, one can seal everything off and turn on the air-conditioning.

To port in the pilothouse is a compact dinette and this doubles as a rather comfortable sofa for guests to instruct the skipper on navigational opportunities - the old-fashioned nautical version of "backseat driving". Hopefully, someone will be joining this conversation from the galley while supervising a superior repast.

 

 

HURLY BURRLY


Forward and down the semi-spiral companionway one arrives at the lower lobby with the only aberration in taste, in my humble opinion, a large wall panel of burr walnut veneer. Frankly, these burr inlays and options are best left to expensive motor cars and, perhaps, the Italian and Asian stylists would be well advised to delete them in favour of a plain panel or smart painting. Just an opinion, but it does look a little naff. Fortunately, the Pamas can be personalized and timbers are finishes are at the owner's discretion.

There are three cabins of great comfort, embellished with tasteful yet discrete fittings. A VIP cabin forward has an island-style double bed, hanging lockers, portholes and an overhead hatch for a fresh breeze to waft in. The shared en suite is spacious and features granite tops, Tecma toilet, teak-and-holly floors, and mirrored wall cabinets with concealed catches. The shower stall has a glass door, porthole ventilation and a seat for use in a seaway. High quality Grohe taps and mixers accompany cup and soap holders and towel rail. It is very smart.

A twin-share cabin has reasonable single berths, but the upper one will only suit a child or someone who is able to use the sidedecks with ease. Think thin not girth challenged. There are drawers, a side table and quality padding and linings.

 

 

MASTER OF SUITES


The master suite is very impressive for a boat this size. An oversized queen bed is centrally mounted and to port are two portholes concealed by Japanese styled shoji screens. A desk is provided as is a ladies makeup table, which automatically turns on overhead lighting to assist with the deft application of war paint.

The veneers around the bed and the 'dado rail' style paneling are superb, as are the pelmets and general cabinetry. An en suite is to starboard and has teak-and-holly floors, similar cabinets, mirrored wall units and granite tops. The padded ceiling panels have soft lighting around the edges and the beadings and detailing is first rate. One would only expect these finishes in a boat twice the price. You will not be disappointed.

 

 

ON TOP OF THE WORLD


The flybridge is accessed via an internal staircase and has twin Stidd helm seats, a repeat of most instrumentation, and a curved sofa and table setting to port. To starboard are a sink, fridge and cupboards in a well-styled unit of quality and convenience.

The boat or flying-bridge deck has an impressive davit crane, yet it and the aft flybridge access hatch will limit the tender size. Nevertheless, tenders are getting too big in my opinion and if you want to go for a cruise around, why get off this luxury pad and schlep about in an inflatable? Take the big boat and save a dinghy for going ashore or that far more important destination - another boat for free drinks.

The hardtop is solidly mounted on a stainless steel frame and is weatherproofed with clear covers. A reverse sheer Perspex windshield will keep your hair on when the covers are off. With all this area done in white gelcoat, it is perhaps on the high side of bright, but some all-weather carpet and polarised glasses will tone down the glare so that you may enjoy the view.

 

 

ENGINEROOM EXCELLENCE


Mechanically minded owners and guests are able to enter the engine compartment via an electrically raised hatch in the cockpit, which opens the lazarette to access storage items. A small ladder leads down and a forward-facing door allows entry to the immaculately detailed engineroom.

A thoughtful soul has tagged everything, and I mean everything. Each hull fitting, tap, vent, tank and hose is labelled and even the wiring and plumbing is colour coded. The engineroom floor is faired and painted gelcoat and this whole area is ventilated by thermostatically controlled fans for both fresh air and exhaust.

A pair of white Caterpillar C9 ACERT diesels of 567hp each are coupled to ZF 2.5:1 gearboxes and mated to the ZF electronic control heads in the pilothouse and flybridge plus the cockpit remote unit. Aquamet shafts, with dripless seals, spin computer designed four-blade 31in propellers matched to the engines and balanced in Australia.

Large capacity Racor 1000 fuel filters supply pristine fuel from the 2274lt aluminium tanks to both engines and the 13kW Northern Lights generator. Dedicated batteries supply the engines, house power, generator and winch thruster units, and are all variously attended to by separate chargers and an inverter for silent 240V power. The generator has a water/exhaust separator for almost silent running, which will not irritate your neighbours.

A vast specification sheet will dazzle you with features that will leave you wondering what else you could possibly order except for electric spaghetti tongs or a poodle grooming wand. Stereos, TVs, washer-dryer, air-conditioning, wine fridge, hi-lo tables, cockpit shower, bow and sternthrusters, Raymarine navigation systems, and the list goes on for pages. All you need is someone to pay for it and perhaps a small person who is deft with a sponge and chamois to keep her clean. A bartender would not go astray either.

 

 

SOUNDS OF SILENCE


After a sandwich and a single cleansing glass of wine - hey, it was the only cold drink aboard - we motored up Sydney's Pittwater in a brisk nor'westerly turning north by northwest in fact. The first impression was the sounds of silence, and if you have been on a Boeing 747 in first class, well it was just like that. In fact, she was one of the quietest and smoothest cruisers I have been on in a long time, even when the throttles were given a firm nudge. Smooth, quiet and confidence inspiring.

As the Cats took charge, the Apollonio hull displayed its very best design features, seamlessly moving onto the plane and deftly parting any aggressive chop that was in our path. Given the lower bow style I was expecting her to be wet, however, this was not the case nor could I provoke any bad behaviour in the sharp beam seas. The roll speed, well calculated, gave her a very gentle motion and one could move about with relative confidence. A few unsecured and fragile items also showed no indication of moving and in a lesser craft there is every likelihood they would have speared to the floor.

These big Cats have the power and glory of performance and economy. Our initial slide through the no-wash zone saw 9kts at just over 1000rpm and a parsimonious 17lt/h combined, perfect for an afternoon scenic cruise -1060nm cruise in fact.

We were on the plane at 1500rpm and 62lt/h for 12kts. My favourite speed in most conditions, good and bad, is 17kts, which is just over 100lt/h and 335nm in range and this equates to the magical 75 per cent of power.

A heavier nudge and you will ease her through the rev range all the way to 25kts at 2550rpm and 216lt/h, but this is a sprint speed in real terms. What's the rush?

The Pama 54 slid along very nicely at all speeds and with no untoward fuss or fandango. A boat of similar size, weight and engines can be 5kts slower, noisier and thirstier, and it is here we pay tribute to out naval architect Howard. As I said, the superior design is the key.

The Pama 54 has been superbly conceived and detailed. She performs with smooth confidence, has an interior which rivals many far more expensive offerings and has a layout which will allow you to relax into a languid state in a matter of minutes. With capable engineering and design elements your worst worry will be the age and temperature of the wine and the number of freeloading guests who will undoubtedly want to join and enjoy all this comfort. As they say on British Airways, "Sit back, relax and enjoy the first class service". 

 

 

 

Specifications- Pama 54 Pilothouse

 

 

PRICED FROM


$1.25 million w/ twin Caterpillar C9s, Northern Lights 13kVa generator, full air-conditioning, and bow and sternthrusters, and a boatload of options leading to a fully equipped cruiser rearing to go

 

 

GENERAL


Material:                        Handlaid fibreglass, vacuum bagged with end grain balsa core above the waterline
Type:                             V-bottom planing hull
Length overall:            17m
Beam:                             4.6m
Draft:                             1.37m
Weight:                           22.2 tonnes

 

 

CAPACITIES


Berths:   6 in three cabins
Fuel:   2274lt
Water:  950lt
Holding tank: 225lt

 

 

ENGINE


Make/model:  Twin Caterpillar C9 ACERT six-cylinder turbo diesel
Displacement:  9lt
Rated HP:  567
Max. RPM:  2550
Gearbox (make/ratio):  ZF 305A/2.5:1
Propellers:  Four-blade 31in bronze

 

 

SUPPLIED BY


Pacific Marine Imports,
Contact Don Salthouse 
Phone: 1800 753 227

Andrew Moore Marine,
RMYC Broken Bay.
Prince Alfred Parade,
Newport, NSW, 2106
Phone: (02) 9979 8222

 

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