BOAT TEST: FAIRLINE SQUADRON 65 SERIES II
A perfect Perth day, great company, and a beautiful boat in the form of a Fairline Squadron 65 Series II. What more could a marine editor ask for?
I think I could be in love with Perth - warm weather, great food, laidback confident people and mile upon endless mile of untouched golden coastline. After our day on the jewel of Fairline Western Australia's crown, the revamped Squadron 65 it won't be long until we are planning a follow-up visit.
This Fairline Squadron 65 Series II is the company's first hull of the new model to arrive on Australian shores and it quite justifiable has the team very excited. Already sold, this boat is the follow-on model from its predecessor, the Series I. Fairline Western Australia thought that boat would be a hard act to follow, after all it is the company's most successful Australian release ever with four boats already in the Perth area. Still the guys are confident the few subtle changes offered by the new model will broaden the boat's appeal even further.
UK builder Fairline Yachts presents two quite different styles of vessel in its Squadron and Targa ranges. While yet to review any hull from the Targa range my research (and a quick tour of the new Targa 58GT at the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show) suggests the Squadron is the more family orientated style, with its massive flybridge and a design leaning more towards lifestyle boating.
The Squadron 65 Series II differs from its predecessor by the addition of an extra bedroom up for'ard taking the total number from three to four. This was achieved by sacrificing a bathroom but fear not it still has three, so morning queues will be kept to a minimum. In fact if things get really serious in the accommodation stakes the option of an additional twin-bunk crew cabin with private bathroom in the aft quarters exists at the expense of a storage room.
For reasons that quickly become self-evident the real talking point of the 65 is its enormous flybridge. This feature is one of the most tangible ways the boat stands out from its competition and feedback from customers suggests many owners virtually live in this space.
With no fewer than five full-length sunloungers and round-table seating for eight to 10 guests (with the addition of a few portable chairs) it is hardly a surprise that this is the case. Frankly, it wouldn't be a stretch to visualise a competitive game of indoor cricket up there. Rest assured the crowd could be adequately catered for by virtue of an in situ barbecue hot plate, ice maker and capacious beer fridge.
The flybridge is almost as well appointed as the rest of the vessel, with just a few compromises to allow for the exposure to the elements - an unavoidable consequence of such an open and airy living space. An alternative option as far as wear and tear is concerned is to enclose the bridge in glass (not an option on this vessel), but personally I have always favoured Fairline's approach with quality clears that can be rolled-up to make the most of those perfect Australian cruising days.
MASTER AND MATES
Having spent many long, lonely hours manning the bridge I can appreciate how nice it is for the skipper to be in a place that encourages the family to keep the boss company while passagemaking. The flybridge helm station sports a pair of close-fitted, uber-comfortable helm chairs and presents itself as the ideal location to train and supervise a budding young skipper.
A relatively simplistic and uncluttered dash features top-quality components, all within easy reach, without having so many bells and whistles that the attention of the trainee master is likely to be diverted from the task at hand. It is also good to see this bridge comes with the option to close off access via a heavy glass hatch should the man or woman in charge be operating in circumstances where a total lack of distractions is required.
If you think the bridge was impressive, the interior of the Fairline Squadron 65 Series II, and in fact all the Fairline vessels I have been on, is breathtaking. It is my honest opinion that the British manufacturer is setting the standard for interior design on imported production vessels; quite a statement given the quality of much that we have reviewed in 2012, so it would be best to judge this one yourself.
The downstairs helm station underlines this point. Like some sort of hybrid between a Boeing Dreamliner and a Bentley the twinkling dash and plush leather seats give the impression you are taking charge of a sentient and highly evolved being rather than a boat. Perhaps it is a trick of clever design but the subtly illuminated vessel monitoring centre next to the helm is a sharp-looking piece of bling that installs confidence. As you can see in the image hereabouts, if the flybridge station can be described as minimalistic and functional the downstairs station is its high-tech alter ego.
Aft and to port of the helm station is a stylish U-shaped galley. The rich timber tones of the joinery and floorboards work beautifully with the dark Avonite benchtops and slimline blinds in this generously appointed workspace. Featuring a four-element cooktop and a combination convection oven/microwave with overhead odour extraction it's a quality space, which to me has a slightly Asian influence and had me imagining artistically prepared platters of sushi. Maybe that was just wishful thinking; it was well after dinner time.
The rest of the saloon is occupied by a dinette for six and an inviting relaxation area featuring a 32in flatscreen TV
with a Bose entertainment system, iPod docks and a drinks cabinet close at hand. So well presented are the soft furnishings that I was hesitant to try them for comfort lest I leave wrinkles in the leather. Even more tempting was the thought of charging the Squadron engraved lead crystal tumblers with appropriately aged single malt. Perhaps next time…
In a boat overflowing with quality it was the forward accommodation areas, and in particular the master stateroom, that grabbed my attention the most on an earlier viewing.
Located centrally to make the most of the vessel's beam and like the galley, to my eye it has just a hint of modern Japanese influence. Those warm timber tones from above are continued generously with off-white soft furnishings and ceiling panels lightening-up the overall effect. The queen-sized inner-sprung bed obviously dominates the space and beckons a tryout. Naturally all the expected toys are present, TV, iPod dock and the like.
The huge twin-sink en suite is separated from the bedroom by a glass panel and timber venetian blinds for times when modesty is required. A full standing-height, rainforest-styled shower cubicle features a teak double bench seat for extra safety and comfort. The overall effect is sophisticated and at a level above much of what we often experience.
The forward accommodation areas include three more bedrooms; a forward stateroom with a double berth and adjoining en suite, and port and starboard guest cabins with twin single berths and a guest en suite to service these two
extra bedrooms. All these are cabins finished to the same exceptionally high standard and feature inbuilt entertainment systems, full-length mirrors, luxurious soft furnishings and all the other accoutrements one expects on a vessel of this breeding. And if you still don't believe you have enough accommodation, or you favour the services of a professional crew, the aft utility area can be converted to a very comfortable extra cabin with its own bathroom.
A QUICK 360
Before we discuss the vessel's performance it is worth a hasty walk around the outside. Features of note included the comfortably wide sidedeck access and high bowrails. It is important to feel safe when negotiating these passages and it's even more important the skipper is happy his crew, particularly the younger members, will not face any unnecessary challenges carrying out their shipboard duties. On the bow wide teak decks make anchoring procedures a doddle and of course once the pick is down two large all-weather mattresses will delight the sunworshippers in your crew.
A delightful aft deck is the perfect place to enjoy gorgeous Western Australian evenings - the photo on the previous spread tells the story. And as you can see there is plenty of space for a quality tender on the hydraulic launching platform so all manner of aquatic adventures are only minutes away. (For a few pointers on making the most of a WA expedition check out the story on page 96).
ON THE WATER
As a sailor who loves a good long-range expedition I was pleased to notice Fairline had ensured the Squadron 65 has at least moderately generous fuel loading at 3500lt. With more than 1000lt of water augmented by a quality watermaker this vessel doesn't put too many restrictions on your ambitions. Even so the C18 Caterpillars in the engineroom will hungrily burn the fuel away with the hammers down, although I can tell you from experience these engines will run on the smell of an oily rag at a more comfortable eight or nine knots.
Obviously this boat is capable of high-speed running in comfort; 32kts with the larger engine options or 30kts with the smaller - it looked more like an oversized speedboat playing in our wake with Glen Moltoni on the helm. It's nice to know you have this kind performance at your fingertips should it be desired.
More importantly for me is how well the vessel handles at the dock. It has plenty of windage, so could be a handful in trying conditions. Although Fairline is yet to look at pod-drive installations, instead choosing to stick with shaftdrives for very valid reasons, the company has installed twin thrusters as standard so with a little practice there should be few conditions to challenge the skipper at the end of a voyage.
Fairline boats come with a reputation for the highest level of finish the market can expect from a production boat and the Squadron 65 Series II does not disappoint. This boat is quite simply a stunningly appointed, eminently comfortable vessel to live aboard. With the optional aft crew cabin offering a total of six single and two double berths the boat's capacity to cater to larger families is probably unequalled in this class. It's huge and generously serviced flybridge is already a proven winner with the Australian public and the model's popularity underlines that point.
To my mind the Fairline Squadron 65 Series II should be at the very top of any serious buyer's viewing list particularly as it is backed-up by some first-class customer service. I can't wait to review the Targa 58 later this year.
<B>Editor's note: What a joy it is to deal with good people. And in my opinion - one that is likely to be supported by my travelling partner in crime, photographic genius Ellen Dewar - boating professionals don't come much easier to work with than Perth-based duo representing Fairline Australia, Glen Moltoni and Evan Moore. Impending inclement weather put pressure on our already tightly scheduled visit to the WA capital and this team responded in spades. Thanks a million guys. Call anytime!</B>
Specifications: Fairline Squadron 65 Series II
PRICE AS TESTED
MATERIAL: Isophthalic powder-bound glass mat with polyurethane foam cores
TYPE: Planing monohull
LENGTH OVERALL: 18.48m
DRAFT: 1.37m (light ship)
WEIGHT: Approx 32,890kg (dry)
PEOPLE (NIGHT): 8+2
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Caterpillar C18-1015; 2 x 1100hp MAN V10 (optional); 2 x 1150hp Caterpillar C18-1150 (optional)
TYPE: Six-cylinder turbo-diesel
RATED HP: 1015 (each)
From Trade-a-Boat Issue 430, Aug-Sept, 2012. Story: Jeff Strang. Photos & Video: Ellen Dewar.
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