Video: Fleming 55 Pilothouse review
The Fleming 55 may be a stunning luxury boat but it’s very much a genuine passagemaker.
The Fleming 55 Pilothouse is a ‘passagemaker’. Don’t you just love that term? It conjures up images of luxury yachts cruising the Caribbean, extended sojourns through the icy waters of Alaska, losing yourself amongst an array of tropical islands and atolls, or intercontinental voyages across vast untamed oceans.
Passagemakers define a nautical mindset achieved by many sea-dogs once they mature past the glitz and glamor of gizmos, gadgets and plastic fantastics. This is the real world of ocean cruising where eight to 10kts is a practical speed and the ‘journey’ is the pleasure. It’s about confidence in your boat to challenge long passages, the seamanship to make the trip alluring to all, and the comfort and facility for the final destination.
FLEMING 55 PILOTHOUSE
Richard Rains is an unlikely boat owner, and yet his beloved Fleming 55 Pilothouse is the fulfillment of one of his life’s dreams. He’s a country boy from Dunedoo, a small town east of Dubbo, and refers to it as "the town they left the ‘R’ off …" He’s been in the international food trade for the greater part of his life with a particular emphasis on exporting meat products; hence he’s more than familiar with dealing on an international level.
Fleming’s foundations are multinational. Tony Fleming is an Englishman who lives in America and worked for over 20 years with American Marine and Grand Banks. In 1985 Tony left with his business partner Anton Emmerton and commissioned Californian naval architect Larry Drake to design a premium pilothouse passagemaker which evolved into the Fleming 55. They chose the Tung Hwa boat yard in southern Taiwan as their manufacturing facility, a relationship which exists until this very day.
The boat’s name, post office, should be pronounced with a definite gap between the words ‘post’ and ‘office’, thus meaning ‘after retirement.’ Richard has retired to Sydney’s North Shore and keeps his pride and joy at the pretty little inner suburban marina at Kirrabilli.
From the deep, fully enclosed keel to the peak of the hard top the construction is spectacular. The Fleming 55 Pilothouse has a full fibreglass laminate with twin 500hp Cummins QSC 8.3-litre, six-cylinder common-rail, turbocharged and after-cooled four-stroke diesel engines. It has Twin Disc MG5075A, 2.53:1 transmissions powering the shaftdrives. All up the Fleming 55 Pilothouse weighs in at a considerable 36-tonnes wet with a huge 3785lt of fuel in four tanks, 1135lt of freshwater and 378lt of blackwater capacity.
The drive system is as smooth as her classy mouldings with oversized Silent Block engine mounts and Seatorque BOSS totally enclosed, oil-filled, shaft and thrust bearing assembly that greatly reduces engine vibration. They also offer perfect engine alignment and variable angle adjustment for vibration-free power transmission.
The whole propulsion system is so well balanced that I could easily turn the Aqualloy 2.25in prop shafts and ZF-Faster four-blade nickel aluminum bronze propellers with one hand from the engine bay.
There has been a tremendous attention to acoustics with very high quality acoustic lining and well-considered airflows adding to the overall construction quality, resulting in one of the quietest and most pleasant on-water experiences imaginable without going electric.
Richard chose predominantly Raymarine electronics throughout the Fleming 55 Pilothouse, including a pair of gS series touchscreen multi-function displays both in the wheelhouse and on the flybridge. They clearly display the latest in sonar and navigation information as well as autopilot, radar, extra keypads, the FLIR night vision and CCTV from four cameras keeping the skipper informed of all movements around the boat.
Fleming has defied many trends by choosing Boning 8.8in color touchscreen glass displays at both upper and lower stations for real-time engine information, and Fleming Central monitoring system for the whole boat as standard equipment.
The array of electronics and accessories is endless but a noteworthy option is the five-function Yacht Controller wireless remote that operates the engines fore and aft, Side-Power thrusters and windlass for very easy docking and mooring control.
When it’s time to relax there is interactive Bose and Fusion sound which is also linked to the custom pop-up television that is located in the rear saloon cabinet, not far from the slide-out bar, full-size upright fridge/freezer and the four separate icemakers, individually specified by Richard. Powering the craft is a pair of Onan generators; a 13.5kW, 60Hz Onan eQD with a 9.5kW, 50Hz in reserve.
Besides the generators there’s two windlasses, a backup unit for the Hypromarine hydraulic power steering, engine and gearbox control backups, multiple sets of safety equipment including four EPIRBs, multiple icemakers, fuel tanks, engine controls and more. There’s dual heat detectors, two engineroom extraction blowers, two Gianneschi freshwater pumps, four fire-retardant FRP fuel tanks with sight gauges and so on.
Noteworthy inclusions in the fitout are the extra control station from the rear of the flybridge deck, a Reverso 24v fuel transfer/ polishing system, Sea Vision LED underwater lights, efficient LED lighting throughout and a fire suppression system with automatic engines/genset/blowers shutdown. There are also VHF radios with AIS vessel tracking and identification, and even a Swift 3.6 Mirage tender with 40hp Yamaha four-stroke engine (Fleming Australia is also the Swift agent).
From the moment you step aboard from either of the two side companionways on upper or lower decks you will immediately be delighted with the endearing flow throughout all of the individual components of the boat. To me, the flow was a highlight. I don’t recall a boat that has so many different living and working areas that are so easily and so naturally traversed.
The teak trim will leave you speechless; the joinery is faultless. The stateroom size and layout is eminently comfortable and inviting, the two bathrooms, fittings, lighting and storage simply exceptional.
I particularly loved the pilothouse with its vision and dash layout reminiscent of a much larger vessel. The small pilothouse dinette gives interested passengers a comfy and secure spot to join the skipper. The Portuguese bridge out front really sets the scene for forward passage, and the immense foredeck could hold a large party in its own right, all confined by the security of strong and tall stainless steel rails that will even keep parents reassured over their children’s safety.
The side decks/companionways are very wide and secure and the beautiful galley and downstairs saloon is worthy of entertaining royalty.
I could spend many an enjoyable hour or 10 with a group of friends on the huge rear deck under the shade of the extended hard top; or perhaps move the party upstairs for a better view and a bit more open air.
The only limited space is inside the engine compartment where headroom is a bit limited, but for very good reason. Fleming has designed in a low centre of gravity to increase the safety and stability, the tradeoff for which is low head clearance in the engineroom. Whilst you may have to duck your head a bit, once inside, you will quickly forget the inconvenience as you notice the quality of installation of all of the componentry including the engines, generators, fuel systems, and all of the colour-coded electrical circuits and general plumbing.
It’s little wonder that this same Fleming 55 has been in production for nearly 30 years and it is still popular, elegant, attractive and perhaps even more relevant than ever. Its design reflects an elegant legacy where you could easily image Marilyn Monroe, Shirley Temple or John F Kennedy entertaining the world’s rich and famous, yet at the same time has timeless appeal for our latest Gen Y upstarts.
One of the changes since previous testing of a Fleming a couple of years ago, is the upgrading of the hydraulically operated stabilisers to ABT-TRAC 7.5sqft models with fins, winglets and colour touchscreen control panel. The ride is also aided by a set of Bennett trim tabs.
Sydney Harbour is full of all manner of fast moving, larger vessels including the ever-present ferry systems and hence there always seems to be a considerable wake to contend with. The Fleming remained extremely sure-footed throughout all situations and leaving the Harbour to contend with the open ocean under North Head certainly didn’t change things.
The surefootedness is aided considerably by these big stabilisers, commonly used on much larger vessels up to 80ft (24.3m). Stabilisers normally don’t have much influence at very low speeds yet these noticeably aid the stability right down to 5kts. This is a true passagemaker, with a very confident ride.
I asked Richard of his future seagoing ambitions and he told me that he would love to take post office around the top of the country and over to Broome. The vessel won’t take him long to master and certainly has the capacity, with the quoted cruising range of 2000nm at 8kts. Factory testing presents very efficient fuel consumption figures of only 43lt/h at 10kts, and we experienced 30lt/h at 9kts on the Harbour.
This Fleming 55 Pilothouse has achieved the international CE Category A Ocean certification for 15 passengers offshore and 22 in enclosed waters.
This Fleming 55 Pilothouse is a statement. When I recently asked a friend how he was keeping active and occupied in his retirement, he said: "You know what, mate, there’s not a rule in the book that says you have to go to the bank, and the post office all on the same day." If post office were mine I wouldn’t be visiting a bank too often either – they’d be much too far away.
• Superb overall quality
• Smooth, quiet ride
• No vibration or engine discomfort
• Easy ‘flow’ throughout
• Portuguese bridge
• Teak internal trim
• Low fuel consumption
• Selection of fittings and accessories
• Pleasant owner and dealer!
• Head height in engineroom
See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #458, October / November 2014. Why not subscribe today?
FLEMING 55 PILOTHOUSE MOTOR YACHT SPECIFICATIONS
PRICE AS TESTED
Fleming 55 Pilothouse price: $2,650,000 (landed in Sydney, GST and duty paid)
Side-Power SP155 TCi sternthruster, Reverso fuel transfer/polishing system, second generator, five-function Yacht Controller Wireless remote control, Hypro Electro hydraulic power steering, LED underwater lights, 12in Longer swimstep, hardtop with opening skylights and LED lighting, Raymarine electronics package, BOSE and Fusion entertainment systems, Swift 3.6 Mirage tender and more.
$2,375,000 (exchange rate-dependent)
MATERIAL Fibreglass (FRP)
PEOPLE 15 (CE Category A Ocean), 22 (NSW Closed waters)
WATER 1135lt (fresh) 378lt (black)
MAKE/MODEL 2 x Cummins QSC8.3
TYPE Six-cylinder inline four-stroke turbocharged diesel
RATED HP 500 (each)
DISPLACEMENT 8300cc (each)
GEAR RATIO 2.53:1
PROPELLERS ZF-Faster four-blade
FLEMING YACHTS AUSTRALIA
Unit 6, 1 Bradly Avenue
Kirribilli, NSW, 2061
PHONE +61 2 8920 1444
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