REVIEW: PALM BEACH 65

By: KEVIN GREEN, Photography by: KEVIN GREEN, SUPPLIED

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The formerly Australian-built premium brand Palm Beach has gone up “a whole new level” under the amalgamated Grand Banks company, according to CEO Mark Richards, so best to check out this claim with the arrival of the latest flagship in Sydney, writes KEVIN GREEN

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REVIEW: PALM BEACH 65

The navy blue hull of the Palm Beach 65, low slung with sheer down to the tumblehome near the elegant transom, looked understated yet distinctive amid the towering box-like fibreglass boats around it. Having been on previous models with Wild Oats skipper Mark Richards, I was keen for us to do the same again on this Malaysian-built model, a boat that is part of a major new era for the brand since its move there in 2015.

"The new company has brought Palm Beach up to a whole new level because, when we were based in Sydney, we didn’t have the capacity to build these big boats, but now we have so we’ve gone from hull number #3 of the PB65 up to hull #19 in only three years," explained Richards as we walked through this newly delivered 70-footer.

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Available in express or flybridge models with a highly customised layout, our review boat was hull #9 in the flybridge style. The range goes from the 42 to this flagship (plus an upcoming 70) and includes some popular selling models such as the 55 which sold more than 30 hulls. All have the distinctive sheer lines and wide transoms that ensure these boats not only look good but also plane well.

DECKS

Boarding on the aft deck via the teak marlin board, the tone is stylishly set here on the Palm Beach 65. Sheltered under a classically styled canvas and stainless steel bimini it sets the retro tone throughout this 70-footer. However, practicalities abound, such as an hydraulic option for the marlin board, and there are twin transom doors too. A large bench lies between these doors so that diners can enjoy sitting at the glistening Burmese teak table. Outdoor furnishings use Ultra Leather, which is a tough man-made weave that I’ve seen still looking good after five years of sun on other Palm Beaches. Another L-shaped lounge is against the saloon bulkhead with wetbar opposite on port. Also here is a joystick EJS drive that neatly elevates from the worktop when in use. Classy.

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The large tender garage is deep in the hull with electric lifting mechanism and rails for launching. Moving forward is easy, thanks to wide sidedecks, high rails and the firm teak grip under my deck shoes. The flared bow creates a lot of deck space forward, including double sunpads and there’s a deep chain locker for the rode and Maxwell windlass. A stylish toerail includes midship deck cleats to finish off the elegant topsides.

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Moving to the flybridge requires a steep climb up a ladder but the effort is worth it once there. Without being towering and avoiding too much windage, it blends in nicely with the low-slung hull while giving commanding views to the steerer on the centralised console. Sensibly, a large visor protects those sitting at the twin helm seats – ruggedly constructed and stylish in stainless steel. A large Furuno screen dominates with hardwood-clad steering wheel and all key controls around it – throttles and EJS joystick to starboard, with autopilot and trim tabs to port. Antennas are stylishly hoisted on a raked back gantry holding twin radomes, open array radar and aerials.

SALOON

The open-plan saloon is classically styled with gleaming brightwork – such as varnished Burmese teak and chromed metal on the portside dinette table with lounge opposite, which are comfortable double settees and a low coffee table. Vertical bulkheads limit the harsh Australian sun’s incursion, while up front a step guides you to the helm on starboard. Alongside is a double bench with high back, so command need not be a lonely experience. A television is integrated on the skipper’s double seat and the front windows are slanted and shaded in a way that gives the best light onto the console.

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The teak-clad console and steering wheel puts me in mind of an antique British Jaguar car, but of course without the analogue dials as Palm Beach uses the latest digital gear from Garmin as factory standard. The Sydney customer, however, is a Furuno fan so two 12in screens dominated the display; along with chromed levers for the 1000hp Volvo engines and EJS pod controls that manage fore and aft thrusters. Also included on our review boat are separate Twin Disc controls for the thrusters. Other key gear included the manual/auto controls for the vertical trim tabs, anchor counter and the all important autopilot from Furuno. Handily, the main switchboard is alongside here as well (with house controls and emergency shutoffs in the galley pantry).

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Layout options include a galley-up or as fitted on our review boat, down at the accommodation level. Given the open-plan design, the galley doesn’t really feel down below because the topside windows shed plenty of light in the port corner where it nestles and it’s only three small steps under the main floor. Its elliptical side window could be a wee bit larger but apart from that I had little to complain about the equipment which included a four-plate electric hob and oven, single sink and oodles of cupboard space both above and below the spacious benches. White goods included a large Miele dishwasher and upright fridge. Reflecting the customisation abilities of Palm Beach, the Sydney owner had a pantry installed nearby that included freezer drawers, more refrigeration and a small crew bunk. This utility room also housed a washer/dryer machine as well, for what is a very practical layout.

ACCOMMODATION

Accommodation comprises up to four cabins; our review boat had two with the owner’s cabin forward and the guest double in the middle. Usually, the master is midships to use the highest volume and is the most stable at sea but customisation is part of shipwright Richards’ offering and our review boat reflected this in several ways. Showing surprisingly high headroom, the owner’s V-berth gave enough space for a double lounge seat on starboard with walking room on each side of the semi-island bed.

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The guest cabin came with two singles – that swing together – and a deep well between them as they are fairly low-slung berths. The en suite had a moulded shower and toilet with teak finishes throughout. The skylight was slightly obstructed by the bulkhead, reflecting the customisation, but a small blemish in an otherwise comfortable area. "If you start moving deck hatches aesthetically it won’t look right and you can have problems," explains Richards as we continued our walk-through.

LIGHTWEIGHT HULL

A high build standard is integral to the premium market offering that is Palm Beach, so the hull is hand-laid in e-glass with Corecell foam, while the decks and superstructure are carbon; which is the reason the PB65 weighs in at only 30,000kg.

"The deck is infused carbon which is a high standard of build, only one level down from Wild Oats," explains Richards.

Peering through various hatches showed a smooth hull finish which reflected the vast amount of man hours – about six months’ labour – that goes into each boat from predominantly Australian shipwrights. Awlgrip paint and fine gelcoat gave the hull a gleaming appearance that really shone out among the other craft at the Sydney Motor Yacht Club.

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Engine access was from a single hatch in the aft deck, which brought me to a teak-clad floor with several feet of separation between the engines and on the outboard sides. Headroom was minimal but most service points were seen: the filters against the inner bulkhead, oilways and electrics aft. On the keel line stood two 15kW Fischer Panda generators, giving some redundancy as only one is required. Optional gear included a watermaker, which was in the port lazarette.

The hull design that was originally done in collaboration with Sydney’s Andy Dovell dictates that the engines are placed in the same spot, so if a customer should choose Volvo IPS pods, jackshafts are used in the transmissions. Engine choices can include shaftdrives – our review boat had Volvo’s new 1000hp inline six-cylinders, launched just last year. The alternative is pods, which are around 35 per cent more expensive.

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"But they are a lot more fuel efficient. At 25kts you’re using 25 per cent less fuel, and the counter rotating propellers make them a lot faster, reaching about 42kts on this hull," advised Richards.

The downside for some prospective buyers is their forward-facing propellers can be prone to debris and of course the advantage of shaftdrives is not having a gearbox hanging outside the boat.

FEATURES

Sidling out of a busy marina required both fore and aft thrusters, that can be operated separately but were controlled by the EJS joystick; a system I’ve used several times and found to be excellent for close quarters controls.

"I reckon the EJS does a better job than pod drives," commented Richards as we glided across Rose Bay.

Despite its 70 feet, this particular boat is run by a married couple who enjoy the classic design yet require the smarts – like the EJS – to enjoy handling her on the busy harbour waters. Comfortably sat at the inside helm, I was confronted with a busy seaway – ferries, yachts, sailing dinghies and motorboats enjoying the calm autumn weather. Pushing the throttles down, Richards advised a tweak of the tabs, despite no dramatic rise of the bows as we reached a comfortable cruising speed of 22kts with fuel burn on the Volvo gauges showing 160lt/h in total, giving a large range of 800nm.

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The throaty roar through the open saloon doors reminded me that there was plenty more power available from the 1000hp shaftdrives, so I pressed on as the Opera House loomed with a tad over 30kts showing on the Furuno GPS, requiring only 30 per cent tabs which showed the natural trim of this sleek 70-footer. A rock-steady feel came from the hull and moving the wheel brought an instant response. Either side of me were large side windows that opened enough to let me skip out onto the deck should the need occur. The wide bow flare ensured the teak decks remained dry in the small chop.

Later, climbing the wide stairs onto the flybridge I clambered onto the high chair for another exhilarating drive. Apart from a few flutters from the canvas bimini it was hard to feel our cruising speed of 22kts, before I brought us to a halt at Bradleys Head for some slow handling – using the graduated and controlled power of the EJS joystick to push us astern, and with relatively little windage the PB65 obliged easily. Clicking the Express Positioning button demonstrated the handy GPS holding feature, ideal for waiting at the fuel dock.

With our afternoon sojourn over, I briefly pointed our bows towards Sydney Heads on the way home, a place Mark Richards will again be heading to at speed on Wild Oats XI in a few months’ time, but the Palm Beach 65 gave me the impression that it could also do the famous 630nm south as well – and with some style.  

SPECIFICATIONS: PALM BEACH 65

PRICE AS TESTED

$4.2million

GENERAL

LENGTH 21.3m (70ft) overall

BEAM 5.85m

DRAFT 1.3m

WEIGHT 30,000kg (dry)

CAPACITIES

FUEL 6000lt

WATER 1100lt

HOLDING TANK 400lt

ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL 2 x Volvo D13 shaftdrives

TYPE Inline six-cylinder turbo-diesel

RATED HP 1000 (each)

DISPLACEMENT 12.8lt (each)

WEIGHT 1635kg

GEAR RATIO 2.04:1

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Visit palmbeachmotoryachts.com

Check out the full review in issue #503 of Trade-a-Boat magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest boat news, reviews and travel inspiration.

 


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