Un­der Cover



Mil­i­taris­tic in ap­pear­ance, the Gulf­stream Yachts 52 is an en­closed cen­ter con­sole with stealthy good looks.

A dark boat with four Seven Ma­rine 627 out­boards was backed into a cor­ner slip. I stopped, did a dou­ble take and slowly walked around the large hull, look­ing for a name on the un­fa­mil­iar cen­ter con­sole with a fully en­closed helm. Then I no­ticed a num­ber of other peo­ple do­ing the same. The boat looked like it be­longed to the mil­i­tary, but on closer in­spec­tion, the me­tal­lic paint job and match­ing per­for­mance en­gines made it seem more lux­u­ri­ous than in­sti­tu­tional. That’s when the con­vivial Hunter James ges­tured for me to come aboard.

James, or Hunt as he’s called, is the owner of Gulf­stream Yachts in Tampa, Florida, and he told me this was the pro­to­type hull he built for him­self, a boat de­signed to rem­edy the flaws he found on other cen­ter con­soles. (An avid fish­er­man and diver, James re­lated that his wife and guests en­joyed a boat that al­lowed them to be ac­tive by day, but they hated get­ting wet by pass­ing show­ers when they were dressed nicely and on their way to din­ner in the evening. James wanted a boat that of­fered room to fish and stay ac­tive, but he also wanted pro­tec­tion from the el­e­ments at the helm and a com­fort­able cabin.) Hav­ing built other sport­fish­ing boats and cen­ter con­soles over the past 10 years un­der the Gulf­stream name, James in­cor­po­rated all the fea­tures he wanted into this boat, the Gulf­stream Yachts 52, which was caus­ing more than a few jaws to drop.

It’s hard to say no to James. Just ask Ward Set­zer, a de­signer with a range of big yachts in his port­fo­lio. He was hired to cre­ate the 52 from de­tailed specs. Set­zer says James pushed him out of his com­fort zone. When Set­zer ques­tioned whether the boat could stand up against the com­pe­ti­tion, James said, “Re­mem­ber, I am the cus­tomer.”

Set­zer sees the “S” sheer­line as one of the most dis­tinc­tive parts of the boat—that and the clas­sic Carolina-flared bow, which is a nod to his North Carolina roots. Prior to mov­ing to Stu­art, Florida, Set­zer’s work was fo­cused on el­e­gant and sim­plis­tic form and func­tion, but for this pro­ject he knew he’d also need a stepped hull for per­for­mance. So, he went to col­league and “friendly com­peti­tor” Michael Peters. Thus, this 52 boasts the ex­per­tise of two award-win­ning naval ar­chi­tects. “I’m proud of how beau­ti­ful it is,” says Set­zer.

Ac­cord­ing to James, the com­pany has re­ceived a num­ber of in­quiries about the Gulf­stream from peo­ple won­der­ing if it’s a mil­i­tary boat. And re­cently, Gulf­stream Yachts was in­vited to the Spe­cial

Op­er­a­tions Forces In­dus­try Con­fer­ence in Tampa, at which the com­pany gave sea tri­als to Navy SEAL teams and other mil­i­tary op­er­a­tors. That ex­po­sure could open new waters for Gulf­stream, but at its core, this 52 is a recre­ational power­boat for ac­tive own­ers.

Ideal for fish­ing, the Gulf­stream has a deep-V hull and high free­board, along with a wide, non­skid-cov­ered gun­wale and bow, where an­glers can step up to reel in a catch. The deck is a sin­gle level from bow to stern. The open bow pro­vides am­ple room for fish­ing but also has a three-per­son sun­pad cov­ered with Stam­skin One ma­rine up­hol­stery. This Swiss-made, sil­i­cone-elas­tomer­coated jersey ma­te­rial is used through­out for durable stain, UV and heat re­sis­tance. The re­mov­able bow seat­ing is one of many op­tions of­fered with this cus­tom boat; oth­ers in­clude the teak decks by Teak Deck­ing Sys­tems and the gray me­tal­lic Awl­grip Paint.

Fish­ing fea­tures on the 52 in­clude two 56-gal­lon livewells, five in­su­lated fish­boxes, four rod hold­ers and a pol­ished Pom­panette rocket launcher de­signed by Mur­ray Sport­Fish­ing. While the rocket launcher ac­com­mo­dates large rods, it also fea­tures a re­verse con­tour for an op­tional fight­ing chair or back­rest. A built-in mag­netic tray holds hooks and tools in place. Elec­tric reels can be pow­ered by out­lets hid­den un­der the padded coam­ing, where there are also JL speak­ers and lights tucked out of sight and clear of fish­ing and dock­ing lines. A sturdy dive door to port opens in for easy board­ing and the top flips over on ro­bust stain­less hinges.

Hull No. 1 of the Gulf­stream 52 has teak stairs aft of the en­closed helm, in be­tween the pull­out freezer/re­frig­er­a­tor, sink and grill. The stairs will ac­cess the forth­com­ing tower to be placed on the fiber­glass hard­top. On boats or­dered with­out the tower, the stairs can be re­placed by more re­frig­er­a­tion, a bar or a tackle cen­ter.

Things get in­ter­est­ing in­side the cabin. As the slid­ing door closes, the in­te­rior—with its 360-de­gree views—feels like the deck of a star­ship. There’s a mas­sive wind­shield and huge rec­tan­gu­lar win­dows line ei­ther side of the sa­lon, with just enough sup­ports be­tween the win­dows to pro­vide strength for the sub­stan­tial roof with­out sac­ri­fic­ing views. Only the slid­ing side door and back win­dow open, but a ven­ti­lated wind­shield might be of­fered in the fu­ture.

The helm is to star­board and op­po­site of it, on the port side, is a 17-inch Garmin unit that matches the model used by the driver; it’s in­stalled for a nav­i­ga­tor, who can sit on an up­hol­stered cube that houses the bat­tery and charger. This is an in­ter­est­ing use of space and a nice ad­di­tion for a guest who wants to as­sist the cap­tain, watch the weather or mon­i­tor the en­gines.

Steps descend from the sa­lon to a no-frills ac­com­mo­da­tions level with a king berth (or op­tional twins), plus stor­age and ac­cess to the wa­ter tanks. A table that con­verts to a berth can be added in this space, too. Ac­cord­ing to James, ex­tra cush­ions can be added to the sa­lon to cre­ate a queen berth, which is a nice op­tion to have. On this boat, the fin­ishes and at­ten­tion to de­tail are the lux­u­ries, al­though the 52 also is of­fered with crea­ture com­forts like three air-con­di­tion­ing units, a Kohler gen­er­a­tor and a Sea­keeper 6.

On the day I sea-tri­aled the Gulf­stream 52 the winds, cur­rent and tide were all mov­ing in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions at a quick clip. The bow thruster came in handy to ma­neu­ver the 52 out of a tight slip and onto the In­tra­coastal Wa­ter­way. We were on plane at 16 knots with al­most no bow rise, but as we hit open wa­ter, the quar­ter­ing seas churned up and the winds rose, a recipe for a rough ride. We turned on the Sea­keeper and while it took some time to spool up, we eval­u­ated the ride at var­i­ous speeds, carved wide and tight turns, and ob­served the hull as it was lifted over the fol­low­ing seas and climbed back over waves into the chop. The pound­ing was much less than I ex­pected it would be, thanks to the stepped hull, and the bow stayed dry.

Bal­anc­ing the four en­gines took a bit of throt­tle jug­gling, but the levers op­er­ated smoothly and felt com­fort­able. When the Sea­keeper fi­nally kicked in, the roll of the boat came to a no­tice­able halt, but then waves splashed over the front deck as the 52 stead­ied. For­tu­nately, we were happy and dry in the en­closed cock­pit. Af­ter that, the boat main­tained an even keel with­out chine walk­ing, de­spite the chal­leng­ing con­di­tions. Cut­ting our way back to the dock through 4- to 6-foot seas, the en­gine power was palat­able and the ride was rel­a­tively smooth and qui­eter than an­tic­i­pated, given the roar of over 2,500 horses sealed out by the glass. As we ap­proached the dock, I was glad I was not at the wheel. I watched the cap­tain go from run­ning the bow thruster and steer­ing wheel to feath­er­ing the throt­tles. This was a lot of boat to tuck into a tight slip while fight­ing the whims of the wa­ter­way, but the 52 was coaxed gen­tly in and we tied her se­curely.

The crew re­turned to pro­vi­sion­ing the boat for de­par­ture the fol­low­ing day; it was head­ing out to fish the Baker’s Bay In­vi­ta­tional tour­na­ment in the Ba­hamas. Walk­ing back down the dock I glanced over my shoul­der once more for a last look at the Gulf­stream. Even though I missed the Florida coastal wind in my face while run­ning the boat from the en­closed con­sole, I cer­tainly would ap­pre­ci­ate this type of pro­tec­tion in a squall or while cross­ing the Gulf Stream. In the end, it was a good day in rough wa­ter, and that’s what boat­ing un­der cover is all about.

LOA: 52'0" Beam: 15'0" Draft: 2'6" Displ. (ap­prox.): 30,000 lbs. Fuel: 1,000 gal. Wa­ter: 100 gal. Test Power: 4/627-hp Seven Ma­rine out­boards Op­tional Power: 5/627-hp Seven Ma­rine out­boards PRICE: $1,520,000

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