When a conservative builder like Hatteras comes out with a new boat, it's big news – but if it's a whole line of new boats, it's three times as interesting. The GT Series of sportfishermen/convertibles includes the GT60, GT63 and the model featured in this report, the GT54. With designs inspired by fast, comfortable and seaworthy Outer Banks custom charter boats, the new Hatteras yachts share hull forms and profiles among themselves, but are much different from similar-sized boats previously built by the company.
- Solid fiberglass bottom
- Resin infusion
- Shallower draft
- Low shaft angle
- Unique fuel tanks
- Less beam and lighter weight
- Painted hull
- Proven Carolina design
- Engine room air intakes
- Open galley with an island
|Length Overall||53' 10'' / 16.41 m|
Acceleration Times & Conditions
|Time to Plane||9.0 sec.|
|0 to 30||14.9 sec.|
|Props||5 Blades, Nibral, 56.5 Pitch, 35” Diameter|
|Load||3 persons, 1/4 fuel, no water, minimal gear|
|Climate||90 deg., 36 humid.; wind: 0-5 mph; seas: calm|
2 x 1600-hp CAT C32A
Twin CAT C18 Diesel
Twin CAT C32A Diesel
Hatteras GT54 -- The Mission
With the GT54, Hatteras is carrying on its 57-year mission to build the most capable boat possible for offshore big game anglers, but also for cruising people who want a salty looking, fast boat and not a gin palace. Hatteras had a winning hull with the 54 it introduced in the early 2000s, but its house profile needed updating. While redesigning the house the sheer was also modified and classy, rounded tumblehome was molded into the stern quarters of the hull. Finally, the boat's mission with her big engines was to break the 40-knot barrier fully loaded. In a word, the mission for the GT54 is to be the fastest, best-looking, most functional 54 convertible on the market at a compelling price.
To the casual observer, the Hatteras GT54 may look similar to other boats in class, but in fact, under her skin, she is quite different. Here are 12 important and distinctive differences that we think set the Hatteras GT54 apart from other boats in class.
Solid Fiberglass Bottom. While it would certainly be easy to use balsa core in the bottom and on the hull sides to make its boats lighter, that wouldn't be consistent with the hull-strength and reliability upon which Hatteras has built its reputation. (All Hatteras hulls do not budge on this point. The fact that the first Hatteras convertible ever built -- which was 54 years ago -- is still in service, makes the case.) Even above the water line in the hull, Hatteras does not use balsa core, preferring instead a solid, closed cell foam core. At her keel, the bottom of the GT54 has over 2" (5 cm) of solid fiberglass laminate.
Resin Infusion. Resin infusion has allowed Hatteras to build the GT54 light, with a glass-to-resin ratio of 60%, rather than the other way around. Bulkheads and other parts are also vacuum infused for higher quality and lower weight. Saving weight saves fuel and allows the boat to go faster.
Shallower Draft. The GT54 draws just 4'2" (1.28 m). When compared with other boats in this class the 54 has the shallowest draft in class. A lot of that has to do with the props being recessed into deep tunnels in the hull which run back to the transom.
Low Shaft Angle. In addition to reducing draft, the GT54's prop tunnels also reduce the shaft angle to just 6-degrees, significantly less than other boats in class. By being nearly horizontal the props are more efficient and the boat can run faster.
Unique Fuel Tanks. Hatteras pioneered the development of fiberglass fuel tanks which are hard to make. In the case of the GT54, there is one large fuel tank that uses the bottom of the boat as its bottom and the stringers for its sides. With baffles to keep fuel from sloshing around and a top that is strong, in one stroke the designers have taken significant weight out of the boat and lowered its CG making the vessel more stable in the process. This integral tank also effectively creates a second bottom in the area of the tank.
Less Beam and Lighter Weight. Because the GT54 has 6"-7" less beam than others in class she has less forward resistance when moving through the water. She is also lighter with the big optional engines when fully laden than most of her competition making her more efficient with equal power.
Painted Hull. In class, only Hatteras coats its hulls with polyurethane paint over the gel coat. Because gelcoat is porous it retains dirt which dulls the finish. It can also have far more serious cosmetic problems. Further, gel coat oxidizes and needs to be compounded several times a year to maintain its luster. Polyurethane paint also oxidizes but at a far slower rate. Indeed, most Hatteras boats need only to be washed off and scrubbed with soap and water to keep their showroom shine for 10 years or more. Paint is also far easier to repair.
Proven Carolina Design. For over 80 years charter skippers on the famous Carolina Outer Banks have evolved the "Carolina Concept" of sportfishing boat design and made it the gold standard. The Hatteras design team studied these boats and put their best attributes into the GT54.
Tank Tested Hull. Truth be told, not many powerboat hulls are ever tank tested. The GT Series hull, including the GT54's design, was tested at the world-famous Stevens Institute of Technology.
Engine Room Air Intakes.Notice that the GT54 does not have large openings in her hull sides for engine room air intakes. The conventional system used by most builders is vulnerable to sloppy seas and salty mist that can play havoc in an engine room unless expensive demisters are installed which take up valuable space outboard of the engines. Hatteras brings air to the engine room through the inside of the gunwales in the cockpit -- the most protected and dry area of the boat. This is a tried and proven design and Hatteras has been using it for decades.
Open Galley with an Island. Hatteras market-tested its new galley design with plywood mock-ups and created the first major convertible galley improvement in 20 years. The GT54's "island galley" layout opens up the space allowing access to the galley from two directions, permitting more cooks to work the stew. It also makes the boat look bigger inside and provides more room for moving around.
Hatteras Infrastructure. These days, one of the major aspects that define one brand from another is the depth of its engineering department and shop-floor management. The Hatteras team has an incredible depth of experience, particularly when it comes to electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems. Many of the builder's shop floor personnel have spent their whole careers at Hatteras.
Performance and Handling
As we pulled away from the dock into the narrow confines of the channel it quickly became evident that her big 35”(80.9 cm) five-bladed propellers were extremely effective. At idle speed, her 1600-hp CAT C32As were pushing us along at close to 9 kn. Obviously, this won't be an appropriate speed when operating in close confines so CAT’s engine controls feature a slow vessel mode. When engaged, the idle speed drops to 7.7 kn. Of course, even with the slow vessel mode activated the GT54 is an incredibly responsive vessel. In fact, that is one characteristic that the entire Hatteras Yachts line seems to share.
Once we reached open water it quickly became clear that the GT54 is a boat that wants to run. Her hull design allows her to get on plane in as low as 1250 rpm. Once above that speed, then it's time to let those 3200 horses run free. The GT54 is a surprisingly fast boat and that makes her a very cool boat to operate. At nearly all settings the feeling of speed is astonishing, but no more so than when this 75,000 lb. (34,019 kg.) boat is moving above 42 kn. It is really something to experience.
When fishing, she has a minimum trolling speed, with the trolling valves engaged of course, of 2.3 mph at 700 rpm while burning only 6 gph. The responsiveness of those big props also comes into play when backing down on a fish where I had complete controllability of our direction while maintaining an average speed of 7 mph. With her 75,000 lb. (34,019 kg.) empty weight, 360 gallons (1,362.7 L) of fuel and three people on board we had a test weight of 77,715 lb. (35,251 kg). With a pair of 1600-hp CAT C32As turning 35” (80.9 cm) 56.5 pitch five-bladed props we reached a top speed at 2365 rpm and 42.4 kn. At that speed, fuel burn was 165.5 gph giving us a range of 277 nautical miles. Best cruise was reached at 1500 rpm and 25.5 kn. That reduced the fuel burn to 74 gph which the GT54 could maintain for 14 hours and 36 minutes and 372 nautical miles while still maintaining a 10% reserve.
With that said, however, this boat was not designed to lope along at 25.5 kn and neither were her engines. You'll probably be running at the recommended high cruise setting of 80% throttle which means 2150 rpm and 39 kn. That translates to a fuel burn of 136 gph, and an endurance of nearly 8 hours and 310 nautical miles.
Outer Bank Heritage
Carolina Born. Hatteras Yachts is located in New Bern, NC which is a short cast from the Outer Banks. For that reason, it was natural for the company to draw on classic Carolina styling and hull design experience for the GT Series. For generations, many men on North Carolina's Outer Banks made their living by taking wealthy anglers out to the continental shelf for big game fishing. Many of the Carolina skippers built the boats they used in the charter trade. As time went on they traded ideas and copied each other to find the best design for the unique requirements of their seasonal business.
Purpose-built. The boats had to be large enough to handle a party of four or six, comfortable enough in the typical six-foot seas for paying customers to want to come back and be fast enough to get out to the fishing grounds with maximum trolling time and still make it back by dark. The vessel also had to be dry in the cockpit to keep customers happy. Finally, the boat had to be fuel-efficient because the cost of fuel was included in the price of the charter -- every gallon saved was money in the skipper's pocket.
Eye of the Beholder. The Outer Banks charter skippers developed a keen eye for what made a boat beautiful. A gentle swooping sheer line, tumblehome in the aft topside sections, crown to the foredeck, exaggerated bow flare, and some carefully-placed teak trim, were all design elements seen on many boats built on the Outer Banks. The charter skippers' boats were not only their source of income but they were also their point of personal pride.
The Business End
Using all the knowledge acquired over half a century, the company's designers created a tournament-ready cockpit with 135 sq. ft., including the mez seating. A mounting plate is laminated into the sole for an aftermarket fighting chair and there is adequate clearance both in front of the footrest and behind the seat for mates to pass from side to side and guide the chair in the heat of action. In-deck, twin 8-cu.ft. fishboxes handle the catch, and a re-circulating livewell in the transom holds the bait. There are dedicated compartments for gaffs and boat hooks – no more keeping them in the rod racks. Tackle drawers and a cutting board are installed in the console to starboard against the bulkhead.
Kibitzers will find a comfortable mezzanine, with ergonomic seats, armrests, and proper backrests. Under the seating, owners can have most anything they want including bait freezers, cold plates, insulated ice chests or storage. At the starboard end is the opening to the engine room.
A Cruising Cockpit?
Many of the GT54 buyers are cruising people and they can customize the cockpit in any number of ways for both voyaging under power or entertaining. Fold-away seats can be put into the gunwales, fold-up lounge chairs and tables can be stowed in the lazarette and pulled out when needed. Even a sun awning overhead can be installed. All of this might sound shocking to Americans who are used to seeing battlewagons like the GT54 armed to the nines for a big game, but Europeans view boats like the GT54 differently. They -- and increasingly more Americans, too -- see other possibilities for the 135 sq. ft. in the cockpit. After all, the GT54 is a "convertible" which means she can be used for both fishing and cruising.
The Flying Bridge
Access to the flying bridge is from the starboard side of the cockpit over the tackle drawers and cutting board counter. It is aluminum with synthetic treads for added texture. Once the ladder clears the console it has a 22-degree angle up to the flying bridge. This angle makes it easier and safer to climb.
Once on the flying bridge our perspective is quite different. We like this basic, traditional design that Hatteras has used for years and has proven to be remarkably functional. The helm comes standard with two adjustable chairs, Palm Beach control sticks on a pod, and there is room in front of the helmsman for two large screens. Other gauges are off to port and easy to see. Standing at the centerline helm all skippers can see the action in the cockpit and most will be able to see the bow as well.
Some cruising convertibles have the helm forward and guest seating aft, but we like the 54's layout for cruising, too. Here's why: first, most guests like to see where they are going; and, 2) we like to have as many eyes as possible facing forward to help the skipper spot pots, kayaks, and flotsam. There is storage under the seats as well as a top-loading insulated compartment for drinks. Forward, in the cowling, is space to stow things such as flares and other gear. We recommend a hard top or at least a fixed canvas top for all convertibles.
To our mind, the only drawback to the GT54 flying bridge -- along with most other boats in class -- is that she does not have a windshield forward on the cowling. We suspect the reason for that is that a windshield in many people's eyes ruins the lines of the house and flying bridge. We agree. But, on those days when the weather is spitting and it is hard to see through the isinglass (as it can be at night), it is far easier to see through a glass windshield with wipers going. Every boat is a compromise and here is one place where Hatteras (as well as its peers) has chosen styling over practicality. We are evidently in a minority on this detail.
The Hatteras GT54 has only one helm station, something that Americans expect in this type of boat, but Europeans may not be used to. All we can say to them is "try it and we think you'll like it." Not only does it save space below, but the view is 360-degrees without obstructions and it is the safest place from which to pilot a boat. When it is cold or rainy, simply drop down isinglass from the hardtop and the occupants can stay reasonably snug if properly dressed.
We should point out Hatteras' willingness to work with customers to customize areas of the boat to make the GT54 better fit an owner's specific application. For example, if only cruising and entertaining is intended for the boat, Hatteras will be glad to install fold-away seating under the gunwales in the cockpit or install a roll-out sunshade over it. Want a third head for the forward cabin? Just ask. Anglers, too, have several areas of obvious customization. The areas under the mezzanine seating can be configured any number of ways. Over and under bunks can be placed in the guest cabins, and a bait prep station can be installed.
Hatteras Website Functionality
For the GT Series Hatteras has some clever website functionality which will give potential buyers a better way to visualize how their finished Hatteras GT54 might look with the addition of such things as a hardtop, a tower, teak trim, and other basic elements. Folks who like the traditional look of a yacht, and who don't mind a little extra maintenance, can opt for teak cockpit sole, covering boards, toe rail, and superstructure trim. Find out how the GT54 will look with each of these cosmetic items as well as with a colored hull on the Hatteras website. Here's the link -- http://hatteras.prototypedev.com/GT54.html
The Bottom Line
When the Hatteras 54 first came out in the early 2000s she had a hull bottom that was a departure for Hatteras. Her bow sections were convex to minimize the impact of rough seas or at high speed in normal chop. But convex bows were notorious for being wet. However, when Hatteras combined that shape below the waterline with Carolina flare above the waterline, a wonderful thing happened -- water and spray were thrown to the sides keeping the boat dry and the ride was comfortable.
Designed for Performance.
As the hull goes aft it warps with a variable deadrise. This is another key to the boat's performance. By creating nearly flat sections aft (just 3.75-degrees at the transom) the bottom provides remarkable lift and an optimum running surface for speed. At the same time, the increased buoyancy aft allows the GT54 to carry more weight and run at a 5-degree angle.
Added to the inherent efficiency of a flattish bottom at the stern are the two tunnels for the 5-blade Nibral props. Five blades provide more prop surface area than does a 4-bladed prop, therefore creating more lift. The fact that the shaft angle does not have to be so oblique, its more horizontal attack gives the prop more forward thrust, thus more efficiency. The props are 56.5" x 35". The huge, deep tunnels also add to efficiency and speed by trapping half of the props' natural side thrust and directing it aft. This phenomenon has been known by naval architects and employed on far smaller boats for years, and we are glad to see Hatteras employ it on the GT54.
The struts in the propeller tunnels are made of manganese bronze. The rudders are stainless steel and are connected through dripless logs to a pultruded fiberglass shelf for the rudder tie rods, hydraulic steering mechanism, and autopilot. This is the only time we have seen a pultrusion (glass and special resin made with intense heat) used in this class of boat and it is an ideal material (because it is as strong as steel and won't rot) for this shelf that has historically been made of plywood.
In the Engine Room
The GT54 has 5'9" (1.75 m) of headroom which is good for this size boat. Because there are no engine room air boxes with water baffles and demisters, the outboard sides of the engine room have more room than they would otherwise. This makes it easier to move along outboard of the engines for inspections and also allows equipment to be installed here. As a result, equipment like battery chargers, hydraulic fluid tanks, and sea chests for air conditioning cooling and deck drains can be easily placed on the hull sides.
There is good clearance between the engines. Getting past the engines in front is tight, but it is easy to get outboard behind them by stepping over the shaft between the marine gear and the generator. The boat comes standard with a 17 kW Onan gen set that runs at a relatively low rpm and is, therefore, quieter and creates less vibration. There is room for an optional second generator. The engine room is painted with polyurethane paint which makes the surfaces smooth and easy to clean. The 54 comes standard with an FM200 fixed fire suppression system. There are numerous bilge pumps with guards on the float switches and an emergency 150 gpm electric bilge pump in the lazarette.
New Galley Design!
The GT54 has a galley "up" which is traditional in this size of a convertible, but there are similarities with the past end. Hatteras has designed a strikingly new convertible galley by getting rid of the "dead-end" alley and in its place creating an island. This does several things at once: it allows the galley to be accessed from two sides, not just one, and it creates more galley deck space so that two people can easily work and get around each other. Because outboard galley deck space is not extended all the way to the port side of the deckhouse as it is in conventional designs, there is actually more counter space in this new layout. Hatteras tells us that the layout is a hit with women, but men like it, too.
The salon has the typical L-shaped sofa which makes into a bed and also has storage underneath. It is a tried-and-true design that has never been improved upon. A coffee table comes standard with storage inside. But like the galley, the salon area also appears to be opened up and even if it is only an optical illusion, it is a good thing. The standard entertainment center and credenza are to starboard. Hatteras has taken a page from megayacht design and disperses its air conditioning over valances port and starboard and has eliminated the ugly grates from which cold air blasted in the old days.
Belowdecks, there's a VIP stateroom forward and a master amidships to port, opposite a third stateroom with two single berths side by side. Buyers who want something different have a wide latitude in custom layouts – anything that won't compromise the hull integrity or cause a structural bulkhead to be moved, according to a Hatteras spokesperson.
Twin Beds Possible.
Regular readers know that we like two separate bunks in the bow, one a double and one a single. For those people who would like a third head, the forward cabin can be configured for a wet head and bunks. The starboard guest room cleverly utilizes space under the companionway. Both of the queen beds have pneumatic cylinders to lift the bedding to access valuable storage. Hatteras has cleverly used the bow flare to increase the volume of the two separate shower stalls, something that is important for the portly among us. Buying a boat like the GT54 is more a process than an event, and buyers who care can expect to be involved right from the start about details that can be customized.
Power and Performance
According to the builder, the GT54 will run 41 knots at top end and 36 knots at cruise with the optional 1600-hp Caterpillar C32A diesels. Twin 1150-hp Cat C18 diesels are also available, and most likely those are the engines that cruising-oriented buyers will specify. The diesels are covered by Cat's Concierge Program to provide customer service wherever the boat is located.
The price of the GT54, of course, depends on the engine, options and the degree of customization. Equipped with the C-18A Cats rated at 1150-hp each, the price is less than 2 beans. With the 1600-hp C-32A's, it is about 2 beans, we are told. While Caterpillar is not shy about charging for its iron, clearly Hatteras has worked hard to make its pricing competitive without a sacrifice in materials, quality or performance.
Hatteras knows that what most boaters want in a 54' convertible is speed, cockpit functionality, striking exterior styling, and a finely-finished interior. The GT54 improves on the old 54 in every one of those areas. Moreover, it has raised the bar on galley design in this type of vessel.
Because of her shoal draft she can also be taken safely across the Bahamas Banks and be cruised in places like the Abacos, the west coast of Florida, the Chesapeake Bay and in the eastern Baltic. Indeed, people lucky enough to have a dock behind their house might find the absence of 6"-7" of draft an extra measure of increased peace of mind during a moon tide.
The GT54 is the smallest boat Hatteras makes so the company considers her an "entry level" vessel. She is certainly that for the Hatteras line which now stretches up to 100', but make no mistake about it, 54' is a good size boat for almost any purpose. And the Hatteras GT54 has the stones to handle most anything offshore. She is also bigger than 99.5% of the boats out on the water despite what you might think from looking at boating magazines.
She is an easy size boat for an owner/operator to handle, and finding dock space is generally no problem in this size range. The boat has an optional bow thruster, but most veteran boaters won't need it. And she is not so big that it takes a crew of people four hours to wash her down after a day on the water. For all of these reasons a 54' convertible makes a good solution to many peoples' boating needs and we think the Hatteras GT54 has much to recommend her.