The Palm Beach 50 Fly has the classic good looks of a Downeast style coastal cruiser with luxurious solid teak interior and decks, and a particular emphasis on performance. The flybridge version allows operators to get outside while underway and also expands entertainment space with a topside table and settees.
- Mid-engine mounted Volvo Penta IPS600s for performance
- High-end real Burmese teak wood work throughout
- Optional owner’s choice of galley, head, and cabin layouts
- Luxurious fit-and-finish - attention to detail
|Length Overall||54' / 16.46 m|
Acceleration Times & Conditions
|Time to Plane||4.5 sec.|
|0 to 30||10.9 sec.|
|Load||2 persons, 3/5 fuel, 1/2 water, 50 lbs. of gear|
|Climate||62 deg., 45 humid; wind: 15-20 mph; seas: <1|
2 x 435-hp Volvo Penta IPS600
2 x 435-hp Volvo Penta IPS600
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Contents of Report
The Palm Beach 50 Fly is intended as a day boat to entertain guests in luxury, for example, to go on picnics, excursions and to watch yacht races, as well as to be a no-compromise, genteel coastal and near-island cruiser for two couples or a family.
• Boat Balance. The mid-engine location on the Palm Beach 50 flybridge contributes to performance and handling without needing to add counter-weights to level similar rear engine boats. The boat’s level ride at full speed is the result of this careful weight distribution; from a modest 5% to 7% bow rise upon acceleration to nearly flat level ride with trim tabs engaged. This level ride extends waterline length and contributes to excellent handling.
• Bottom Shape/Level Ride. The deadrise at the transom of the Palm Beach 50 Fly is only 6-degrees, as opposed to something on the order of 16 to 19-degrees for most boats in class. That makes her running as efficient and as fast as possible. Her hull is designed to stay in the water at full speed, another thing that separates her from others. Our test captain reports that in the snotty sea conditions we encountered during the test, she provided a very comfortable ride.
• Light Weight. Among the Downeast style boats we compared to the Palm Beach 50 Fly, we found that she was one of the lightest, which was somewhat surprising because she has so much solid teak aboard. This is a testament to her state-of-the-art build.
• Grand Banks. This venerable company acquired Palm Beach in 2014. Grand Banks single-handedly started the “trawler” concept in the 1960s and has survived all of the ups and downs of the boating business that has seen dozens of its imitators and competitors fail. One reason for its survival is the company’s unswerving insistence on quality construction.
• Solid Burmese Teak. Most of the teak in Palm Beach boats is solid wood, not veneer. Few boats in class have as much teak built into it, because few builders have the supply that Grand Banks has been able to maintain over the years, in spite of the scarcity in protection of this coveted wood.
• Aesthetic Downeast Design. Downeast recreational boats got their inspiration from working lobster boats which have a large cockpit for handling traps, a sheltered house without an aft bulkhead, a modest cabin, and an almost vertical windshield. Everything was squared off to make construction as inexpensive as possible. Downeast yachts started there and evolved, but many models are not too many generations from the original design parameters.
Palm Beach softened the lines, rounded the trunk cabin, put tumble home in the stern quarters and got the proportions of the house right. The result of all of this is a line of Downeast yachts that has become firmly established, in spite of its premium prices.
• CEO Mark Richards. Much is made of Grand Banks/Palm Beach CEO Mark Richards, who sold Palm Beach to Grand Banks and then was named the CEO of both. Our experience has been that it is the vision, TLC, attention to detail, and management continuity of the CEO (or his family) that separates the brands with successful longevity from the flash-in-the-pans. Mark Richards started Palm Beach Yachts in Palm Beach, New South Wales, Australia in 1995. He is a veteran of several of America’s Cup campaigns as well as a winning skipper of offshore racers, such as Wild Oats, which won Sydney to Hobart line honors eight times. This speaks to his organizational ability and leadership. Stories of his requirement that all shavings and sawdust be vacuumed up immediately so that the boat’s interior – and the work space – is immaculate at all times, permeate the industry buzz.
• The 450-gallon (1,703 L) fuel capacity gives the Palm Beach 50 Fly a substantial cruising range, allowing you to run 10-hours non-stop at top speed.
• Sound insulation of the engine space keeps noise to conversation levels near the lower helm.
• Flying Bridge. Most Downeast yachts are express cruisers, which is to say, they don’t have a flying bridge. This is the case for a number of reasons, and the ones that do have flying bridges often look awkward. Palm Beach has avoided that eye sore by making the forward cowling raked at the same angle as the windshield, keeping its bulwarks relative low, and keeping the bridge itself on the small side. (The flying bridge option over the express version is an extra $160,000, an amount that we think is well worth the added utility that a flying bridge provides.)
It’s all about the details, from the choice of IPS or straight shaft propulsion, right up to the oval portlights in the trunk cabin. Together, they telegraph even to the untrained eye that this vessel is something special. The fiberglass tower rakes back in more than the windshield, adding a sleek line to the profile of the boat.
As we go through the boat it is obvious that the design team at Palm Beach has not just tweaked the approach of popular boats in class, but rather has questioned most assumptions about how a boat in this category should be designed, built, and look.
The Hull Shape
Most important, of course is the hull. The forefoot is sharp which cuts through seas easily and she does not pound. This is her first most important attribute. Secondly, she does not have a wide, pronounced chine lifting to her stem, as we usually see in class. While prominent chines swept up to the bow do a good job of knocking down spray, they also can cause pounding when at speed, and at anchor will produce the annoying slap-slap-slap, which usually keeps awake the folks in the forward cabin.
From her sharp entry sections forward, the hull warps on the way aft until it reaches 6-degrees at the transom. That is nearly flat. It is about as far away from the much-heralded 24-degree deep-V as possible. So what do the Palm Beach designers know that others don’t?
Why Not Deep-V? The Palm Beach 50 Fly’s designers know that the deep-V was invented for offshore racing where small boats were jumping from wavetop to wavetop at 60 mph and were landing on their stern, bow, and amidships. That’s why their 24-degree deadrise was constant, so no matter where the boat landed the boat would get the softest landing possible.
But the Palm Beach 50 Fly will not be going 60 mph, nor will she be involved in offshore racing, nor is she a small boat. This all seems obvious, but typically boats in this class have something like a 16 to 19-degree deadrise at the transom. That deadrise allows them to roll more at slow speeds and at anchor, and is one reason why the Seakeeper gyro stabilizer has been so popular on some Downeast boats.
Flatter bottoms are easier to push and are more fuel efficient. The result is that they can go just as fast as boats with more horsepower, which burn a lot more fuel. The warp of the hull is the secret sauce of all designers, but Palm Beach’s designers seem to have gotten it right.
We tested the Palm Beach 50 Fly on a smoky gray day. She measures 54’ (16.46 m) LOA, has a 14’8” beam (4.47 m), and a test weight of 31,794 lbs. (13,498 kg). She was powered by a pair of 435-hp D6 Volvo Penta diesels driving through jackshafts to forward-facing IPS pod drives with DuoProps.
Wide open throttle achieved 31.4 knots at 3550 rpm for a cruising range of 288.9 miles.
There is no obvious “hump” in her fuel consumption, something we often see with IPS driven boats. At 2600 rpm, we recorded 20.1 knots, where she got 1.0 mpg for a nautical mile range of 406.8. At that speed she has an endurance of 20 hours. At 2200 rpm, she ran 16.2 knots, getting 1.2 mpg for a range of 503 nautical miles, all with a 10% fuel reserve.
Sound Levels. We recorded sound levels at the lower helm of 68.8 dbA (quiet conversation) at 11.7 knots and 1750 rpm. At 16 knots we got a reading of 74 dbA, and at 20 knots, 76 dbA, all quiet readings and a testament to her sound proofing and tight build which does not create loud harmonics.
Acceleration. Generally, IPS-powered boats are not known for their quick acceleration, but we found the Palm Beach 50 Fly to be an exception. From a standing star she hit 20 mph in 6.5 seconds, and 30 mph in 10.9 seconds. These are numbers we might expect to see on a large sport boat.
Our test captain says that of the thousands of boats he has driven, the Palm Beach 50 Fly had among the most impressive handling characteristics. She has a wide turning radius which is typical of all IPS-powered boat. Slow the boat down and the turning radius will shorten.
“The rougher it got, the better it got, no pounding—she just handled great and gave a remarkably comfortable ride,” said our test captain in a post test debriefing with the rest of the BoatTEST staff. In analyzing why her ride was so comfortable, it became obvious that the balance of the boat and her 6-degree deadrise at the transom is a big reason for it.
Instead of her bow jumping out of the water, then slamming down again or into the next wave, the Palm Beach 50 Fly’s bow stayed in the water and sliced through the waves. Because she does not have a relatively deep deadrise, like some Downeast models, she is remarkably stable in all sea conditions we encountered, which were much rougher than normal.
The cockpit is 48 sq. ft. (4.5 sq. m) and is covered in natural teak as standard. There is an L-shaped settee, storage lockers for the shore cord, and other items. Our test boat upholstery was made of Ultraleather.
Storage is in drawers under the seats, in the deck, in the starboard bulwarks, and under the teak steps going to the flying bridge. A sun pad can be created by simply pulling out the port side seat which is one self-contained unit. There are no filler cushions to chase down or stow.
The Flying Bridge
The steps to the flying bridge are teak and wide, but there needs to be a railing outboard so that there is something to hang on to when ascending and descending when it is flat calm, much less in a sloppy seaway.
Once on the bridge, we find a teak deck and four-person booth with teak table to port. Upholstery is all-weather. Above on our test boat was a fiberglass hardtop held up by eight stainless steel supports.
The Upper Helm. The helm is center-mounted and forward on the deck. The carbon fiber pod console is lightweight and house all of the vital instruments and controls.
On Deck Features
The Main Cabin
The sliding door to the main cabin is slightly off center, between the bar and refrigeration units. Our test boat had the galley aft configuration with salon seating forward.
Upon entering the cabin, we find the aft galley, which is a true side to side galley with Silestone counters, a sink to port, and a cooktop to starboard. Aft, there is a shelf refrigerator and four drawers dedicated to cutlery and other gear. Under the sink is storage and forward, lower down, are drawers with dedicated storage for plates, bowls, cups, and other serving ware.
This galley storage arrangement is remarkably clever as the aft refrigerator and drawers do not take space from the salon but actually extend through the bulkhead to the cabinet in the cockpit. Likewise, the dedicated serving ware drawers lower down forward and extend under the seats in the settee forward in the salon area. In this way, Palm Beach has managed to fit a galley up without significantly taking away from the seating area of the salon.
Forward of the galley is the salon which has 6’6” (1.98 m) of headroom and teak and stainless steel hand holds down the centerline on the overhead. Custom carpet with a sound insulation overlay is on the deck. To port is an L-shaped settee and a sofa is to starboard. A moveable table with leaves can be placed here for dining or cocktails. All upholstery is Ultraleather. All cabinets are solid teak.
The windows are large and the sills extend down to just below the backs of the seating to maximize visibility. Just under the helm seat are the entertainment components which include a Fusion Apollo Series stereo system and a flat screen TV rises with a remote from just behind the companion seat to port.
The settees also cover the main engine space. To access the main engines one needs to pull the cushions off the settee and flip the engine hatch switch. This seems like a hassle, but in fact it is usually only something that needs to be done once a day, for peace of mind more than anything else. Modern engine and engine room diagnostics give a reading on oil levels and water temperature. Our concern would be more to check sea strainers for grass, and the bilge for fluids of any type. More on the engine room later.
The Helm and Bridge Deck
Double wide bench seats are provided for both the captain and a companion to starboard, and two guests to port. There is ample storage beneath the seats. A forward mechanical space is entered via a hatch found between the port companion and starboard helm seats. This is where the battery switches are along with the Fischer Panda generator and related equipment.
The helm area has outboard powered windows to port and starboard. Three large sealed windows make up the windshield.
Down a few steps forward of the helm station are the sleeping quarters and the head. The master is forward with a guest cabin to port and the head to starboard, in the galley-up model that we tested. A galley-down and a version with two heads are available.
The Engine Room
The Palm Beach 50 Fly is built with state-of-the-art material and techniques. Further, it has the years of experience of Grand Bank’s craftsmen and engineers involved with it. The hull is vacuum-infused E-Glass, stitched multi-axial fabric, with carbon fiber in structural areas. The hull is cored with Corcell and Airex foam.
Only vinylester and epoxy resins are used which eliminates any chance of water osmosis or blistering. With this technique and with these materials, the hull should have a 60/40 glass to resin ratio, making the hull both strong and light.
The deck and hull are fully-infused carbon fiber. In addition to the normal stringer system, all bulkheads and fixed furniture are bonded to the hull and deck to produce superior strength and rigidity. This is sort of like an egg crate where panels of the hull are supported by numerous stiffeners that reduce flex. It is considered a best practice.
The 450 gallon (1,700 L) fuel tank is composite which means it can’t corrode. It is located athwartships, forward of the engine.
Options to Consider
The standard Palm Beach 50 Fly is fully equipped to leave the dock; however, a variety of desirable options might include:
• Bow thruster – $15,925
• Painted hull sides – $50,000
• Remote docking station in the cockpit – $10,200
• Removable sun awning – $7,200
• Cockpit icemaker – $3,750
Base price is $1,885,000 with twin Volvo Penta 425-hp IPS600 engines with joystick. The express version is $160,000 less.
When we first saw the Palm Beach 50 Fly at a boat show we couldn’t keep our eyes off of her. There is something compelling about her curves and design that exudes class and distinction. While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, in this case, beauty is more than skin deep.
Her basic design concept of having weight forward – for better balance and a better ride – is a departure from what many builders are doing these days. For example, some builders are creating lightweight sleds that will go fast, then give them deep-V bottoms to ride better, then add a gyro to dampen the roll that the deep-V exacerbates.
She is a versatile day boat, with a removable table, a slide-out sun pad, and two optional deck chairs, plus her seating on the flying bridge that guests will like. And, when it comes to cruising, our tests of this hull in 3’ to 4’ (.91 m to 1.22 m) speeds at nearly full throttle proved to us that she is remarkably comfortable in sloppy conditions.