With 3200 staff based in Plymouth, Princess Yachts is the largest builder of recreational vessels in the UK. It’s also one of the biggest in Europe, building up to 300 boats a year with an average length of 60 feet.
- Bluewater hull
- Quality finishes throughout
- Full beam master cabin
- All the comforts of a bigger boat in 51 feet
- Plenty of style, and substance
- Shaft drives help trim balance
Classic flybridge models like this glorious Maritimo M51 combine luxury with performance, a combination that’s proven popular with bluewater cruisers and sports fishers alike.
Flybridge cruisers offer three levels of living space and commanding views from the helm, but for the more adventurous there has to be a sturdy hull beneath, something that premium Australian marque Maritimo has understood from inception by its founder, Bill Barry-Cotter.
Another feature of the marque is dedication to shaft-drive boats and its continued development of this robust transmission system to compete with the fuel efficiencies achieved by pod transmissions. And while manoeuvrability is another pod advantage, the shaft drives compensate with integrated thrusters via excellent systems like Twin Disc.
The company describes the M51 as its most compact flybridge motor cruiser, in a range comprising the M54, M59, M64 and M70. Despite being the baby of the fleet, it lacks for nothing, as this 2019 version proves. Originally launched in 2016, this latest version sports a little remodelling.
Modern designers often quote 50 foot as the minimum size to fit all the essentials into a luxury motor cruiser, and the M51 achieves this with three spacious levels of living space, three cabins and ample open deck space.
The M51’s sleek profile – combined with falling sheerlines, curving windows and sympathetic overhangs – compose into a sweet ensemble.
Boarding is easy, no matter which way the M51 is berthed, as doors on each quarter allow access into the stern deck via the teak swim platform. Here, there’s a transom bench seat that’s integrated with the barbecue-wetbar located outboard and includes a new hatch on this 2019 version, giving entry to a lazarette. An optional Sports layout will suit anglers, with fighting chair and fish storage plus more space around the deck without the transom seating.
Overhead, Maritimo’s signature flybridge balcony shades the entire area – an important feature for tropical waters. Gunwales contain rope lockers and oversized cleats. Deep sidedecks feature tall life rails for safely moving to the bow. Here, the flared bow creates a spacious area for relaxing, or for the optional davit/dinghy combination.
Anchoring is served by a large 24V Muir horizontal windlass with 30kg stainless anchor. It can be controlled from the flybridge. Ample cleats – including midships and additional three-quarter ones – makes securing the M51 easy.
Stepping inside the saloon via the glass/alloy bi-fold doors reveals an open plan interior with galley aft, dinette midships and lounge forward; a classic layout and for good reason as it’s usually the most favoured. Inside here, on port are the stairs up to the enclosed flybridge while at the front are the steps down to the accommodation.
The lounge enjoys panoramic views on four sides, but in port you can deploy the roller blinds and cover the aft doors. The toughened glass is subtly tinted to reduce glare. To port the U-shaped loungers surround the gleaming teak dinette table while opposite is another leather couch to finish off this dedicated relaxing area.
For entertaining, the galley bulkhead acts as an ideal bar top for serving the cocktails, and opening side windows give ventilation when the air conditioning’s off. Sensibly, the saloon’s design gives support at sea via the island bench in the galley which allows two-way access to the cooking and the outside diners (who have a folding cockpit table). In the galley gleaming glossed teak cupboards contain a pull-out pantry to hold more than a few weeks’ worth of victuals while perishables go into the twin-door fridge.
The fit-out also has a four-plate electric cook top, microwave and deep single sink. Electric options include fitting a dishwasher into the island bench, washing machine below decks plus watermaker – the M51 is well-equipped for your long-range cruising plans. Generous Corian workspace is available throughout, especially with that island bench but fiddle rails would be welcome. Another large cupboard opposite on port contains the electrical panel, with manual breakers for the 12/24V systems.
Room with a view
Climbing up the teak stairs is worth the effort, and not just for the steerer, as the large enclosed flybridge is an all-weather entertaining area with Maritimo’s signature outside balcony – where you can also back-up onto a game fish from commanding views.
Alternatively, a cantilevered lounge layout can be selected and a canvas overhang keeps it all shaded. Inside the flybridge our review boat had the optional pull-out double bed to create a fantastic room with a view or privacy for the paid skipper. Entertaining is easy up here as well – simply wind back the electric sunroof, open the aft balcony door and enjoy the stunning views from the large side windows.
At the steering console, smarts include twin Simrad Evo3 screens, throttles and the twin thrusters. Trim is controlled by Lenco vertical tabs, with auto and manual modes. The Twin Disc joystick option is a user-friendly docking system for the owner who perhaps doesn’t get enough time aboard to master shaft drive manoeuvring.
Other data clearly presented are the Volvo engine screens and the autopilot, plus a chain counter for the Muir windlass. Stylish leather Pompanette US-made seats – that swivel round for socialising – complement this functional and comfortable console area.
Midships master cabin
A stand-out in this class of boat is the full-beam master cabin midships, with the bed angled to increase the floor space. Set deep in the hull it’s comfy at sea – three steps down to the cabin and the owner should enjoy a restful sleep on the queen-sized island bed with sprung mattress.
Offset to port – to maximise leg room and create a lounge to starboard – it uses the available space well. Quality finishes here include an aromatic cedar-lined wardrobe, drawer lockers, and new panoramic windows (that open) to allow a fresh air flow through the hull and reduce the reliance on the ducted air-conditioning.
The forepeak VIP cabin is an equally comfortable double with ample headroom thanks to the elevated foredeck. Natural light is a little limited due to the single opening skylight but ample LED spotlights create a pleasant ambience and the surrounding shelves with tall cupboards should accommodate your guests’ needs.
The M51 has two bathrooms with spacious shower cubicles and electric heads. A large, opening skylight in each provides plenty of natural light and ventilation. Slotting between the two doubles, the third cabin (to starboard) has two bunks and a large cupboard for the washer dryer. Effectively, it’s a utility room when the teenagers aren’t visiting, and there’s an option to turn it into a dedicated workroom/office.
The key features – deep vee hull, long keel, modest deadrise and flat aft sections for planing – all give the M51 good offshore capability. Additional directional stability comes from moulded spray rails.
Inside, a tall structural GRP grid creates deep bilges in the hand-laid GRP hull (monolithic vinylester below the water and balsa cored above). “The hull is where you need the strength and weight – why compromise it?” says Barry-Cotter. Other structure includes watertight bulkheads and integral GRP fuel tanks. Rigorous build quality is established via external audits and the success of this is clearly evident in the clean layup and quality hull fixings.
Access to the engine room is in the stern deck. The layout is spacious and there’s ample working space around the twin Volvo 670s. The sturdy shaft drive transmission is a popular feature with traditionalists – and they can also opt for the excellent Twin Disc joystick version for easier berthing.
Shaft drives greatly help trim balance, putting weight forward to aid performance by reducing drag. The shafts have dripless seals and are machined in 2.25-inch duplex stainless steel with large five-blade Nibral props. Rudder stocks are bronze.
Notable service points include the Racor 500 filters for each engine and generator – located high aft, near the electrical cut-off and 1.6kW inverter to run the small goods. The M51 has both 12-volt and 24-volt systems, charging AGM batteries (800Ah for house) centred in the hull. Engine start batteries are outboard, with two genset batteries.
The Onan 11kW generator for the white goods/aircon is located aft, with good working space around it. Traditional tinned wiring is used throughout the M51, rather than an electronic bus. This allows simple error fixing. The main electrical switches are at the console with a second set down by the inverter panel – again a sensible layout, as I found with nearly all items on the stylish M51.
Departing Maritimo’s Hope Island boat yard, we snaked our way along the shallow banks of the Coomera River towards the Gold Coast Seaway. Sitting high and comfortably in the M51’s bucket console seat offered commanding views of all the channel markers and only a faint rumble reminded me of the twin Volvos.
I pushed the throttles down, and the precise control from the M51 steering gave me the confidence to close in on the last channel marker before heading offshore. As the M51 rose in the slight swells, I aimed our bow at the iconic high-rise skyline of Surfers Paradise before putting the throttles fully down; watching as the hull steadily rose onto the plane and levelled out.
All done without much effort as the Lenco vertical tabs automatically levelled the 21-ton hull while the numbers on the Simrad GPS showed an impressive 30.3 knots top speed. Reaching this had been done without complaint – no murmurs or groans from furnishings – and no dramas when I put the wheel down to feel the hull dig into (rather than slide through) the turns and then cut through our own wake.
Throttling back to cruising speed of nearly 20 knots showed a fuel burn of 168 litres per hour giving a range of about 352 miles, but for voyages to New Caledonia, displacement mode would dramatically increase this to 800nm.
Returning to the Gold Coast Seaway, slow handling of the M51 was next on my list, as I centred the steering wheel and used the fore/aft thrusters to go astern – just to remind myself about old-school handling – and the M51 obediently went backwards despite the side wind with occasional nudges on the bow thruster.
My notes stated, at the time, ‘plenty of style and substance’ which is a fair summary of this accomplished Maritimo M51./>