BOAT REVIEW Princess F55

August 2022 Launch Reviews
OUR RATING
4 STARS
Performance
Economy
Handling
Value
Build Quality
Specification
MODEL DETAILS
MODEL Princess F55
DESIGNER Princess Yachts
BUILDER Princess Yachts
PRICE AS TESTED AUD$3.49M
SPECIFICATIONS
LOA 17.6M
BEAM 3.87M
DRAFT 1.46M
DISPLACEMENT 4.6kg
ENGINE 2 x Volvo D13-900hp or MAN i6-800
FUEL CAPACITY 2749L
WATER CAPACITY 608L
Maximum Speed 31.2 knots
Cruise Speed 25 knots
ACCOMMODATION Three cabins plus crew
HIGHLIGHTS
  • Stylish interiors, superb workmanship and detail
OBSERVATIONS
  • Volvo Penta diesels very smooth and quiet
  • Easy manoeuvring thanks to Volvo EVC joystick linked to bow- and stern-thrusters

Standing out amidst the flybridge sweet spot of 50-plus-footers takes something special and this is what British builder Princess Yachts has delivered with its well-proven F55.


Globally shared components, often competently integrated into various brands of premium motoryacht, doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room to really shine. Which means there is a vast armada of this style of boat, as evidenced by leading international shows. Princes Yachts fully understand this after nearly 60 years of trading. So, when creating the F55 back in 2017, it was simply more of the same things that always made Princess boats shine in a crowded market: hand-crafted quality with interiors from dedicated cabinetmakers and a deep attention to detail to go along with the quality. 

Advertisement

Case in point is the curved, grain-matched walnut panelling on hull #102, reviewed here in Australia. The F55 is a sporty, open-top flybridge cruiser with twin helms. The hull number clearly tells the success of this model, which received a cosmetic revamp this year, but only cosmetic –why change a winning formula, after all?

Princess has been making high quality motoryachts since 1965, with a range that currently runs from 35 feet to superyacht-class 100-plus-footers. The boats are produced by a workforce of 3,000 in Plymouth, south-west England, a region I lived in and boated around for many years, so I know how steeped in maritime tradition it is. 

Princess’s mid-sized F-Class (flybridge) four-boat range goes from 45 to 62 feet. I’ve fond memories of conning a very distinguished 64 flybridge Princess around Rottnest Island on the Australian west coast, its open flybridge ideal for spotting bommies in the clear water as I sought an anchorage. In fact, it is the open flybridge that really distinguishes the range – a feature that works especially well in Australia’s mild climate. 

Greg Haines at Princess Australia has brought in several open flybridge models over the years. Along with his experienced associate Scott Davis, he runs a busy operation based on the Gold Coast. He explained that for 2022 some cosmetic details have changed on the F55, including reshaped hull windows, which visitors to the recent Sanctuary Cove Boat Show saw on the latest hull.

Climb aboard 

Aesthetically, the yachts raked profile may not immediately catch the eye, particularly lined up at Cannes or Miami, where I saw the first F55 a couple of years ago, but the understated exterior encloses a very functional and stylish motoryacht. 

Boarding from the wide teak hydraulic platform via one of two transom gates is a bit of a squeeze past the RIB secured there, but a step-up to the cockpit reveals a comfortable and weatherproof space, dominated by the transom bench with folding teak table. The gunwales feature oversized cleating and capstans for European style aft docking can be fitted. Underfoot there’s a hatch to the engine room and another for the crew cabin entry. This cabin can be ordered as a self-contained ensuite arrangement with single bunk, fore and aft windows for ventilation, plus air-conditioning. 

Beyond the cockpit is the grand entrance to the saloon with two large sliding doors and a hinged galley window to completely open up the rear of the saloon. Once open and with the galley adjoining and the bar-top style layout, it becomes a functional eating and cocktail space. I could imagine enjoying a cocktail or two there while watching the Cowes Week fleet depart the Solent while nicely sheltered from the UK’s often inclement weather. 

Views from the decks are also good, especially the foredeck with its Portuguese-style walkway between the gunwales and twin elevating sunbeds. You can also rest easy at night because Princes Australia upgraded the ground tackle with a large Ultra anchor and oversized vertical windlass.

Moving aft – easily done because of wide side-decks and heavy-duty railings – took me to the teak flybridge staircase. The flybridge really is another outstanding feature on the F55. Its open design with portside helm, wet-bar and lounge aft is ideal for outdoor entertaining. Clear plastics can be attached to the slim struts for more weather protection, says Greg Haines, but they add windage and in my opinion detract from the atmosphere overall. The aft lounge is also a dinette, thanks to the teak table and grill/fridge/bar facilities. There’s a liferaft slot here as well. 

At the business end, the console is slightly quirky with the passenger seat on the inside, but it means the driver is nearer the centre of the F55. Sitting on the bucket seat as I glided along the Broadwater towards Brisbane, I was impressed with its great visibility. Most usefully, the twin helm seats are accompanied by L-shaped companion seating that converts to a sun pad. The fibreglass hardtop just shades the Garmin Glass Bridge instruments enough to ensure they are always readable. All the essential controls are the same as downstairs – Volvo joystick and throttles, with tabs as well.

Subtle saloon

Stepping into the saloon is yet another pleasant experience on the F55 – everything just looks right. By that I mean the layout is sensible, with galley slightly lowered to port and the central saloon seating is raised to allow panoramic views through the large side windows. Another step elevates the helm position to starboard. 

Two consoles have pros and cons. Extra expense is one con and impinging on saloon space is another, but downstairs is the only place I’d like steer from when offshore. That’s because tall flybridges’ pendulum effect in a swell eventually tests even the hardiest of stomachs. 

The saloon helm console echoes the equipment layout of the flybridge but with hand-stitched leather bucket seats for support and stability. Practicalities abound as well – the main switchboard is beside the console with maintenance access underneath from the cabin, while an electric window lets the skipper give instructions to the deck crew. 

Behind the helm position is as a magnificent lounge with sumptuous couches each side, an industrial-strength elevating dinette/coffee table and – another illustration of attention to detail here – wings on the couch ends for comfort at sea. Once you’ve lowered the window blinds, simply snuggle into the port seat and click the remote for the 49-inch elevating television. Cabinetry is about the best I’ve seen for a while – curved walnut panelling with directionally laid veneers, polished stainless-steel inlays, and contemporary paint finishes, contrast with darker wood. Around the galley slotted cabinets bristle with branded crockery, complemented by the L-shaped work surface that demarcates the area, yet still allows two people to prepare food. The fully equipped galley has a deep, square sink with cabinets overhead and underneath. 

Other essentials include a four-hob electric cooker and oven, plus a large dishwasher. Another Antipodean essential is the tall, upright fridge with a freezer beneath. Below decks there’s a washer-dryer and an optional watermaker, so no limitations on the H20. 

Three cabins

The atrium-style companionway layout takes advantage of the saloon windows above the stairs to create a grand entrance to below-decks. Accommodation consists of a full-beam master stateroom aft with dressing table, breakfast area and ensuite bathroom. The forepeak double cabin is VIP level, with a semi-ensuite shared with the twin-single third cabin to starboard, and the voluminous hull means all these cabins are airy and stylish with portlights to ensure plenty natural light as well. Stand-out details in the master cabin include the vanity with mirrored shelf and the lounge seating and table on port, which provide enough support to be used when underway; something many other builders do not take into account. Engine noise could possibly intrude through the aft bulkhead while underway, but that’s not a problem at rest. The light and bright third cabin’s sizeable, electrically-motivated single beds slide together to form a double berth.

Island cruising

Leaving the busy Gold Coast behind took only minutes and soon we were among the islands, the F55 moving at its optimal cruising speed of 22 knots, which gives a range of about 300 nautical miles. The northern Broadwater has hundreds of islands and islets, as the Garmin Glass Bridge clearly showed at the flybridge helm. The flybridge’s height was greatly appreciated, both for navigation and great views of these snaking waterways. The flybridge might be open to the sides, but my hair was hardly ruffled, thanks to the visor and the GRP Bimini top shading me, but eventually I sought a change of view and moved below. 

Comfortably seated, I threw the F55 into some turns and even sought my own wash, given there were no naturally occurring waves on the Broadwater. There were no groans came from anywhere on the vessel, even when I reached 33 knots – the hydraulic steering required minimum effort and I made only minimal use of trim tabs, which indicates this is a nicely balanced hull. 

Eventually I slowed to avoid our wake affecting a small yacht, giving me a chance to check out the boat’s slow speed handling. Engaging the Volvo joystick, I began backing-up the F55. I imagined a marlin on the line as I arrowed straight astern. This Volvo EVC black box system cleverly controls the shaft drives and seamlessly harnesses the fore and aft thrusters – all done without vibration or delay. The system allowed me to easily control the F55 despite a robust side wind. Alternatively, for around the deck, a Yacht Controller wireless system is an optional extra that I found equally effective. 

Ideally, I would have cruised further north to my favourite sandbar anchorage at Jumpinpin, or to shelter behind Crusoe Island for a few days if Jumpinpin was too windy. But sadly, I had to hand the F55 back to Princess Australia. 

Hull and systems

Princess use GRP resin-infusion with smaller parts hand-laid, which creates a more uniform layup and weight. The variable deadrise hull shape – dee-vee forward with modest deadrise aft to promote planing, ensures a good motion in a seaway, aided by the longshaft engines on Dripless seals spinning four-bladed alloy propellers. 

Our review boat was fitted with twin 900hp Volvo D13s. Space around them was generous with filters forward, near the dual marine-grade alloy fuel tanks. Behind them, and rather too far aft for my liking, was a Seakeeper gyro and the 17.5kW Onan generator. However, as I found during the sea test, it didn’t much affect trim, requiring only moderate use of the tabs. 

This boat has standard copper wire electrics rather than a digital system, so it should be simple and easy to fix should something go wrong. 

Sea trial performance figures recorded

Conditions: wind-light, 80% fuel load and three people, 2 x 900hp engines

RPM

Speed

Litres p/hour

Range(nm)

650

7.4

11

1850

1000

10

41

670

1500

13.2

130

279

1850

21.9

200

301

2000

25.2

227

305

2350

32.2

334

265

www.princessyachts.com www.sportsmarine.co.nz

/>

Fleury 6.7 Keeler

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Leonardo Da Vinci. A simple boat can mean basic; more rarely it can mean a boat where functionality has been achieved through careful thought, attention to detail and hidden sophistication. Our test boat, Haumanu, is a perfect example of the latter.

Marex 330 Scandinavia

Norwegian boat builder Marex is on to winner with its Lithuanian-built 330 Scandinavia, as evidenced by taking out the Best of Boats Award 2021 in the category ‘Best for Family’ and European Boat of the Year 2022 at Dusseldorf. Best of Boats is the largest annual award for motorboats in Europe.

Innovision 616 Explorer

Painted in a striking metallic Brisbane Blue from Superyacht Coatings, this distinctive looking trailerboat is a bold and beautiful sight. An updated version of the Innovision 616 Explorer, she was delivered to her new owner in mid-April, just a fortnight before this review, having been built to order in the Innovation workshop in Albany, Auckland.

YouTube