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April 22, 2011

F&S 54

This boat's lines hold more curves than any sport-fisherman I've ever seen. It's dramatic.

I've enjoyed testing numerous F&S custom sport-fishing yachts, but this one qualifies as the most unique. The F&S 54, True Grit, presents a very different look, designed by the futuristic minds at Steve French's Applied Concepts Unleashed. F&S refers to the design as a crossover, and it indeed crosses over many traditional boundaries. It has the open aft bulkhead of a day boat, the bridge deck of an express, the engine room of a convertible and an interior that looks like it was made for a confirmed bachelor - which the owner is not. And yet, it still boasts an open flybridge with dramatically rounded lines and a rakish profile.

Fighting a fish, this hull spins like a dervish, backs down with total control at 6½ knots and reverses course in both directions in under four boat lengths at cruising speed. When trolling at 8½ knots, the wake is a sight to behold, forming two perfectly clear alleys for your lures. Drifting in 2- to 3-foot seas, the 54 exhibited a moderate roll moment with gentle transitions - it's a very stable platform. In all sea conditions, this boat ran beautifully - it was dry, smooth and quiet at all times. And the SeaStar hydraulic steering responded to mere fingertip adjustments.

Obviously, a custom boat is designed to meet the owner's needs and not mine. But were this one mine, I'd prefer to employ a more powerful thruster. Yes, the one aboard moves the bow in both directions. But one of the advantages of using a bow thruster is that it allows you to shift your engines into forward and reverse to pivot and then balance with the thruster, thereby moving the entire boat sideways. That comes in handy when you need to sidle out of a tight space. And I'd also like to see the engine control panel (synch, low idle, etc.) moved out of the closed instrument box and up onto the dash. The only bow thruster controls are in the throttle handles.

Expecting serious traveling on this boat, F&S installed both a forward windlass and a rear windlass in the rod locker for anchor retrieval from the cockpit.

The cockpit meets fishing needs handily with a mezzanine for guests to watch the baits while staying out of the blazing sun. The obligatory freezers, refrigerators, ice dump, grill and storage hide beneath the seating. A beautiful teak covers the deck, the gunwales, the toe rail and the bridge gate over the tuna door.

You'll notice the spacious storage lockers under the gunwales, one with gaff holders, and a full-width fish box in the cockpit deck. Heavy hatches on the box should help keep ice and fish in good condition.

I have always appreciated a transom livewell with an aquarium window. At night, when lit and filled with bait, these livewells add magical ambience to any cockpit. Rounding out the impressive work space is a handsome Release Marine rocket launcher.

Belowdecks, the salon seems especially spacious since there's only one cabin taking up space forward. The master stateroom in the bow sports an oblique twin berth to starboard and an oblique single higher on the port bulkhead. Several single berths line the salon's starboard bulkhead and double as seating. The galley resides between the berths and the forward cabin. Though fairly spare, the joinery found in the salon and elsewhere is flawless. About the only addition I would make would be to place handholds overhead to facilitate walking forward through the open space while at sea.