Hatteras exited the economic morass of recent years with a roar rather than a whimper, introducing three all-new models in what it calls its GT series: a 54, a 60 and a 63. We ran (and reported on) the GT60 in our November 2010 issue. Several weeks ago, I got the chance to sea trial the new GT54 on a horrendous day in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Interestingly, when spinning on a fish, the GT54 turns virtually as quickly without as it does with rudder. Backing down proved most impressive, with a speed of 9½ knots in reverse before a drop of water came over the transom. When it did, the innovative scupper design emptied the cockpit quickly. These scuppers drain straight through the outer hull, but they are hidden in profile as the water exits out the aft end of the splash/rub rail. Ingenious!
When turning, a mechanical differential-steering system turns the inboard rudder more than the outboard rudder, thereby creating a tighter turn. Overall, turn response qualifies as completely predictable, and that's high praise.
During what we hoped was the last cold front of the year, winds blew in from the north at 20 knots, generating 3- to 4-foot seas nearshore and quickly building to 8 to 10 feet just a short way out. I didn't envy anyone trying to cross the Gulf Stream with that stiff north wind opposing the strong southerly current.
Drifting in the big troughs was majestic rather than uncomfortable thanks to a very short roll moment and gentle transitions. As far as pure performance goes, make no mistake: This is a very quick boat. Running in the troughs, I managed a top speed of 41.3 knots, and I sensed that the boat had a tad more to offer. But at the other end of the spectrum, you need to really pay attention when running at harbor speeds - you can throw an impressive wake unless you take one engine out of gear. Hatteras installs bow thruster tubes in each hull whether you opt for a thruster or not. This particular hull did not, and at 54 feet, I didn't really miss it.
The cockpit space easily accommodates two anglers plus three mates with nary a conflict, even with the Pompanette fighting chair in place. Hatteras provides plenty of storage under the gunwales and under the seats on the mezzanine. In fact, I counted 22 standard-issue rod holders around the cockpit.
You'll find plenty of cooler and freezer space in the mezzanine, along with an Eskimo ice maker dump and other refrigerated spaces. What I especially like is that Hatteras glasses the chill coils into the resin-infused boxes, so you never need to worry about plates or damaging coils.
Certainly, you can set your cockpit up any way you choose, but this particular hull sported an underdeck livewell to port, a fish box to starboard and the lazarette under the fighting chair's footrest. The fish boxes seemed to be a tad shallow due to their location atop the prop tunnels.
Though not in the cockpit, I did notice two other on-deck items. One is the excellent anchor locker with wash down. Hatteras provides a generous hawsehole, so you don't need to leave your anchor hatch open when you're on the hook. The other is the set of steps and handholds on the transom that allow someone in the water to re-board. On the slightly negative side (though easily fixable), the forward corners of the cabin house need a black handle that blends in with the brow mask as you walk to the foredeck. Without it, you're left with an insecure no man's land between the side deck and the open foredeck.