Boat Review: Garlington 54

Garlington offers a simple design to meet fishing's most complex challenges.

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Back in the late 1980s, Richard Garlington ran an advertising campaign that clearly communicated the vision he had for his sport-fishermen. "No bells, no whistles," was all the ad said, emphasizing the simple nature of a first-class sport-fishing boat. Ten years later, and now under the direction of the Landeweer family, Garlington boats still fulfill that promise, as evidenced by the company's newest model, the 54-foot convertible.
The Garlington 54 lives up to this company's legacy by providing the ultra-clean low-profile look, simplistic design, high running speed and well-placed fishing amenities Garlington owners have come to expect. While no one particular area of the boat necessarily shouts "best of field" status, as a complete fishing package this 54 is as tough to beat as the 44-, 48- and 61-footers that have brought this company respect from around the world.

Performance
Based on a hull design similar to that of Garlington's highly successful 61-footer, the 54 was built to make a small hole in the water. That translates into high-tech core composites, a sharp entry at the bow, relatively little sheer and a beam that's 17 feet at its widest point but narrows down to 13 feet 6 inches at the transom.

"We try to make as small a footprint in the water as possible," says Tim Donley, a project engineer for Garlington-Landeweer. "We believe that's the key to achieving the speed and performance our owners are looking for." Garlington's approach obviously works. This highly custom boatbuilder is approaching hull No. 40, and its boats are widely appreciated for their sea-keeping ability and nimble maneuverability. The 54 certainly lives up to those expectations. Running with a full load of fuel and water in a sloppy 3-foot chop, the 54 maintained a top speed of 38 knots at 2,300 rpm. That rpm rating still leaves 50 revolutions untouched due to propping inefficiencies. Donley expects correct propping will bring the boat's top end up to 40 knots.

Though a full set of fuel figures on the brand-new boat was not yet available at press time, early calculations show the 54 to burn about 80 gallons per hour at that 38-knot top end. At a cruising speed of 30 knots at 1,830 rpm, the big 12-cylinder MANs burn fuel at a pace of 60 gph.
At all speeds and in all seas, the boat responds to the touch instantly, turns sharply and runs with no pounding and with little spray coming into the bridge or cockpit. However, future buyers might want to opt for ZF's 2:1 reduction gears to give the boat more thrust at the low end and get her up on plane a bit faster.

Accommodations
While Garlington's "small footprint" approach does contribute to the boat's performance, it also requires a slight compromise in the form of interior spaciousness. While the boat delivers a nice three-stateroom, two-head layout, it does sacrifice some space in the salon and, most notably, the engine room. Headroom in the salon is a good 6 feet 8 inches, while in the engine room, even diminutive captains will find it impossible to stand up.
Still, Garlington overcomes the space problem nicely. In the salon, Garlington utilizes a clever island bar arrangement instead of the typical galley/dinette to open the area up. And in the engine room, though vertical clearance may be a bit wanting, there's no shortage of space in front and outboard of the engines. All systems are easily accessed and maintained, pumps and compressors are housed in a separate pump room underneath the galley, and there's still enough room for a large chest to store tools and hardware.
Belowdecks, a master stateroom with private head sits to starboard, while the port over/under stateroom and forward stateroom with athwartships queen berth share a second head.

Bridge
On the flybridge, Garlington's "less is more" concept wins again. A simplistic pod helm with single-lever controls highlights this clean design, where attention is given to visibility both fore and aft, as well as of the electronics console. With no overhead boxes to impede vision, the boat utilizes a low, angled cabinet running the width of the console to house all gauges and electronics, which are shielded by clear, lockable doors.
The cabinet provides plenty of space to house a chart plotter, depth sounder, radar, VHF and even a backup GPS and depth sounder. A dry storage tray is a nice touch as a catch-all for the odds and ends that always make their way to the bridge, and a large door offers easy access to the wiring and electronics panels. Bench seats both in front of and to port of the console offer plenty of seating and rod storage capacity.
Positioned just to the right of the steering wheel are controls for the 54's trolling valves. With user-friendly buttons for the synchronizer and trolling valves, the unit makes it possible to customize slower speeds without juggling throttles in and out of gear. Even slow-trolling live ballyhoo was a hands-off operation in slow-troll mode.

Cockpit
Garlington builds its boats strictly with fishability in mind - and it shows in the cockpit, where amenities are plentiful and arranged logically. The boat features plenty of rod holders and loads of fish and bait storage. A large, insulated fish box (plumbed to an Eskimo ice machine) is located in the deck, and a custom stainless-steel freezer resides in the cockpit lockers.

A mammoth in-deck circulating livewell makes live-bait fishing a breeze (though a crew that makes its living with that style of fishing may want to opt for more non-skid deck surface or - gasp - bow rails to make anchoring on the reefs a bit less dramatic). The in-deck placement of the livewell allows the crew to empty the net quickly and easily into the well, allows the builder to make the well plenty big and truly circular (to keep bait alive longer), and provides quick access to the bait throughout the day. In fact, since ballyhoo often swim at the top of the well, getting a fresh bait is usually as simple as making a single swipe of the hand into the water. A freshwater wash-down, large transom door and beautiful teak deck and covering boards complete the fishing package.

For more information, contact Garlington-Landeweer, 4396 SE Commerce Ave., Stuart, FL 34997; 561-283-7124.