Boat Review: Paul Mann 65

The number of companies building custom boats in North Carolina has exploded over the past 10 years...

March 31, 2006
Mann 65 2006 Running

Mann 65 2006 Running

The number of companies building custom boats in North Carolina has exploded over the past 10 years to the point that the term “Carolina boat” has come to mean different things to different people. Most of these boats still feature the signature Carolina bow flare, but some builders adopted many different construction methods, often replacing the traditional wood boatbuilding techniques that brought fame to the Carolina boats in the first place.

These days you’ll find boats ranging from bare-bones workboats to luxury sportfishing yachts built in the Carolinas. Paul Mann Custom Boats falls into the latter category, producing boats that combine rugged construction with the Carolina look so many of us have come to admire. And it still builds its boats using traditional Carolina methods and techniques. Mann doesn’t just build beautiful boats; he builds them to fish hard in some of the most challenging conditions found anywhere, from the Outer Banks to Mexico and beyond.

Paul Mann built his first boat in 1988 after spending many years learning traditional boatbuilding methods as an apprentice with some of the top names in North Carolina. He still uses those methods today. “We’re continuing the heritage of the true Carolina plank-on-frame sportfisherman,” says Mann. “Our boats are designed by Carolinians in North Carolina, and built with lumber cut and milled in North Carolina. This is about as ‘Carolina’ as you can get!”


Paul Mann Custom Boats quickly grew into a major Carolina builder, and the company occupies 40,200 square feet of factory space in Mann’s Harbor, a town founded by Mann’s ancestors just west of Manteo. I got a chance to look at not one but three Paul Mann boats during a recent visit to the factory. And I was fortunate enough to see three stages of the Mann building process, from the beginning hull assembly to finish work and the final product.

I tested the recently completed 65-foot Hunter, built for Capt. Walt Spruill. When I found the boat at Pirate’s Cove Marina, Spruill and crew were busy loading her for the maiden voyage south to Florida, the Bahamas and eventually on to Cancún, Mexico. They informed me that the boat had everything aboard they would need for several months in Cancún and was therefore much heavier than usual. I looked forward to running a boat rigged and loaded for real-world conditions, not another one right off the showroom floor with no gear and one-third of a tank of fuel.

**As it turned out, the Hunter shouldered the extreme load with ease. During our test run, Spruill headed south down Roanoke Sound past the town of Wanchese, and we got a chance to put the boat through its paces. Twin 12-cylinder, 1,650-hp Caterpillar C-32 diesels quickly brought the boat on plane with no bow rise, and in seconds we reached a cruising speed of 34 knots at 1,900 rpm.


The boat ran level and proud at all the cruise speeds we tried, and Spruill pointed out that we reached 30 knots at only 1,700 rpm. The electronic Caterpillar display screens indicated that the engines were just loafing along at a mere 55-percent load. Impressive numbers for sure, made even more significant because they come within a few tenths of a knot of the numbers recorded by Caterpillar technicians during their sea trials, when they ran the boat with a light load. The extra weight made almost no difference at all. On the pins, the big Cats pushed us along at an impressive 41 knots.

When Spruill pushed the throttles forward, the acceleration caught me off-guard, and I had to grab a tower leg to keep from going over backward. Likewise, when he came off the throttles, the boat decelerated very quickly, and the power-assisted Hynautic hydraulic steering made the boat handle like a sports car. Mann obviously designs and builds a very efficient hull, with great running attributes and extraordinary throttle response. And although we didn’t run the boat in rough water, Mann boats enjoy a hard-earned reputation as outstanding sea boats. The Hunter promises to be no different.



Back at the dock, Paul Mann took me through the entire boat, starting with the cockpit. As you would expect on a 65-footer, fishing room abounds, and the entire deck and pit area is finished in rich teak. An unlimited Release Marine fighting chair occupies center stage in the pit, with a stainless-steel-lined fish box installed on the centerline of the transom. A rugged transom gate to starboard swings open beneath a fixed section of the covering board.

Forward, the boat features the popular mezzanine deck design, with two levels of storage that create a large aft-facing seating area for passengers. The port unit on top hides an insulated ice box and does double duty as the aforementioned seat. The box below it has three separate sections, with two storage boxes to port and the engine room access hatch on the centerline. The steps up to the salon door contain a drink box on top, with a wet storage box below. The finished unit to starboard, beneath the bridge ladder, holds a Miele cooktop, with tackle storage below and another storage box below that. All the boxes are insulated and lined with stainless steel, giving the area a very neat and professional look.



| LOA 65′ Beam 18’6″ Draft 5’2″ Weight 72,800 pounds Fuel 1,800 gallons Water 300 gallons Max Power T 1,650-hp Cat C32s Base price: Price on request Paul Mann Custom Boats Manns Harbor, North Carolina 252-473-1716|

The boat’s interior rivals any I’ve seen, with a custom leather couch that wraps around to port as soon as you enter and a custom bar and dinette forward. The bar contains Sub-Zero refrigerator/freezer drawers, and numerous storage compartments all around the salon hold a vast amount of gear. Some even hide vital items like a computer system and the sat phone. A huge flat-screen TV commands attention forward of the dinette.

But lots of boats offer these kinds of frills nowadays. I found the small details in the boat much more interesting. For instance, there’s hardly a square corner to be found. Mitreless radii define the trim sections, and Mann builds in recessed sea rails and trim beads throughout the boat. The trim consists of gorgeous, matching Carpathian elm burl. To add to the boat’s eye-pleasing interior, Mann installed innovative horizontal air-conditioning supply slots that run along the top of the bulkhead in each separate living area, in place of conventional (and ugly) vents.

The master stateroom to starboard features a full-length mirror, matching end tables and a full-length hanging locker. Each door in the living area comes with a magnetic door holder to keep it from slamming around when underway. All three staterooms offer flat-screen TVs and sound systems, and Mann even recesses the boat’s smoke detectors to make them less obtrusive. Each cabinet in the boat can be easily removed via hidden fasteners so workers can quickly take them out to access wiring or other systems that might need attention.

**On the flybridge, Mann laid out the boat’s electronics in a logical arrangement above the helm. But the Hunter had an unusual feature I have never seen on a flybridge: two very large freezers built into the helm console on the forward side. These massive units hold enough bait and frozen food for an extended cruise, an ingenious use of space. And speaking of space, the seating area to starboard contains an impressive amount of rod storage.

Engine Room
The engine room contains many clever touches, like a crawlway between the fuel tanks that provides tons of storage space and allows you to get all the way from the transom to the engine room. Mann built the boat with redundant systems since it will spend a lot of time in Third World countries, and servicing the Cats should be easy. A large sea chest sits on the centerline and feeds most of the boat’s raw-water needs, but the engines have their own dedicated sea chests as well.

The 25-kW Northern Lights generator sits forward of the mains, and the fuel filters and oil-change equipment sits on the aft bulkhead within easy reach. The engine room gleamed with fresh paint and bright aluminum, a very well-lit and accessible space.

This boat holds her own against any custom sportfish on the market, and if you haven’t investigated the latest in North Carolina boatbuilding in a while, you owe yourself a visit to Paul Mann Custom Boats. On the new 65, Mann combined traditional, proven boatbuilding methods with exceptional attention to detail to produce a boat anyone would be proud to own.


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