Boat Review: S&J Boatworks Violator 54

This custom 54-footer counts as unusual in several ways. First, it weighs in at less than 43,000 pounds, making it a very light boat.

January 31, 2006

This custom 54-footer counts as unusual in several ways. First, it weighs in at less than 43,000 pounds, making it a very light boat. Yet it offers the ride of a much heavier vessel. Of course you can choose whatever interior wood you want, but this hull spoke of olden days, with beautiful dark mahogany covered with flawless varnish. And finally, check the price. Because S&J builds the Violator line at the Vicem (pronounced vee-shem) shipyard on the historic west coast of Turkey, you get a lot more bang for your buck.

A massive cold front pushed through the night before our test run. By 0730 the next morning, winds from the northeast blasted through Palm Beach at a steady 30 knots, with gusts up to 45. Seas inside the inlet ran to 6 feet, with 12- to 15-footers in the Gulf Stream – I didn’t even bother heading offshore.

With twin 800-hp MAN diesels, wide-open throttle (2,310 rpm) produced a top speed of 36.8 knots – certainly no snail’s pace. I imagine that with the optional pair of 1,050-hp power plants, this boat would run like a scalded dog. At a quick trolling speed of just under 10 knots (1,000 rpm), I found widely dispersed surface turbulence and two distinct alleys on either side of the subsurface prop wash.


Running 23 knots straight out the inlet into the head seas turned out to be a nonevent. To turn around I gunned the outboard engine and spun the boat quickly in the steep seas. The 54 tracked back down-sea into the inlet like it was on a wire.

I admit to being surprised by this boat. Because it weighs less than 43,000 pounds, I expected the ride to pound, smack and roll. Even laying beam-to the seas, the roll moment proved slow, and the transitions were unbelievably gentle. Chop the throttle at cruising speed and watch the S&J glide for a long distance, which speaks well of its low-resistance hull form. I backed down at 5.4 knots with easy control. Though it didn’t spin really fast with engines in opposing gears, I cranked a wheel-hard-over turn at cruising speed and the S&J 54 carved a 180-degree course change in about 31¼2 boat lengths. Remarkable.

Engine Room
I hate feeling like a spelunker when I enter an engine room. Thankfully, the Violator 54’s hatch and engine compartment are both roomy, to a point: A small person could climb outboard of the power plants, but not I.


Excellent single-lever crash-pump valves are easily accessible at the forward end of the engine bilge, but I wish they put them aft by the entryway, for obvious reasons. The generator and filters on the back end of the compartment keep the living quarters quiet and make maintenance much easier.

Unlike on previous models, S&J did away with saddle tanks, placing all fuel tanks on centerline. This leaves more room outboard in the engine room, as well as improves stability by lowering the center of gravity.

The centerline helm leaves plenty of room behind the seats for guests to access the companion seat without the driver moving out of the way, yet I found the view of the cockpit superb.


As you’d expect, S&J provides an expansive area for flush-mounting electronics, as well as a hatch in the overhead where you can hide your teaser reels when they’re not in use. Also on the flybridge you’ll notice a large wet bar to port and built-in air-conditioning ducts for hot-weather comfort.

An anchor windlass on the bow feeds into a huge anchor locker, which sports additional sections for fender and dock-line storage. And something I particularly appreciate, the entire foredeck is coated with a durable nonskid.

This is a custom boat, so obviously you can stipulate anything you want along the forward bulkhead here. This particular model offered a cutting board on top of the starboard module with tackle drawers below. Moving to port past the salon door, you’ll find the engine-room access, followed by a deep freeze behind the flybridge ladder. A sink sits on top of the port cabinet with more storage underneath.


True to the “yacht” ambience, you’ll find no veneers aboard an S&J. Standard fare includes a solid-teak deck and covering boards in the cockpit, as well as your choice of wood elsewhere. The big scuppers drain the space rapidly should you take one over the transom, which, by the way, holds a large, oval livewell on this hull. Two large in-deck fish boxes can be plumbed for ice or freezer plates. Between them, the lazarette hatch affords easy access to the machinery, valves and pumps.

Walking into this boat took me back many years to some of the boats my family owned in the halcyon days of yachting. Though you can choose the type of interior you like best (previous owners have chosen cherry, pear and rosewood), this 54 boasts solid Khaya mahogany with a high-gloss finish – exquisite and perfectly matched. And the wood doesn’t just stop in the salon; every interior bulkhead is made from the same gorgeous mahogany. Floors in the galley and heads are all varnished teak and holly.

The salon layout consists of an L-shaped settee to port, abutting a galley island stretching athwartships to centerline. The dinette sports another L-shaped settee surrounding a hi-lo table capable of seating three or four. The table drops far enough to turn into a daybed. And all salon seating hides storage. A bar cabinet with beautiful radius-curve front doors also conceals a plasma TV that rises on rams.

The galley’s Corian counters hold a sink and a two-burner cooktop, with storage and refrigerator/freezer drawers underneath.

Belowdecks to port, a double cabin with over/under single berths shares a head and separate shower with an island-double guest cabin across the companionway. Finally, the master stateroom in the forepeak boasts an island double berth, separate vanity and a private head with shower. And of course you’ll find storage under all the berths.

Design and Construction
As with so many custom sportfishing vessels today, S&J uses cold-molded construction, meaning it alternates thin layers of mahogany wood with fiberglass and West System epoxy for a very lightweight but strong laminate. I guarantee that you’ll never suffer from marine borers or dry rot.

You’ll be able to take this 54-footer just about anywhere in the Bahamas, too, thanks to the prop pockets that reduce the draft to less than 5 feet – quite a remarkable accomplishment for a boat this size.

If you’ve been around yachts for a long time, you, too, should find the S&J most intriguing. She looks like a product of Old World design and construction, but performs like a high-tech machine with a ride you’d expect from her advanced components and design.

S&J Boatworks Violator 54
S&J Boatworks Violator 54 Spec Photo


  • LOA 54′
  • BEAM 17′
  • DRAFT 4’9″
  • WEIGHT 42,600 pounds
  • FUEL 840 gallons
  • WATER 200 gallons
  • POWER T 800-hp
  • MAN D2848LE diesels
  • BASE PRICE $1,124,158

S&J Boatworks Riviera Beach, Florida 561-844-9849


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