Freedom 56 IPS - Boat Review

Pod propulsion really makes driving your own boat fun again, and the Freedom 56 IPS delivers....

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Freedom may be the most powerful custom boatbuilder that you have never heard of - but believe me when I say that the skill and experience at this Wanchese, North Carolina, facility rank second to none.

Performance
Carolina custom builders seem to have embraced azipod-drive technology more enthusiastically than many production companies, and Freedom Boatworks dove in with its 56, sporting three Volvo IPS drives. (Independent testing of two identical vessels when IPS first debuted showed that with every conceivable performance parameter assigned a numerical rating, the IPS drives enhanced overall performance by 33.8 percent - a significant improvement.)

The Freedom topped out at almost 42 knots turning 2,400 rpm and burning 102 gph through the three 670 hp diesels. When cruising at a perfectly respectable 27 knots (1,800 rpm), that fuel consumption dropped to 53.7 gph - that's just 17.9 gph per engine and pretty economical.

But the handling around the dock and fish-fighting ability truly sets any pod-propelled vessel apart from all others. There's literally nothing you can't do with pods - go sideways or diagonally, back down straight as an arrow and change direction like an adolescent female's fashion sense. Speaking of females, your significant other will certainly be an easier sell when she discovers that she can be equally capable of driving and docking this 56-footer after 15 minutes of instruction. Beware, however; that could be a double-edged sword: She may want to take it out with her friends and without you.

Sport-fish mode on this boat locks the wheel and amps up the fish-fighting performance. I dare say that no fish will outmaneuver this boat. And there's dynamic positioning too. At the press of a button, the propulsion system automatically keeps you in position and on the same heading. Imagine how easy it will be to bottomfish in deep water now that you never have to drop anchor again!

The pods turn the boat tighter or wider depending on your speed. Want a smaller turning radius? Back off on the throttles a tad and watch that circle tighten.

Flybridge
The Freedom sports a centerline helm with the console to starboard and a portside flybridge ladder. Loads of guest seating with storage beneath sit forward of the console. Additionally, one aft-facing seat at the top of the ladder lets a guest watch the trolling spread while under way yet reach the cockpit in a trice if a rigger pops.

Cockpit
Most pod-drive sport-fishing boats sacrifice fish-box space because the pods are situated under the cockpit. That's not the case aboard the Freedom 56. Gigantic athwartship fish boxes provide more than sufficient space. And opening the aftermost cockpit hatches reveals the pods, whose installation could not have been better engineered. Every box (fish, refrigerator, freezer, etc.) in and around the cockpit is custom fabricated of stainless steel.

Of course, no boat today will likely sell without the obligatory mezzanine, and the Freedom accepts that with twin seats to port and starboard.

Interior
One aspect of the Freedom I found particularly impressive: Throughout the boat, craftsmen made every effort to provide traditional elegance. However, none of it comes at the expense of functionality. The stainless-steel boxes in the cockpit should last forever, and the Amtico flooring throughout the interior looks like solid cherry, yet you can drop a cinder block on it with impunity.

Freedom also builds in a weight-conscious fashion. The granite countertops in the galley are veneers over aluminum honeycomb, and others are lighter-weight Corian.

I always appreciate big windows in the salon, both for ambient light and for the view (I boat because I like being on the water). However, when someone is feeling a little queasy, being able to look out the windows and see the horizon while seated is a plus.

The galley hides a trash can outboard of the island, and since the galley is raised, it too offers a great view outboard and into the cockpit. You'll find all the appliances we've come to love in our homes and then some, such as under-counter refrigerator and freezer drawers, a ceramic four-burner cooktop and tons of storage space.

Belowdecks, a big machinery space under the stairway to master hides thru-hulls, a water tank and the Headhunter toilet system. The athwartship double master boasts a huge hanging locker with drawers in the front and sides of the base for storage, in addition to space under the bunk. I really admire the beautiful radius curves belowdecks in bulkheads, locker doors and more.

One thing I've never seen before is the unique twin pocket doors between the cockpit and the salon that open with mechanical assistance. No pneumatics, hydraulics or electrics, just simple mechanical advantage - and they work perfectly!

Engine Room
I welcome standing headroom in any engine compartment. And while it may be a squeeze to get around the three engines jack-shafted back to the IPS pods to access plumbing or ventilation systems, once outboard, you'll find plenty of space to work.

You can readily access every routine maintenance point, and this space qualifies as surgically neat and clean with a Livos air-handling system and surfaces treated with Awlgrip throughout.

Design and Construction
Freedom cold-molds the hull over a male jig built to very exacting standards thanks to the design and lofting expertise of Applied Concepts Unleashed. The execution shows pleasing radius curves and compound rounding in every direction. Crews will especially appreciate that Freedom covers the entire foredeck in nonskid.

Freedom builds pod-drive boats exclusively. It designs the hulls and centers of gravity specifically to accommodate this propulsion right from the outset rather than trying to redesign an existing hull to adapt to IPS. This allows Freedom's boats to offer a tremendous amount of additional interior space, improved performance over similar vessels with conventional propulsion and an ease of operation you really must experience to believe. Pod propulsion really makes driving your own boat fun again!

LOA......56'
**BEAM......
17'6"
DRAFT......4'8"
WEIGHT......48,000 pounds
FUEL......1,000 gallons
WATER......200 gallons
MAX POWER......Triple 670 hp Volvo IPS 900 diesels**
PRICE......On request

Freedom Boatworks / Wanchese, North Carolina / 252-473-2096 / www.ncfreedomboatworks.com