Paul Mann 81 – Boat Review

A sea trial and review of the latest offering from Paul Mann

Paul Mann qualifies as a truly unique builder: Of course he builds very advanced boats, always subscribing to the latest technology, but he also designs all of them himself. The fact that his boats turn out so beautifully, and that there’s a constant demand for them even in hard times, speaks to just how good he is at what he does.

Interestingly, some smaller, lighter boats powered with the same 2,400-horsepower MTU 16V2000s only go slightly faster than Mann’s new 81-footer. This boat reached a top speed of 40.3 knots, turning just over 2,450 rpm and burning 240 gph. Cruising at 26.8 knots proved more economical, burning just 100 gph. At 28 knots, this boat felt like it was just loafing along, the way it feels to cruise down the highway at 90 in your big, comfortable SUV — you don’t even realize how fast you’re going until you look down at the speedometer.

Spinning on a fish, the MTUs load up quickly, making for a stately revolution. However, add the bow thruster, and the 23-foot beam really kicks around. After about 5 knots in reverse, the owner’s requisite swim platform scoops water and prevents Georgia Girl from going any faster backwards but as Peter Wright likes to say, boats go much faster pointy end first.


This boat rides smooth, goes fast and remains dry — hard characteristics to combine in a boat this size. “You can make it light and it’ll ride hard,” Mann says. “Or you can add weight to the boat and make it ride better. But then the boat might throw water unless your running surface is just right.” The water leaves the 81’s hull just about amidships, keeping everyone dry. “This one reminds me of a 65 on steroids,” Mann says.

One other item I noticed concerns the trim tabs. Usually, a captain must be very cautious about raising the tabs before fighting a fish, lest he break one off when reversing on a fish. Mann’s tabs are so beefy that you’ll never need to worry about that little mishap.

The owner loves to bottomfish and requested twin livewells, with windows and internal lighting, on either side of a large refrigerated fish box in the transom. A truly unique cockpit feature places custom hangers in the under-gunwale cabinet to port that fit all the Swobbit cleaning utensils. Other storage boxes under the mezzanine seating can be customized as refrigerators, freezers or dry boxes.


In recent years, Paul Mann and his band of craftsmen have become quite renowned for their LED lighting, which you can see from the nighttime photo is very dramatic. Aboard Georgia Girl, not only do the treads of the flybridge ladder light up, but the tops and bottoms glow white too.

A big, beautiful Release Marine Contour fighting chair mounted on an offset stanchion in the cockpit augments the Release helm and companion seats on the bridges.

You’ll find an aft-facing seat to starboard of the helm along with a spacious entertainment area forward that’s comprised of a slightly curved settee to port and another large L-shaped settee to starboard, complete with a stunning coffee table. Under the seating, you’ll find some of the most creative rod storage I have seen to date, along with tons of freezer space. The owner rarely pulls into a marina when away from his home port, preferring the privacy of a quiet anchorage.


At the helm, the instrument array rises on rams from the console as the engine monitoring displays drop from the overhead just forward of the recessed Miya Epoch US-9 computerized teaser reels.

The day head to starboard just inside the cabin door has a privacy feature — flipping a switch frosts the glass window to the cockpit.

Bare floors throughout the 81 feature cork surfaces, while the fine joinery is satin cherry veneer. Granite counters are shaved and mounted on aluminum honeycomb backing.


Because of the owner’s boating style, the galley is extensive and the boat offers up tons of space for utensils and staples. It provides separate storage registries for all dishes and cookware as well as a four-burner ceramic cooktop, full-size convection oven, microwave and an extra-large dishwasher.

Mann uses truly unique latches — positive locks with hidden triggers — on under-counter refrigerator drawers, and all the pantry drawers boast 200-pound-capacity slides, allowing the owners to pile in all the canned goods they could possibly want.

Van Brunt’s Custom Upholstery from Wanchese, North Carolina, builds all the integral furniture with hidden storage. When accessing that storage, you don’t even need to remove pillows.

Belowdecks, the lighting drama continues with tri-colored LED lighting in each head and shower. Mann designs these beautiful heads and showers for maximum shoulder room.

The owner enjoys spending time with a whole slew of grandchildren, so initially he wanted the forward cabin with its island queen to feature oblique single berths. But when he saw the full-size mock-up (which Mann creates for every interior), the owner changed his mind. “I want the singles to look like — cabinets,” he said. So, where you’d see cabinetry up under the deck along each bulkhead in most forward cabins, on Georgia Girl, the portside cabinetry opens to reveal a very cool single berth that all the grandchildren now have dibs on.

Engine Room
It’s always a treat to stand up straight in an engine compartment. Georgia Girl’s qualifies as extraordinary, with more-than-standing headroom in the engine compartment and work space all the way around each engine. Nothing is inaccessible. All systems, like pumps, watermakers, air conditioning, generators, etc., have redundant systems. The A/C units mount on Delrin slides, so that all you need to do is pull the pins and each of the four compressors slides out for easy maintenance. Speaking of maintenance, the crew can sit on a bucket at the water manifolds to port and chemically flush every A/C line in the boat as well as maintain the Eskimo ice maker and other water intake needs from one comfortable spot.

Paul Mann isn’t totally sold on the various digital electrical distribution systems yet, so he elected to install a standard breaker system with a digital monitoring/alarm system piggybacking on top, which you can still use to turn things on and off — seemingly the best of both worlds.

Design and Construction
Another first for this boat is a Naiad fin stabilizer system. “I worried about what it would cost me [speed-wise], but it still busts 40 knots and the Naiad really works,” Mann says.

While it certainly makes the ride more stable, the handling characteristics in a turn take some getting used to: With the stabilizer off, the Mann 81 leans into and carves a beautiful, tight turn. In fact, this 81-footer feels and handles like a much smaller boat. With the fins active, the boat no longer leans into the turn. It stays flat — consequently scribing a somewhat wider arc. However, on this boat’s inaugural fishing trip out of Oregon Inlet, it raised and caught two blue marlin, so the system obviously has no deleterious effect on raising fish.

I judge boats critically on their plumbing and wiring. Every wire throughout this boat has a heat-shrink-tube label at the connection telling you exactly what that wire is. The plumbing snaps together, is well-marked and is very easy to trace.

Outside, safety needs to be a priority, especially when children go cruising. I discovered absolutely superb handholds going up the side deck to the bow at a level that even children can manage safely. And the entire foredeck is coated in nonskid material.

Each time I head to Wanchese to sea-trial a Paul Mann vessel, I suffer some disbelief: I can’t imagine the new one being better or more advanced than the last. But I’ve also learned that that attitude denies the inevitable.

WEIGHT……130,000 pounds
FUEL……3,100 gallons
WATER……400 gallons
POWER……MTU 16V2000 M92CR 2,400 hp diesel

Paul Mann Custom Boats / Manns Harbor, North Carolina 27953 / 252-473-1716 /


Email Newsletters and Special Offers

Sign up for Marlin emails to receive features on travel destinations, event listings and product reviews as well as special offers on behalf of Marlin’s partners.

By signing up you agree to receive communications from Marlin and select partners in accordance with our Privacy Policy. You may opt out of email messages/withdraw consent at any time.