Home . Articles . Boats . Boat Test . High-caliber cruising

High-caliber cruising

2015 July 1

The Gunboat 55 takes cruising to a higher level of innovation, speed and elegance


On deck

The deck is laid out for shorthanded sailing—it’s really quite ingenious how all control lines lead to the forward cockpit that is located under cover in the saloon, with very little noticeable friction. Two people can sail the boat efficiently. Two Lewmar 58 hydraulic winches do most of the heavy lifting and a bevy of cam cleats and Spinlock clutches control halyards, sheets, reefing clew lines and furling controls. A Harken mainsheet traveler spans the aft crossbeam with the control lines led forward. A solent jib—a small full-battened headsail—is hanked on, self-tacking and controlled on a curved Harken track with a ball bearing traveler car with pin stops. The sheet runs from the clew to the track then up the mast to a sheave then back to the clutch. Some owners opt to set the solent jib on a furler.

The side decks are wide, and making your way fore and aft is effortless, especially on a stable, flat platform sporting 25 feet of beam. The hatches are flush mounted; no stubbed toes on the Gunboat 55. The pilothouse is lined with 800 watts of low profile solar panels, enough to run almost everything aboard the boat given a bit of sunshine. The trampolines are Spectra with individual lashings every 6 inches for safety. The anchor roller is a composite construction and is part of the longeron. The anchors stow cleverly under the forestay and a 24-volt hydraulic windlass is standard. There are forward storage lockers, accessed from below, for extra sails, fenders and equipment. It would be nice to have above-deck access as well. Each hull has a wide swim step and there are electrically controlled carbon dinghy davits between. 

Bob Grieser
The interior layouts include a galley-down arrangement, above, which puts the galley in the forward starboard hull, opening up the saloon for entertaining


Down below

Arguably the most innovative feature on the Gunboat 55 is the synthesis between a traditional cockpit and saloon. 

“The minute we step aboard most cats, the aft doors and windows are opened and usually stay open until we leave the boat,”
Johnstone said. 

A good point, and this observation led to the idea of eliminating the aft bulkhead and creating an open-air, indoor-outdoor space that can be buttoned up when necessary. The result is stunning. Wide open spaces in the saloon frame the helm and sailing control area just forward of the mast. Large pilothouse ports contribute even more natural light. The effect was enhanced on Rainmaker with her galley-down arrangement that puts the galley down in the hull, freeing up space in the saloon. Rainmaker’s owner, Brian Cohen, used the boat primarily for entertaining and business meetings and wanted the extra room. About half the boats have a galley-up plan. 

Let’s start with the forward cockpit and helm station. This is the control point for handling the boat, and all sail controls are led here and are within easy reach of the helm. The wheel is sculpted carbon fiber. There’s a retractable moon roof above and two sliding doors forward to give quick access to the foredeck and welcome ventilation for the helmsman. Standard electronics are B&G with a 12-inch Zeus display. Johnstone’s voyaging experience is evident with two independent autopilots with a crossover switch as part of the standard electronics package. Other electronics include everything from daggerboard position indicators to AIS. The visibility is much better than in most cats where you are overlooking the super structure from the aft end of the boat or perched on a fly bridge well above the fray. 

The Gunboat 55 blends the concepts of saloon and cockpit and the aft doors can be opened to the covered aft deck.
Bob Grieser

The bridgedeck area serves as one large living space and includes weatherproof Italian style Ultraleather sofas with storage below. The dining table, which comfortably seats eight, is to starboard, and there’s a large daybed aft. 

The beauty is in what’s not there. It would have been easy to cram this wonderful open space with lockers, bars, berths, etc. Instead, the lack of vertical surfaces and sense of openness is completely refreshing and part of the design ethos of showing restraint; the Gunboat 55 does not have to be all things to all potential customers. 

Each hull is sealed off with a watertight hatch. Both hulls feature a luxury double stateroom aft with an island berth, head and separate shower. Rainmaker featured an owner’s cabin to port and a second aft cabin to starboard. The galley is forward on the starboard side and includes a four-burner stove and oven, a Vitrifrigo refrigerator with a separate freezer and double sinks. Galley-up models feature a Miele induction stove and a Bosch convection oven and microwave. The countertops are Corian. There are three custom interior arrangements available and plenty of fit and finish choices. 

The systems are well engineered and are an intriguing mix of sustainability and efficiency that are at the heart of Gunboat philosophy. The solar panels produce an impressive amount of power, allowing the 55 to linger at anchor for days; this is truly a boat for off-the-grid living. The heart of the electrical system is 20KW 48V diesel generator and lithium ion battery bank. This system creates the power needed to drive the electric motors and saildrives. Flexofold three-blade folding props are standard. While Rainmaker was fitted with conventional Yanmar diesels, referred to in the promotional material as the “Old Iron Propulsion Package,” Johnstone is convinced that electric drives are not only here to stay but will soon dominate sailboat propulsion, especially on multihulls. 

“It’s not a matter of if, just when,” he said.

A Spectra 300 GPD watermaker is standard, which is why there is only a single 80-gallon water tank. 

Continue reading: Prev | Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Next