The new Hatteras M90 Panacera combines a bluewater pedigree with strong, resin-infused laminates and a shipboard-monitoring system that’s cutting-edge intuitive.
The alongside slip at North Carolina’s Wrightsville Beach Marina looked like a pushover, although there was a center console obfuscating one end. Chris Leyden, the skipper Hatteras had hired to bring the new M90 Panacera Motor Yacht down from New Bern, stood on the flybridge, at the starboard-side wing station, with one hand resting atop the long, sleek extension of the boat’s polished-stainless windshield receiver and the other atop a Caterpillar 360 joystick maneuvering control. Patiently, he watched the guy in the center console crank his outboards and, with youthful insouciance, toss off his lines.
“Yup,” I concurred, looking down from a spot just forward of the wing station. As the center console finally began pulling away, Leyden worked the 90 into a position that was parallel to the dock but still a good ways off. The exercise required little of our QuickShift transmissions—just a couple of joystick tweaks did the trick.
Leyden glanced down the 90’s hullside, all the way to her massive, bang-strip-equipped quarterguards, making sure our fenders were properly deployed, and then began walking the Panacera slowly in. A couple of marina guys materialized and as they perfunctorily secured our lines dockside, Leyden looked up and grinned widely at me, obviously well pleased with joystick docking Hatteras-style, an exercise he had just experienced for the very first time.
“Now that was sweet,” he said, with a gesture that included everything from the joystick to the superb sightlines the wing station afforded to the 90’s giant, eight-bladed props, geared down to an extraordinarily deep, torque-boosting ratio of 4:1. “Real sweet!”
Oceanic Sea Trial
Earlier in the day, during a lunch stop in Beaufort, Leyden and I had discussed postponing the sea trial scheduled for the trip. According to the weather info extant at the time, conditions were likely to be sporty once we hit the open Atlantic for the long run down to Wrightsville and top-hop measurements taken in 8- to 10-footers were likely to be inaccurate.
Our concerns were allayed once we cleared Beaufort Inlet, however. We were looking at 6-footers, not 8-to-10s, a scenario that proved workable for the 90 but still sporty enough to generate some very impressive sea trial data.
Take the average speeds I recorded, for example. To this day, I find it remarkable that our test boat, with just under a full fuel load, was able to shoulder her way through a fairly provocative sea state in the open Atlantic and still produce wholly reasonable and reliable performance numbers, including a rousing (under the circumstances) average WOT velocity of 23.1 knots. Not all big boats could have accomplished this. But then again, not all big boats share the same, deeply fundamental quality that sets the 90 apart—a whopping displacement of 245,000 pounds.
Of course, heft is nothing new for Hatteras. Over the past 56 years, the company’s built a raft of heavy vessels that emphasized seaworthiness over speed, and the 90 fits the theme precisely, despite the serious weight savings she accrues from a fully resin-infused hull, resin-infused decks, and resin-infused stringers and bulkheads. So where does the heft come from?
“Many things contribute,” explained Hatteras Design Engineer David Clubbs as I spun the wheel on the 90’s flybridge, sending her into the second half of a large, figure-of-eight. The maneuver went smoothly, with a modest inboard heel (via standard ABT-Trac stabilizers calibrated to optimize banking as well as trim and stability), a slight loss of RPM, and little more than a saltwater spritz on the windshield. Actually driving the boat went smoothly too, thanks to the responsiveness of her Sea-Star electric-over-hydraulic steering, the absence of trim tabs (and the necessity of adjusting them), and a running attitude that remained steady at four-and-a-half degrees from a low-cruise of 1500 RPM to a WOT cruise of 2240 RPM.
“A good deal of the weight in this particular boat,” Clubbs continued, “comes from all the fluids she carries for extended adventures around the world—835 gallons of fresh water, almost 1,200 gallons of black and gray water, and nearly 3,500 gallons of fuel.”
Other weight-increasing factors, Clubbs added, include the aforementioned, extra-heavy eight-bladed props that, by maximizing blade area, convert horsepower to thrust with exceptional efficiency and simultaneously reduce vibration; the use of solid wood in onboard bulkheads, doors, and furniture as opposed to lighter, veneered foam cores that can deflect or fail; the use of heavy, durometer-appropriate, rubber-like pads from Soundown on interior soles to keep noise levels low (besides my measurements at the helm, I recorded just 77 decibels in the salon, 68 in the galley, 74 in the master, 71 in the VIP, and 66 in both guest staterooms at a cruise speed of 18.5 knots); and finally, the use of oversized, redundant mechanicals (such as extra 230-volt, stainless steel, submersible, crash-type HeadHunter bilge pumps), an ample standards list (with, among other things, a watermaker, air-conditioned hardtop, and iso-transfomers) and all the extra breakers (each in a proprietary fireproof box), and “service loops” that augment virtually every electrical installation in the 90’s well-loomed, well-groomed engine room.
What is HattCON?
“Mind if I try pulling up a bearing line on the radar, maybe use that sea buoy out there as a target?” I asked. We were just north of Masonboro Inlet and Leyden was on the wheel while Clubbs and I played with the 90’s brand-new, wholly redundant HattCON total ship management system, which, from what I’d gathered so far, was capable of monitoring and controlling virtually everything on board via a swipe, tap, or toggle.
“Sure, go ahead,” said Clubbs, the chief designer of the system, which will make an appearance on other models in the future.
Once I’d activated the radar icon on one of four touchscreens at the helm, I quickly and without really thinking located the EBL (Electronic Bearing Line) icon, tapped it with my index finger, produced an instantaneous EBL, and again, with my finger (and little thought), moved the line to intersect the target produced by the buoy. A mere couple of seconds got the whole job done!
“Amazing,” I said, with a sideways glace at Clubbs. “I’ve operated a bunch of shipboard management systems, but this baby’s gotta be the most intuitive one yet. Very iPhone-esque.”
Clubbs grinned. Smartphones and easy-to-use GPS plotters were the inspiration for HattCON, he noted. Moreover, instead of a single network, as with other systems, HattCON relies on several separate networks, a strategy that adds bandwidth (thereby increasing speed and stability) and produces an ergonomic interface (with control modules in the accommodations spaces as well as at the helm) that is completely uniform, no matter what function is called for.
“Take our two VHFs here,” said Clubbs, pointing at two Furuno FM8900S radios just inside the open hatch for the “electronics room,” a large, watertight space forward of the steering station beneath the flybridge cowling. “Sure, you can use each of them in the conventional way if you want to. But, to make life easier and more understandable for the owner, we’ve also HattCONed both of them so that using the VHF becomes a touchscreen event that’s really no different than accessing engine data or turning on the radar or, for that matter, pulling up an EBL. The basic interface works for everything, just like on a smartphone.”
Wrightsville Beach Coda
After touring our 90’s four-stateroom, four-head interior (which, by the way, was expertly crafted and finished and featured a dimmable skylight over the galley island, a fold-down balcony, an electrically activated glass slider between the cockpit and the salon, and a squarish, residential ambience throughout), I wound up leaning against one of the two Kohler gensets in the engine room gabbing with Clubbs. The 1,900-horsepower C32 Caterpillars hadn’t been shut down for long, so the vibe was toasty, although the big, thermostatically controlled Dometic blowers were quickly taking the edge off.
Clubbs was finishing up an explanation of how float switches and flow switches in the fuel system had been designed to prevent accidents when transferring fuel from one of three fiberglass fuel tanks onboard to another. “When a float switch in a fuel tank activates,” he concluded, “it shuts down the transfer pump automatically—that way you don’t wind up pumping fuel overboard through the vents. And then we install a flow switch upstream of the pump itself—so if you attempt to operate the pump with no fuel available—say the tank is empty—it shuts down, again automatically. Keeps you from burning the darn thing up.”
A quiet spell ensued. “This boat’s got two themes going for her,” I finally said, nodding first toward the bank of three Racors mounted alongside each main engine and then toward an array of electrical power cables on the forward firewall, all combed, loomed, and then Adel-clamped on 12-inch centers with tie-wraps in between. “On the one hand, she’s super-sophisticated—that HattCON system you’ve got is cutting edge, no question. But on the other hand, the boat’s loaded with all the practical, seaworthy stuff that 56 years of boatbuilding generates—you know, stuff like triplex Racors and AC bilge pumps as well as DC.”
“True enough,” Clubbs opined, “But I’d also have to say the whole point of the sophistication you mention is to make sure our owners can actually use all the practical, seaworthy stuff we’re giving them. Otherwise, maybe they’d never know what they’ve really got.”
Test Conditions: Air temperature: 82ºF; humidity: 80%; seas: 6′ or slightly more; wind: 14 to 20 knots
Load: 2,900 gal. fuel, 330 gal. water, 4 persons.