The next generation in Cheoy Lee's fishing dynasty.

TO HEAR RALPH Holden tell it, Nan Sea, the Cheoy Lee 50 he bought last year, is the nautical equivalent of the legendary go-anywhere Jeep. An avid fisherman, Holden tells of days when just he and a couple of other hardy boatmen ventured forth in stormy seas during a tournament, only to see the others turn back due to rough seas while he fished in (relative) comfort.

Yeah, he 's made a few minor changes - the optional fishbox Cheoy Lee offers wasn't to his liking so he installed a customized version; he added an extra stowage box over the tackle station; and he's turned the washer/dryer space into rod stowage - but that's because he's a dedicated tournament angler who obviously needs serious fishing equipment, and the 50 was designed to be a "convertible" (its official appellation is "Sport Yacht" ). The boat is really meant to appeal to weekend fishermen who enjoy cruising almost as much, and cruising boatmen who occasionally like to really go after a fish.

This is not to say the 50 isn't a good fishboat; it's fast (almost 29 knots with twin DDC 8V-92TA diesels), quiet, has a clean trolling wake, and backs down as quick and easy as any blue-blood sportfisherman. Inside, the warm teak panelling and the straightforward salon and accommodations for six (four in single berths) are reminiscent of a dozen varieties of tournament boats. And under the skin, it's as high-tech as they come.

According to Holden (who's put 500 hours on the boat), it handles equally well in head, beam, quartering, and following seas. That's quite a statement, deserving a closer look. The boat has a rather interesting pedigree: it's a second-generation design from Tom Fexas, who has become known for his iconoclastic and weight-conscious approach to naval architecture for Cheoy Lee and custom yacht builders. The first generation was the Cheoy Lee 48 Sport Yacht, first built in the mid-1970s and no longer in production. It was the "first large production boat" that was fully cored (with Airex), top to bottom, to save weight.

The 48 had an extremely deep, convex forebody which was designed to effectively eliminate pounding in a head sea. The forebody tapered into keel, and above the keel aft, the bottom flattened out to a 9-degree deadrise at the stern. The result was great performance in head sea, okay in a following sea, and so-so when quartering. Her flat sections made for great efficiency, and she did good knots with less-powerful 8V-92s available in those days.

LOOK UP - The view from the helm is good, and electronics are overhead. Push the throttles, and the 50 Sport Yacht will run 33 mph.

BIG AND BRAINY- The galley, engine room, and cockpit are spacious and practically designed. Much of the boat's interior is cored with Airex.

With the 50, Fexas said, he modified the forebody and added two spray rails forward to make this boat a bit drier than the 48. Abaft the forefoot, the bottom bulges slightly a third of the way aft from the bow. The keel is much shallower than the 48's, and flats at the chines widen from amidships to a whopping 22" at the transom. Inboard of the flats, the V is a much-deeper 16 degrees. The effect is to retain some of the boat-lifting efficiency of a flat bottom with the better tracking a moderate-V can provide. The wide flats also help stabilize the boat in a quartering sea, while the V keeps it on course.

Saving weight didn't stop with the hull. Much of the joinerwork on the base boat, which can amount to 20 percent of the boat's weight, is cored with Airex, topped with teak veneer. Airex is also sandwiched between thin fiberglass laminates throughout the superstructure. With full fuel and water, plus some modest optional equipment, the boat weighs 36,000 pounds, very light for her size. It's not unusual for a 50-footer to be at least several tons heavier. The light weight js a big help in a fierce backdown; despite her size, she turns and maneuvers as quick as a much smaller boat.

SEE THE LIGHT - The staterooms are plush. Weight-conscious construction allows good cruising speeds as well as impressive agility when fighting fish

Fexas said a 50 just out of the factory should run around 33 knots. In our test of Nan Sea, the top end was four knots less, some of it most likely due to the large tuna tower and other rigging, which can take a knot or two off any boat. In terms of performance, the 50 ran with virtually the same efficiency throughout her midspeed ranges, averaging between .42 and .45 gph between 1400 and 2000 rpm. (Nan Sea cruises at around 2150 rpm.) The boat came up on plane quickly and had no apparent "hump" (where efficiency is reduced just as it reaches planing speed) - a consequence of Fexas's wide chines.

Ideal weight she looks hefty, yet at only 36,000 pounds, she's light enough to maneuver as quick as a smaller boat.

Another interesting feature on the 50 is the integral fuel tanks, which are common on many Cheoy Lees. They use the boat bottom as the tank bottom, two bulkheads for the fore and aft ends, and a cover to form the tanks. There are three tanks on the 50: one under the cockpit sole and two smaller saddle tanks outboard of the engines.

The 50 is constructed using four foam-cored, glass-encapsulated stringers extending the entire length of the hull. Transverse webs are not used except where the space between the four structural bulkheads suggests an extra support is needed. The bottom, hull sides, and superstructure are all made out of Airex sandwiched between layers of 18-oz. bi-axial fabric. Unlike many companies who use a variety of materials, Cheoy Lee employs the 18-oz. bi-ax throughout the boat for ease of construction, simply adding more layers in high-stress areas. The bottom uses six layers, three outside and three inside; topsides aft use two outside and two inside; the forward hull sides use two and three; the foredeck three and three; the cabin top, two and three.


The photos on these pages are actually of two different boats. The interiors, supplied by Cheoy Lee, show the factory model without any custom features. The running shots and exteriors are of Nan Sea, which has a custom black lmron hull. The following description is of Nan Sea; custom features will be pointed out as such.

The large 130-sq.-ft. cockpit features a teak sole and a padded coaming. A long fore-and-aft hatch to starboard of the optional fighting chair opens in two places; the forward portion is a rectangular livewell capable of holding a couple of dozen ballyhoo without any trouble; the aft section accesses the bilge and the running gear. On the other side of the chair, another rectangular hatch opens to an optional fishbox. Holden has replaced the factory version in favor of a removable ice chest.

The transom holds a door to starboard and large scuppers (three, including one centerline) with rubber covers to prevent backwash. Instead of the customary cleats under the covering board fairleads, the 50 uses ship-type bollards here and throughout. On each side, under the covering boards, is a good-sized rope locker.

From port to starboard, along the forward bulkhead in the cockpit are: bait-prep station with sink and workspace under a hinged lid and stowage underneath (Holden added a tackle box over the station). The lid is removed entirely while fishing. The three steps to the salon engine room access (with lid and two doors, a large ice chest for beverages; and a lower helm station (Morse controls) with more stowage underneath. (The Halon fire-control trigger is at the foot of the station.) Nan Sea has Datamarine depthsounder in the wall next to the throttles. All in all, a very ergonomic setup. The only minor problem was getting the ice chest, which meant reaching around the bridge ladder. But that's being picky.

The engine room is well-organized, with an extra dose of space forward of the engines for the Westerbeke genset (15kw is standard), water heater, air conditioning, etc. There's a good two feet or so outboard, making possible repairs of any part of the engine. The sole is plywood, and the entire space is lined with thick, insulated, Mylar-coated foam for soundproofing. (At cruising speed, the sound level in the salon was reasonable 85 decibels.)


The ladder to the bridge takes you up three steps before angling forward for several more. Even with the optional awning retracted, access is easy. At the aft starboard corner of the bridge is the liferaft case, neatly encircled by stainless-steel railing. This location makes it far easier to get to than the usual place on the foredeck.

The bridge makes extensive use of curved surfaces, from the egg-shaped helm station to the twin L-shaped settees with stowage underneath facing each other forward. (The triangular hi-lo table is between them.) Another seat is just to starboard of the helm itself, which sports a complete set of VDO gauges. (There are two swivel adjustable helm seats.) To port of the helm is a large flat surface suitable for anchoring radar and other electronics, with large stowage underneath. (Don't put a chart there, since there is no way to hold it down.)

Most of the electronics on Nan Sea are in two overhead compartments. Holden has installed a Northstar 800 loran; a Furuno FCV-552 fishfinder; a Datamarine Chartlink and depthsounder; an Andrea loudhailer, a Magnavox MX4102 satnav; and a Raytheon RDF. A Robertson autopilot is under the flat to port. An optional Raritan ice-maker is to starboard, just abaft a settee.


Entry to the salon is via a darkened-glass sliding door opening to starboard over another equally large glass picture window. Thus, those inside have a nearly unobstructed view of the cockpit - a good place to watch lines from. The door itself is very heavy; the negative is that it's hard to slide, the positive is that you don't need to latch it to keep it open underway.

Holden has customized the interior somewhat, something that Cheoy Lee offers customers who purchase boats before they're completed - a process that takes about six months at the Hong Kong yard. (Some of the final custom work is done stateside.) The interiors shown in this article are the standard version: a bench seat along the starboard side behind a hi-lo table; built-in teak tables on either side with stowage underneath; easy chairs opposite; television in a teak cabinet to port of the sliding door. Holden has replaced the bench seat with an L-shaped settee that butts up against the starboard side and a large panel separating the galley, which occupies the forward third of the salon. He also put a small cassette tape deck (standard) in a side table between the aft portion of the settee and the bulkhead. Also, the hi-lo table was removed in favor of a removable table (he wanted more space) that stows against the aft bulkhead behind the television cabinet.

The galley stretches the full width of the boat, with access forward via an off-center passageway between counterspace to port and starboard. Under a large countertop on the port side are two Subzero half-height refrigerator and freezer units. To starboard is the main working area: counterspace, double stainless-steel sink, Galley Maid three-burner electric stove, and extensive cupboard space along with several drawers underneath. All the counterspace is well-fiddled.

Against the forward bulkhead is a transverse teak counter about a foot wide. A Kenmore microwave and more stowage lockers fill the teak panels above the countertop. All the equipment, including an ice-maker under the aft counter, is standard. And every locker throughout the boat uses positive-catch latches, a nice touch. An unusual feature, in the teak parquet sole are two hatches accessing the forward part of the engine room. (Many boats have only one entry.)

A hatch in the overhead above the galley hides the standard rod stowage locker. It holds about a half-dozen rods, but more serious fishermen would probably want something larger.


Three staterooms and two heads occupy the interior forward. The master stateroom is to starboard, first teak sliding door to the right. The bed is a fore-and-aft double with 6"-thick mattress, with bedside tables on both sides. A large hanging locker is at the foot of the bed to starboard, another smaller one to port, under a recess for the optional television. Between the two is the door to the private head, with a large stall shower (teak grating and seat), a fiddled counter with sink outboard and toilet opposite. A small hatch lets in sunlight and fresh air.

Opposite the master is the second stateroom with fore-and-aft over and under single berths, small hanging lockers and set of drawers. Another small hatch is in the overhead. Forward of this stateroom is the space for optional washer/dryer. (Holden has converted this space into a large rod stowage locker, also containing the standpipe for a swinging davit on the foredeck for a dinghy.)

Forward of the washer/dryer is the second head, with stand-up shower, toilet, and sink. The third stateroom is all the way forward, and contains chest-high V-berth (basically two singles joined at the foot), accessible via a built-in step. There are small lockers at the head of each bed, drawers underneath, and a large hanging locker just abaft the port berth. In the overhead is a large hatch.

Standard features on the foredeck are two raised pods curving inward from either side of the house forward to a mid-point on the foredeck. The pods are actually a design element, an extension of the line of the lower portion of the house that extends aft of the cockpit. Hatches on the pods cover good stowage spaces for lines, hooks, etc. Four fender holders fastened to the railing are also standard.

Such is the Cheoy Lee 50. As a fishing machine - smart, maneuverable, and quick - she is plainly a superior product. The cockpit is large and use-friendly, and the bridge easily converts from fish headquarters to party central for eight. Inside, the joinerwork is excellent, and the top feel is easy to live in. Considering her advanced construction and refined pedigree, she is priced very competitively at $518,000 (base).