On a run off Vancouver, the new West Bay 75 SonShip Peter Pan proves as impressive as its surroundings.
It would be hard to imagine more magnificent cruising grounds than the waters surrounding Vancouver, B.C. - or to find a more luxurious, seakindly viewing platform than the West Bay 75 SonShip Peter Pan. Perched on a peninsula against a spectacular backdrop of mountains soaring more than 4,000 feet skyward from the sea, Vancouver easily vies with Rio, Hong Kong and San Francisco as the world's most beautiful city. The glittering, vibrant "Gateway to the Pacific" is also the busiest West Coast shipping port in the Americas.
We started off by touring West Bay's shipshape 230,000-square-foot yard with climate-controlled buildings along the Fraser River in the Vancouver suburb of Delta about 25 miles from the U.S. border. The firm currently builds semicustom SonShip motoryachts from 58 to 100 feet in length, with the capacity to go to 180. The recent launching of Peter Pan, first of a new 7000 Series of 70- to 80-foot Raised Pilothouse Motoryachts, marked the 30th anniversary of the company, which got its start building tugboats, commercial fishing vessels, and fast patrol boots for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Coast Guard. It began building luxury motoryachts about 13 years ago, and has seen recent annual production expand rapidly, to about 15 last year - with much of its business from repeat customers, like Peter Pan's owner, moving up. More than half of the yachts go to the U.S. Ease Coast.
As a Pacific Northwest company founded and run by a Dutch family - Ben Vermeulen with his wife Leidy and their three children, Wes, Bas and Rochelle - West Bay blends Dutch quality with rugged Northwest seaworthiness in its yachts. "We are very proud of our history and our quality," says Ben, suggesting West Bay could well be called "the Feadship of the Northwest." Adds Marketing Manager Bruce Taylor, "These boats have to be really seaworthy, because there aren't many places to run into around here when you're out on the ocean and the going gets rough."
On boarding Peter Pan, I was immediately struck by its elegant profile - sleek, modern, yet classic lines. Virtually every corner is rounded, from its flawlessly gelcoated exterior to its superb, finely finished interior joinerwork, done in honey-stained oak with touches of burled Carpathian elm. The yacht's hull was designed by West Bay, with superstructure styling by Glade Johnson and custom decor by interior designer Gerry Panos of San Francisco, its home port. More often, interiors are customized in-house.
A few miles southwest of West Bay's docks, the Fraser empties into the Strait of Georgia at Steveston or "Salmon City," the base of Canada's largest fishing fleet. As this was the opening day of salmon season, the fishing boats were plying the river in force and crisscrossing it with gill nets - which gave us a challenging slalom course and plenty of wakes for putting the boat through its paces.
From Peter Pan's ergonomically curved helm console in the pilothouse, visibility over the foredeck through the big wraparound windshield is superior for a yacht of this size. Seating, on an electrically adjustable leather Recaro helm chair (an option), is extremely comfortable, while handling the boat is facilitated by the standard electronic combination shift/throttle controls and full-size stainless wheel linked to Teleflex hydraulic steering. Hydraulic trim tabs are also standard. The oak console holds a futuristic black-fiberglass instrument panel displaying the standard gauges and an impressive array of optional electronics, from a Robertson autopilot to a Laser Plot chart plotter - all with redundancy at the flybridge helm.
West Bay SonShips are noted for their seakindliness coupled with sprightly performance, and Peter Pan proved no exception. Heading down an open stretch, the 75, powered by twin 735-hp 8V92TA DDEC Detroits, accelerated onto plane quickly, passed through a comfortable cruising speed of about 19 knots at 2100 rpm, and reached a lively top end of 23 knots at 2400 rpm. Future 75s should post respective cruising and top speeds of at least 21 and 25 knots with twin 900-hp 8V2000 DDECs, the new standard engines, with a fuel use at cruise of about 70 gph. Nine optional upgrades are also available.
As we sliced through the wakes, the ride felt smooch, stable and solid. Tracking was as straight as a bowling strike. When we carved figure-eights and zigzagged our way among the fishing boats and nets, the yacht felt sportboat-like in its responsiveness and maneuverability. A couple of hard turns at 14 knots were easily executed, and at slower speeds the 75 could spin around within its own length. The yacht's ride was notably quiet and vibration-free, thanks to its sturdy construction, extensive soundproofing, and through-bottom and through-transom exhaust systems for the engines and generators. This 75 also has optional Naiad stabilizers and KeyPower bow and stern thrusters.
Peter Pan's pilothouse mixes business and pleasure, with the helm seat just forward of an eight-person U-lounge surrounding a stunning Carpathian-elm table. Forming a divider aft is a dramatic pair of matching elm columns atop the oak-paneled galley's Karadon counter. A Sub-Zero refrigerator/freezer, GE microwave/convection oven, electric Ceran cooktop, Whirlpool dishwasher and trash compactor are all standard.
Open to the pilothouse, Peter Pan's spacious, airy salon with 6'8" headroom is rimmed by large windows and double tempered-glass doors to the aft deck. The elegant custom decor complements the woodwork with warm earth tones prevailing here and throughout the yacht, in the thick wool sisal carpeting, plush upholstery, and subtle ostrich-pattern wall trim. The salon holds a wet bar, entertainment center with optional pop-up TV and stereo/CD player, an L-shaped couch with mahogany table, a cushy chaise lounge, an exotic Indonesian teak cabinet, and two leather chairs.
Down a stairway from the pilothouse are three staterooms (a fourth is optional). The full-beam aft master has a king-size bed with mirrored headboard framed by Carpathian-elm columns, twin marble-topped nightstands, two cedar walk-in closets, a vanity, entertainment center, and ensuite head with optional steam bath/shower and lavish use of marble. The nearly equal forward VIP stateroom has a queen-size bed and private head, while the mid-stateroom has upper/lower berths and a shared day head. Opposite is a standard built-in washer/dryer. A central vacuum system is also standard, while Peter Pan's six-zone reverse-cycle air conditioning system and watermaker are options.
Up a beautifully sculpted pilothouse stairway is the yacht's expansive flying bridge. Its centerline double helm seat, which provides first-rate 360-degree visibility, has a back that tilts forward so the helmsman, when docked, can socialize with those on the long wraparound port-side lounge with two Corian tables. Serving them is a standard starboard unit with wet bar, stovetop, fridge/freezer, icemaker and optional barbecue. Aft of the radar arch is a standard davit for the yacht's optional Novurania tender and a Sea-Doo. Most 75s also have a ladder from here to the aft deck.
Peter Pan's aft deck, covered in teak (an option), features two settees, a Corian table, optional wet bar, and twin transom gates leading down to a large teak swim platform with stern rails that lift out for launching the Sea-Doo. A hatch in the aft-deck sole opens to optional crew quarters with two bunk beds and a head/shower, while a pair of steps from the salon to the aft deck pulls up to provide walk-in access to the yacht's pristine, roomy stand-up engine room with workbench and sink. Two Onan generators, 20 and 12.5 kW, and many other major items here are standard. Nonskid walkarounds lead to watertight port and starboard pilothouse entry doors and to the foredeck with molded bow pulpit, anchor locker and standard electric Maxwell windlass.
Peter Pan's seakindly hull is a modified-V with keel, sharp forefoot, flatter aft running surface, hard chines and a flared bow. The yacht incorporates top-quality components and materials and exhibits extraordinary attention to detail. Its rough, lightweight, vacuum-bagged sandwich construction is both high-quality and high-tech, using hand-laid BTI fiberglass with Core-Cell in the hull, urethane foam coring in the fiberglass stringers, and end-grain Baltek balsa-core in the decks and superstructure.
Peter Pan and its sibling SonShips are made for dream cruises to any never-never land.