Fairline Yachts in the village of Oundle, England (not far from Stamford) was started in 1967 and began by building small fiberglass boats for the UK’s canal and river system. Today the company builds 19 different models from 35’ to 85’. They are sold world-wide.
The Squadron 55 is a three stateroom motoryacht that has a 15’9” beam (4.80 m) and displaces 48,750 lbs. (22,160 kgs.) dry and has a 650 gallon (US) fuel capacity (2,460 L). Fairline offers three different engine packages, two from Volvo Penta and one from Caterpillar. We have not tested the Squadron 55, but the builder says that the WOT of the boat with the Volvo Penta D13 900-mhp (2x) is 32 knots. That is fast for a boat of this displacement with an 18-degree deadrise, in our opinion. Obviously, the boat’s relatively narrow beam, and its prop tunnels which help direct added thrust aft and the reduced shaft angle, all play an important role in this kind of performance. The naval architecture and structural engineering was done by Bernard Olesinsk.
Details of Distinction
We like to go over the specifications and equipment list for every boat because invariably it points out where a builder’s focus is. All builders we know of making motoryachts this size are trying to build good boats, it's just that some have a focus on one area, while others are more concerned about something else. So, here goes—
Bottom Shape is Important
Fairline tells us that the 55 has an 18-degree deadrise at the transom and also a “deep-V forward.” This indicates to us that Fairline wants to create a good ride at speed in fairly rough conditions. And why not? This company’s testing grounds are the English Channel and the North Sea. Also, the designer has made the swim platform (“bathing platform” if you are British) integral to the hull. We like boats designed this way because it extends the useful waterline, creates stowage room, and is not going to get torn up in certain sea conditions as can happen to a standard fiberglass platform that is bolted on.Finally, the hull has propeller pockets which means that it draws less water, in this case 4”11” (1.51 m) and the props attack the water at a more efficient angle.
Life on Deck
On deck at the bow, the Squadron 55 has a calibrated anchor chain system. This is a must for chain as it is quite difficult to tell how much scope one has out at night without it. The boat is also fitted with a self-stowing Delta anchor which makes anchor duty easy. Fairline has created dedicated storage for its fenders, which we like, and more builders ought to do this. There are warps in the stern quarters to help Med mooring chores. Fairline thinks proper motoryachts ought to have teak decks and we concur. Both the exterior aft decks and the swim platform are covered in teak as is the whole deck. Teak is not really as hard to maintain as many think and we like it. Fairline does not screw down the teak the old fashioned way but rather glues it down with a special adhesive which is the way that all good builders do it these days.
We like the fact that the Squadron 55 comes in a choice of interior woods: American White Oak with a satin finish, cherry with a gloss finish, and walnut with a gloss finish. This is a bit unusual for motoryacht builders in this class, as most builders offer only one wood and only permit the buyer to specify a satin (mat) or a gloss finish. In these cases, the builder’s interior decorator from year-to-year defines what color is the flavor of the year. This system is fine for owners who do not have strong feelings about what they want and it is a necessity for the builder so it can look in step with fashion at the boat shows, but we like choice. And we know what we like.Just like the length of women’s skirts, a motoryacht can be dated by the color and specie of the wood in its interior. The yacht world swings from light woods to mid-tones to dark woods, depending on what is going in the haute couture salons of Milano and Paris. Get on a used motoryacht these days that has a blond interior and it is immediately dated -- and you can literally watch potential buyers turn on their heels and leave. Nothing wrong with the boat, except that its interior is obviously 15 years old. Dark woods have been in vogue the last few years and brown is a particularly favored color. But, in time this will change for some reason that we have never been able to fathom. As a rule of thumb, mid-tones like cherry are almost always acceptable. We think that walnut is a rich, classic wood and color that is always in style, sort of like a herringbone or glen plaid sports jacket.
The Squadron 55 has a seamanlike helm station. The helm area is large and has the all-important companion seat. We like that all of the bilge pumps have lights and alarms at the helm as well as switches. Since the lower helm is adjacent to the boat’s saloon, the alarm will alert the owner while he watches TV or is having a cocktail party. Fairline has also installed in the Squadron 55 the best dewatering system possible in a motoryacht whereby the main engines’ water intake valves can be diverted to sucking water out of the bilge. All yachts going offshore should have this system and we are happy to report that more and more builders are installing it.The Squadron 55 has a red light installed at the helm for night running, but since the rest of the saloon and galley will have to be dark, too, we guess most night running will be done from the flying bridge. There are switches at the helm that control engine room air extractor fans. These fans run all the time while the boat is underway and one rarely hears them. Shut down the engines, however, and they make themselves known. It is nice to have the option of simply switching them off at the helm after shutting the engines down, if their noise becomes annoying. This is a nice detail and it shows us that the folks at Fairline are out using their boats, and listening to their customers’ feedback.
In the galley you will find that the counters are made of a material called Avonite, which is a Corian-type of material. Why not granite? It is not to save money because the artificial materials are just as costly as stone. The reason is because granite in the thin slabs needed for a yacht countertop are brittle. This boat is designed to go through some pretty brutal conditions offshore. The shocks, g-forces, and the natural working of a boat can easily crack a granite counter.
Fairline does something else in the galley that we like, but not for the reason that you may think. Fairline provides a complete set of “Fairline Edition” china dinner service, cutlery, and lead crystal tumblers engraved with the Fairline shield logo. While this is a nice added to detail, in our book what is truly important is that Fairline has made sure that there is a place to stow it all in their cabinets!We can’t tell you how many motoryachts we have been on that have cabinets that will not hold 10” plates, or have enough space for a full set of wine and water crystal. It is attention to details such as this that sets some builders apart from others. There are many more of these kind of details in the Squadron 55, such as mattresses with inner springs just like the ones you have at home, instead of foam that we often find on motoryachts, but you get the idea...We also like the galley arrangement which is unusual. It is lower than the helm which is raised up two steps. This shields the windshield from galley glare during the day and helps at night as well.
There are not many 55’ motoryachts with three staterooms, much less crew’s quarters, as well. But Fairline has managed to do a very good job of it, which is an accomplishment since the boat has only a 15’9” (4.80 m) beam. Moreover, Fairline has done it in a clever way that has maximized room in the guest stateroom which is usually a squeeze. The master stateroom is full beam with the en suite head with separate shower stall, as well as having a huge hanging locker. The VIP forward is about as large as they come, and it shares its head, with separate shower, with the other guest stateroom. This is a very nice compromise, and overall we think it is a superior design.Evidently all of the spaces work out because the folks at Fairline tell us that this is one of their most popular yachts. We like the fact that in the two heads both the sinks and the toilet can be used at the same time, so couple rushing to a cocktail party or dinner can get ready at the same time. These heads are as large as any you will find on a boat of this length.
The Main Deck
We normally prefer not to have built-in sofas in the salon because arrangement plans can be more versatile with stand-alone furniture and we feel it is a bit more elegant, or cozy, or whatever other ambiance one is trying to create. But we think the layout on the Squadron 55 is the exception that proves our rule. We like the sweeping, wrap around, built-in sofa that Fairline has installed on the port side. It is, in fact, two workable “L”-shapes which seats more people, gives more usable room than if a sofa with two love seats were installed. Well done, lads.
We would classify this as one of the most creative and functional main decks we have seen on a boat of this size and class, and no wonder this boat won the “Motor Boat of the Year” Award from the two British magazines. This layout undoubted played a major role in helping the judges to come to that decision.
A Door Done Right
It is easy to take the door separating the aft deck with the salon for granted. And most builders do just that. But Fairline has not taken this door for granted or taken the easy solution. In the main deck drawing please note the curved stainless steel sliding door separating the aft deck from the saloon. This is done on very few production motoryachts, in fact, you can count the yachts that have it on one hand, and the others are all on far larger boats. Why do we think this is so important? Simply because it looks so elegant, so classy, so “this-is-a-fine-yacht-and-not-a-Winnebago.” Compare this treatment to the standard flat sliding glass stainless steel door and you will immediately recognize that it is worth every extra dollar it cost to manufacturer and install. Rounded stainless steel frames and glass panels do not come cheap, and our guess is that this cost Fairline $20,000 or more to execute above the standard slider.
Stairway to Heaven
Having said all of these nice things about the Squadron 55, we can now say what we don’t like about the salon area. What are those stairs doing in the middle of an otherwise functional design? To us, it looks like a stairway to nowhere. Yes, we know it is going to a hatch on the flying bridge, but this is only a 55’ boat, not the Queen Mary. We are able to walk outside to the aft deck to ascend to the flying bridge. To our mind it is a waste of space. Yes, many builders do it, and we say the same things about their designs. In this space, give us some nice, elegant, useful cabinets. They will make the interior look better and be functional as well.
All Hands On Deck
The first thing that strikes us about the deck plan of the Squadron 55 is that there is teak on all of the decks. Now that’s how a real yacht is built! Secondly, we like the three separate seats at the helm so that there can be three sets of eyes facing forward, all working together to spot logs, pots, and other trouble ahead – remember this boat can travel in excess of 30 knots and things happen fast at those speeds.The “U”-shaped conversation pit abaft the helm is great for a cocktail party, or just seating plenty of spectators out in the Solent, or off Rapallo to watch a yacht race. Note the hatch forward that will put plenty of light into the forward cabin, the rails around the bunny pad forward, the console on the starboard side of the flying bridge for the wet bar, reefer, icemaker, etc. Forward of the helm is a large sun pad that is a nice, safe, out-of-the-wind place to tan while the boat is running. Also note the hatch on the portside which receives the needless stairway from the main saloon.
There are optional layouts on all three decks to the ones we have presented here. We have chosen the ones we prefer and will let you have the fun of going to Fairline’s website to see the others. The important thing to keep in mind is that these yachts are built one boat at a time. If you want something slightly different, talk to the folks at Fairline about it, they will try to please.Depending on the engines and the optional equipment on the boat, 2009 models are currently available in Europe for between $1.3 million to $1.7 million U.S. Yachtsmen wanting to commission their own builds for next season in the northern hemisphere would be advised to make a decision shortly as it takes several months to build the Squadron 55. To read BoatTEST.com reviews of other Fairline boats... Visit the Fairline Squadron 55 website...
Standard and Optional Features
|Dripless Shaft Seals||Standard|
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
Boats More Than 30 Feet
Full Warranty Information on this brand coming soon!