By Eston Ellis
Compass 55 Pilothouse
The Compass 55 Pilothouse delivers luxury cruising for the long run.
What would you do if you were one of the West Coast’s top yacht brokerage firms and your clients kept asking for the same thing, over and over: a luxury-laden 50-foot-plus raised pilothouse motoryacht that’s built ruggedly enough for long-range cruising, but is priced at under $1 million?
The demand on the brokerage boat market right now is so strong, “cream puff” used boats like that are hard to come by — and you can forget about finding many new boats that meet this description.
Bill King at Compass Point Yachts had a unique solution to the affordable pilothouse motoryacht shortage: His company went out and built its own line of them.
While the base price of Compass Yachts’ Compass 55 is $849,000, the company didn’t cut any corners in construction — and definitely didn’t skimp on the features.
Compass yachts are built at the well-respected Grand Harbour yard in Kaoshing, Taiwan, which is known for its finely crafted joinerwork and its craftsmen’s painstaking attention to detail. An independent surveyor oversees the construction of each Compass 55, personally inspecting each vessel before it leaves the factory.
Compass Point Yachts’ staff took its experience with what Western buyers want and what works best for serious Pacific Coast cruising and included those design aspects and features in the Compass 55. Introduced two years ago, the boat has been a solid “hit” for the company, offering a lot of luxury and real-world practicality at a surprisingly affordable price.
Hitching a Ride
We tested the Compass 55 with Vince Sims and Jerry Mitchell, brokers at Compass Point Yachts of San Diego. The pair had just finished the longest part of a cruise from San Francisco to San Diego in this boat, and stopped in Dana Point Harbor just long enough for us to jump aboard and do a sea trial.
Throughout their long cruise, the boat had performed well. While their cruising speeds were dependent on conditions in the challenging waters between San Francisco and Ventura, the 55′s average cruising speed was about 16 knots — even when taking into account the surf ride through the roughest leg of the cruise.
“It gave us a good, stable ride in following seas — and the boat tracked well,” Sims said. “We always felt totally in control.”
We found the Compass 55 to be a good performer in our much shorter (and calmer) offshore run, too.
We left Dana Point Harbor on a clear late summer afternoon, with flat calm seas. We had four adults aboard during our test, and the boat was fully loaded with gear for real cruising — since that’s what it had been doing for the last few days.
Throughout a variety of maneuvers — including hard turns at speed — the boat gave us a solid, smooth and relatively dry ride. Conversation was easy in the pilothouse, even at maximum rpm, thanks to the boat’s solid construction and ample use of soundproofing materials.
While the three-blade props on our test boat were not optimum for offshore cruising (they were originally installed for cruising the sleepy waters of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta), we were still able to reach a top speed of 19 knots at 2,650 rpm. In the company’s own performance tests, the boat has reached a top speed of 30 knots. We cruised at around 17 knots, at 2,500 rpm.
Plush, Yet Practical
We steered the boat from the pilothouse helm station, a traditionally arranged wheelhouse with doors on both sides that lead to the boat’s wide, rail-protected sidedecks. The pilothouse has a teak and holly sole. An L-shaped settee and high/low table are to starboard of the steering station, and a fully equipped U-shaped galley is immediately aft.
We especially liked the Compass 55 helm console, with its array of gauges conveniently arranged, easily readable and set in an attractive wood panel. Raymarine electronics — including a color GPS/plotter system, radar, a VHF radio and a tri-data log — were mounted right below the big pilothouse windshield, so it was easy to keep an eye on their displays.
The big forward pilothouse windows come with windshield wipers, for all-weather convenience. We enjoyed excellent visibility all around, except immediately aft, where the refrigerator/freezer is mounted in the galley. However, you can see around it, thanks to a pass-through to the saloon, to port — and thanks to the fact that the pilothouse is open to the saloon on the starboard side.
On the flybridge, we found another nicely arranged helm with a bench seat that seats three, plus full instrumentation and repeaters for all the pilothouse electronics. This area would be ideal for entertaining guests, who could relax on a large L-shaped settee with a table abaft the helm seat. A refreshment center is to starboard — with a Jenn-Air barbecue, a sink and a U-Line refrigerator/ice-maker.
The aft deck is big enough to hold a dinghy — and it comes with one. Compass 55 buyers get a standard Rendova 11 foot rigid-hull inflatable boat and a 1,100 pound-capacity Nautical Structures davit.
Taking the Tour
While this boat is built to satisfy boaters who expect all the luxuries of a top-of-the-line motoryacht, the Compass 55 is constructed with all the practicality of a rough and ready cruiser.
You board the boat from a wide teak-topped swim platform with a hot and cold shower and washdown system. Twin transom doors to port and starboard lead to the cockpit — which also has a teak deck.
The cockpit offers a forward-facing settee and table, across from a console that conceals a trash compactor and the entry to the boat’s lazarette and engine room. The large lazarette is where the boat’s 12 kw Northern Lights generator is located — along with tanks and ample space to stow a variety of gear.
A pair of doors, forward, open to the boat’s engine room, which is well arranged — with all wiring and plumbing carefully labeled. There is good access to all engine components, for convenient maintenance.
Back in the cockpit, you enter the saloon through a large sliding door. When you step inside, the boat’s elegant wood joinery and trim immediately catch your eye.
Our test boat was awash in nicely grained South African cherry with pear wood trim. The settees were upholstered in buttery, soft leather, and the leather-look overhead was studded with halogen spotlights. Large opening windows offered an excellent view of the water in all directions.
A couple of steps lead up to the pilothouse and galley. Here, one staircase leads up to the flybridge and another set of steps leads belowdecks, to the boat’s three staterooms and two heads.
The aft master stateroom is quite large, and offers its own entertainment center, a built-in vanity and an en suite head with shower. The guest stateroom, forward, offers a second queen-size berth and has its own door to the boat’s second head.
The third stateroom (for crew or additional guests) is located to starboard, between the two larger staterooms, and offers a pair of bunk-style berths.
With the Compass 55′s long list of standard creature comforts and its remarkable collection of practical standard features — including a bow thruster, full electronics and a remote throttle/transmission control with a 60 foot cable — you get a lot of boat for a comparatively low price. Of course, that’s exactly what Compass Point Yachts’ Bill King had in mind when he decided to build the Compass Yacht line in the first place.
Compass 55 Pilothouse Specifications
|Dry weight||50,000 pounds|
|Fuel capacity||600 gallons|
|Water capacity||300 gallons|
|Props||27 x 23; three-blade|
|Maximum power||twin 420-horsepower Caterpillar 3126 diesels|
|Top speed||19.1 knots|
|MPG @ 17 knot cruise||.47 (based on a fuel price of $2)|
|Fuel cost for 100 miles||$425.53|
|Range @ 17 knot cruise||279.5 miles|
Hull design has been tested at speeds up 30 knots in optimum conditions, by B.C. Research Co., Vancouver, British Columbia
Questions for Your Dealer
Can I add a water-maker system?
Can the builder replace one stateroom with an onboard office?
Northern Lights 12.5 kW auxiliary generator, bow thruster, two-station Twin Disc electronic controls with remote control unit with 50 feet of cord, Capilano lighting, Marine Air five-zone air-conditoning/heating system, 11 foot Rendova RIB and 1,000 pound capacity Nautical Structures davit, Raymarine helm electronics package with flybridge repeaters, Glendinning Cablemaster, granite countertops, full-size GE refrigerator/freezer, flybridge wet bar with Jenn-Air barbecue and U-Line refrigerator/ice-maker.
Options on Test Boat
Stainless steel door for trash compactor in cockpit.
Solid fiberglass from keel to 8 inches above the waterline, cored construction on hull sides, house, bridge and decks. Five-year warranted blister-free bottom with epoxy bottom coating.
Years in business: 9 (Compass Point Yachts)
Boat lines: Compass
In addition, Compass Point Yachts is a dealer for Bertram, Cheoy Lee, Luhrs, Mainship (Northwest) and Tiara (Northwest).
Builder Contact Information
Compass Yachts by Compass Point
West Coast Dealers
Compass Point Yachts, Seattle, WA; (206) 625-1580; www.compasspointyachts.com
Compass Point Yachts, Newport Beach, CA; (949) 675-4340; www.compasspointyachts.com
Compass Point Yachts, San Diego, CA; (619) 523-5490; www.compasspointyachts.com
“From its palm-size remote throttle and transmission control to its eye-catching South African cherry and pear joinery, the Compass 55 is no ordinary boat. Yet, its numerous luxury and convenience features are all included in the base boat package. Considering its excellent fit and finish throughout, its spacious layout that is both comfortable and practical, and the completeness of its standard equipment package (even the advanced helm electronics are provided), the Compass 55′s low price tag definitely surprised us.”