By Eston Ellis
Hampton 550 Pilothouse: Sea Trial
Hampton 550 Pilothouse: There's plenty of posh value.
Pilothouse motoryachts are much in demand right now — for their all-weather cruiseability, luxuriously appointed interiors and long-range comfort. The very things that make these vessels so sought after also make them tend to be costly; however, that is not always the case.
The Hampton 550 Pilothouse offers all the characteristics of a great custom motoryacht, but at a production boat price.
What’s Hampton’s secret? The 550, like all Hampton yachts, is built in Shanghai, China, by experienced craftspeople who can offer the same quality construction American buyers have come to expect from motoryachts built in Taiwan.
While the boats are built in Shanghai, they are outfitted with familiar gear — including United States-branded engines, electronics, running gear and appliances.
Every Hampton is a “semi-custom” boat, which means the builder starts with a standard hull that can be heavily customized to meet specific buyers’ requests. Two 550s may sit side by side in the same marina, but there may be nothing identical about their interiors or their equipment, thanks to all those custom changes.
We tested the Hampton 550 Pilothouse off Long Beach, California, on a sunny fall day. We had five adults aboard, plus a full load of fuel and water. Our test boat was provided by Golden West Yachts of Marina del Rey and Newport Beach, California.
Our test boat’s new owner, a staff commodore at Los Angeles Yacht Club who is an experienced sailboat racer, previously owned a Santa Cruz 50 and an Andrews 56. He was used to speed, but sought the comfort and long-range capability of a pilothouse motoryacht for his planned upcoming cruises off Mexico and elsewhere along the West Coast.
Safety is a major concern for the owner during these cruises — and the 550 offers wide protected walk-around sidedecks that make moving from the cockpit, the pilothouse and the foredeck easy and secure. The sidedecks are protected by high rails and offer a non-slip surface underfoot.
On some boats, wide sidedecks mean that the interior accommodations are less roomy. That’s not true aboard this boat. The saloon and pilothouse are both spacious and conveniently arranged.
Patrick Chen of Hampton Yachts U.S.A., who was present for the sea trial, explained that the new 550 Pilothouse is much different from the original Hampton 490 Pilothouse — even though the interior layouts are similar. The 550 has an entirely new hull design, with more planing surface aft. Before, the Hampton hull was more like a battleship — straight down and with flatter chines. The new hull is a semi-planing design — instead of semi-displacement, Chen explained.
The hull is constructed with advanced techniques and materials. The hull is fiberglass, while the decks are Divinycell-cored. The first three layers of vinylester resin are used in the hull layup process, to prevent future blistering problems.
Foil sections on the rudders provide better directional stability. Underwater exhaust is standard on the 550, as it is on all Hamptons.
Our test boat was equipped with twin 450 hp Cummins diesels (480 hp Cummins diesels are optional). During our sea trial off Long Beach, we reached a top speed of 22 knots, at 2,400 rpm. Our optimum cruising speed was around 18 knots, at 2,200 rpm.
Tracking was straight and true, even with both hands off the wheel. Handling was responsive, and the boat banked smoothly and solidly into turns during our high-speed maneuvers offshore. Throughout our sea trial, the boat gave us a solid and stable ride.
The Hampton 550 Pilothouse also was a remarkably dry-riding boat, thanks to the hull’s reverse chine that knocked spray aside.
What a View
We ran the boat from the flybridge helm station, where we had a full complement of VDO gauges and navigation electronics. The boat is equipped with a Sidepower bow thruster, Hynautic steering, ZF controls and Cummins electronic engine data displays.
The flybridge offers a comfortable settee behind the helm console and another L-shaped settee with a snack table aft, to starboard. Abaft the helm settee is a wet bar with a Norcold refrigerator.
Abaft the wet bar area, the flybridge offers a boat deck. Our test boat had a Nick Jackson davit and an Avon 3.60 sportboat. Rails protect the boat deck sides, for added security.
Forward, adjacent to the helm, a stainless steel-framed glass door leads below, to the pilothouse. This helm station is an ideal spot for skippering during rainy Northwest mornings or hot and humid Mexico afternoons. The view is excellent through big forward windows (equipped with windshield wipers) and large side windows.
A pair of leakproof aircraft-style doors on each side of the pilothouse provides ready access to sidedecks.
The helm console is crafted of burled wood and offers a futuristic array of electronics — including a Furuno NavNet integrated navigation system with Chartnet. The captain’s wheel is crafted of stainless steel and wood.
Additional features include a Garelick helm seat, a chart table (to port), a Fireboy engine fire suppression system, an Icom VHF radio, a Ritchie compass and Bennett trim tabs. Halogen spots over the console offer welcome accent lighting, and a settee (which converts to a pilot berth) abaft the helm seat offers room for guests to join the skipper.
Two wood grabrails are conveniently placed overhead.
Aft, a few steps down from the pilothouse, the roomy saloon and galley offer prime space for entertaining guests aboard. Buyers can choose from a variety of layout options and a choice of European cherry or teak wood interiors.
Our test boat featured an L-shaped settee to starboard, adjacent to a cabinet and an ice-maker. Two chairs, to port, were adjacent to a wood high-low table that opens up for dining or becomes compact for coffee. Evidence of meticulous craftsmanship was everywhere in this optional high-gloss-finished interior, even where few guests might notice it — such as in the wood inlay found under settee supports.
A large plasma screen television — standard equipment on this model — is concealed behind wooden doors in the bar separating the saloon and galley. The saloon also features a Bose surround sound system with five satellite speakers, halogen lighting and conveniently placed wood hand-holds overhead.
The U-shaped galley is conveniently arranged and offers abundant stowage and spacious Corian counters. Along with a refrigerator, a double sink and a Broan trash compactor, our test boat featured an optional three-burner propane range — fitted with a gas sniffer, for added safety. The propane tank for the stove and the cockpit’s Jenn-Air barbecue grill is stowed in a cockpit locker.
On the other side of the saloon’s aft sliding glass door is the cockpit. While the cockpit is large enough for fishing, our test boat’s owner had the cockpit arranged for entertaining guests, with an optional Jenn-Air propane barbecue grill (electric is the usual choice).
There are two transom gates leading to the boat’s wide swim platform. A disappearing swim ladder is concealed inside this step, for easy boarding from the water.
You enter the engine room through a hatch in the cockpit deck. First, you step into a large lazarette, where our test boat had a 500-gallon-per-day water-maker installed.
A submarine-style door opens to the engine room, which is surprisingly roomy. There is room to get entirely around both engines, and you could even get underneath to remove a pan, if you had to. Even more access to the engine room is available overhead, through the saloon sole, should major work be required.
Our test boat was equipped with an Onan 13.5 kw auxiliary generator, three-zone air conditioning, an automatic oil changing system, Racor fuel filters and a fuel transfer/distribution system. Battery boxes were mounted outboard of the engines. All wiring and plumbing runs were neatly done and well labeled.
Sleeping accommodations are belowdecks, down a staircase from the pilothouse.
The forward stateroom offers a double berth with an overhead hatch, a hanging locker to port and ample stowage cabinets throughout. An en suite head, to starboard, offers a Grohe faucet, a Vacuflush head, a sink with a Corian counter, and a shower with a cylindrical Lexan enclosure.
The full-width master stateroom, aft, has a queen-size berth to starboard, a dressing table and a big hanging locker to starboard. The en suite head offers a vanity and sink, a Corian counter, a Vacuflush head and a shower with a Lexan enclosure.
If you’re looking for a cruiseworthy pilothouse motoryacht that offers all the luxury of a pricier models yet costs less than $1 million, the Hampton 550 may be just that boat.
Hampton 550 Pilothouse
|Fuel capacity||750 gallons|
|Water capacity||230 gallons|
|Propellers||29.5″ x 35″ four-blade Nibral ZF-FPS|
|Base price as tested with twin 450-hp Cummins diesel engines||$655,000|
|Top speed||22 knots|
|Miles per gallon at 18-knot cruising speed||1.15|
|Estimated fuel cost for 100 miles||$130.44|
|Range at 18-knots cruising speed||862 miles|
(Estimated fuel cost based on a fuel cost of $1.50 per gallon.)
Kohler 13.5 kw auxiliary generator; Sidepower 10 hp bow thruster; Bose five-speaker surround sound stereo system; three-zone air conditioning; Maxwell windlass with three-station controls; VacuFlush heads; Bennett trim tabs; Sony 32 inch plasma screen television; Groco engine oil changing system; 3 kw inverter; 50 amp battery charger; Groco deck washdown system; stern shower.
Options on Test Boat
Broan trash compactor, Splendide washer/dryer combo; cherry wood interior; Cablemaster cable handling system; six-station intercom; central vacuum system; Onan 13.5 kw auxiliary generator; 10 disc CD/stereo system; three-burner propane stove; Jenn-Air barbecue grill.
Semi-planing fiberglass hull; Divinycell-cored decks; first three layers of vinylester resin in hull layup. Foil sections on the rudders provide increased directional stability. Underwater exhaust is standard.
For More Information
Hampton Yachts U.S.A.