- The Pilot House has been conceived and executed as a stately cruising boat for boaters who engage in activities …
- The ride in waves was comfortable thanks to the blend of vee hull to break her fall and solid seakeeping …
- The displacement aspects of the hull provide excellent stability and massive seakeeping capability.
- For what is essentially an angling cruiser, the level of comfort is superb.
Simon Everett grasps the opportunity to test both versions of the Orkney Pilot House on a trip to Alderney and back.
It isn’t often we get the chance to put a boat through her paces over an extended period. It happens occasionally, though, and the trip across to Alderney and back was one such opportunity. It makes a refreshing change and allowed me to really see the subtle differences between these two boats from the respected Orkney range and give them a proper run for their money.
The difference in silhouette between the two boats is minimal. The 25 has a shorter wheelhouse to provide more on-deck space in the cockpit, with some of the longer wheelhouse roof retained as an overhang for protection. At first glance, they are very similar in outward appearance, but once you step aboard, the difference in the layout is palpable. The 25 is an open-plan day cruiser with weekending capability. The 27, on the other hand, is conceived as a more serious cruising boat with greater emphasis on the accommodation block and less space in the cockpit. She also comes with a twin-engine installation.
The design of the Pilot House 25 revolves around a single engine – in the test boat we had the Yanmar 220hp variant with the very streamlined and smooth ZT370 sterndrive. This is a potent package that suits the boat to a T, and provides flexibility and ease of transfer from displacement through to planing speeds and good fuel economy.
The new Pilot House continues on the success of the Pilot House 24, of which there were 98 built and every single one of them is still in service. This test was conducted aboard boat number 1, with a few ideas being built in to demonstrate what is achievable, rather than being the absolute norm for the model. As with any boat built to order, personal preferences can be incorporated, especially when it is cabinet work or little details.
For what is essentially an angling cruiser, the level of comfort is superb. The hull has been given extra stiffening and strengthening to compensate for the change in the main bulkhead being opened up to give that open-plan layout from the cockpit door through to the forward berths. It gives an impression of much greater space and is brighter throughout as a result.
True to tradition, the dining table forms part of the double berth and will seat four with ease. When not in use, the table and leg stow neatly and securely against the heads compartment bulkhead. The galley is in a self-contained unit convenient for both the table and keeping hungry helmsfolk fed. While compact, the galley has everything needed to rustle up more than a pot noodle with the two gas rings and a stainless steel sink. A nice touch is the crockery stowage below, together with room for victuals, but there is no fridge. The wooden deck is continued throughout the boat, with teak and white caulking for the entire interior.
The Pilot House has been given a really purposeful and seamanlike helm, featuring the best in modern technology. The electronics have been incorporated seamlessly into the appearance of the moulded helm console and placed at a very convenient height. The flat dash will easily accommodate a 12″ chartplotter, together with the engine management dials and bow thruster joystick, and still have room for stereo or auxiliary outlets. The throttle and gear control is mounted off to the side in an ideal position. Sat on the split bench or stood, the helm is a comfortable place to be. The single passenger chair to port is similarly elevated on a larger storage locker with space behind to keep a bag.
There are overhead lights for night navigation (red) and for wheelhouse illumination when you don’t need to preserve your night vision. The commanding position and all-round clear view from the wheel are excellent, as they should be in a well-designed sea boat. Simplicity is often best and it is easy to overthink and overcomplicate the process, but Orkney have resisted the temptation and stuck with a tried and tested formula.
The cockpit is deliberately kept clutter-free. The side deck steps are utilised as small stowage box lockers and are embellished with teak decking to match the rest of the deck. This also helps to quieten the boat and makes for a very durable surface with plenty of grip when wet. The port-side locker is the gas bottle stowage with overside drainage. The main hold, below the cockpit sole, is voluminous – we had all the loose paraphernalia in there and the inflatable tender packed away in its valise. There is some more again in the engine bay, which has room to stand in for routine jobs, and the hatch lid folds well up to provide ease of access. The entire cockpit is raised above drainage channels and is completely self-draining, with high coamings for each hatch lid to keep water out of the openings.
Eagle-eyed readers will notice the soundproofing on the underside of the hatch lid. This does muffle the engine noise reasonably well, but the guys at Orkney are in pursuit of even better sound suppression, so expect production boats to be quieter. Out in the open air of the cockpit there is as much wind noise as engine noise; however, the inside of the wheelhouse, with the door open, acts a bit like a soundbox and amplifies the noise. As soon as the wheelhouse door is closed, things are very much quieter. In the foggy conditions mid-Channel, we did find that having the door closed caused the windows to steam up. Having the skylight open made a big difference, supplying the necessary ventilation. The test boat was lacking a sliding cabin window, but it is on the options list and is something that would be on my list of essentials. There is also a second, more cruising-orientated interior called the ‘Valiant’ layout, which replaces the passenger seat with a full galley installation.
The 220hp motor, coupled with the semi-displacement hull, gives a great deal of flexibility of use. In displacement mode, at the bottom end of the rev range, one can make sedate, frugal progress, while the 21-knot cruising speed on the plane covers ground at a sensible rate for most conditions and still retains economical fuel usage and the ability to take on longer-distance passages. The hull is amazingly capable of ploughing through rough seas without taking on water, and she is surprisingly nimble with it, responding quickly and precisely to the wheel. The passage to Alderney gave me two days to get to grips with her abilities over a reasonable distance.
We set off with 356 litres in the fuel tank – there were still 92 litres left after the return trip, and we didn’t hang about. This included a bit of exploration and messing around for photography in the overfalls. It was interesting that the 27 Pilot House accompanying us with twin 150s only used 25 litres more for the same trip, so there is no significant penalty for the twin-engine option, while the extra horsepower on tap gave a top speed of 33 knots and the extra manoeuvrability that comes with twin engines.
The ride in waves was comfortable thanks to the blend of vee hull to break her fall and solid seakeeping, with the high freeboard ensuring the cockpit remained completely dry, even through the animated antics in the overfalls outside Bray Harbour. The displacement aspects of the hull provide excellent stability and massive seakeeping capability.
The practical elements of the Pilot House come from years of boatbuilding experience – simple things that make life so much easier and safer aboard, like the handrail placements, set back on the coachroof, so as to not move one’s weight out over the gunwale, making going forward less daunting with holds falling to hand intuitively. The foredeck layout provides a wide, flat standing area surrounded by guard rails that are of RORC height, as are the cockpit coamings, to provide as much safety as possible throughout the deck areas.
The Pilot House has been conceived and executed as a stately cruising boat for boaters who engage in activities, with access to the water provided through the transom section forming a mini passerelle with boarding ladder built in, making her an ideal choice for anyone wanting solid seakeeping, sufficient speed to cover ground and practical features without looking like a utilitarian tub.
- LOA: 24′ 11″ (7.6m)
- Beam: 9′ 2″ (2.8m)
- Hull weight: 7385lb (3350kg)
- Max. HP: Single diesel with sterndrive up to 240hp
- Design speed: Max. design speed 27 knots
- Optimum design speed 17 knots
- Performance indicators:
- 170hp – 23 knots
- 240hp – 27 knots
- Bombproof build quality with a proper seamanlike approach
- Excellent seakeeping with sensible performance that exceeds design
- Elegant, timeless lines
- Lack of ventilation in wheelhouse
- Noise resonation with wheelhouse door open
Starting from £99,864
Orkney Boats Limited
Ford Lane Business Park
Telephone: 01243 551456