Watson 48

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Watson 48

Author :Steve Raea

Pics by Ivor Wilkins

There is an adage in ship-building; if something looks right then it probably is right. The new Watson 48 expedition motoryacht from New Zealand’s Pacific Motoryachts is a case in point.

Berthed at Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour, the little ship looks strangely incongruous hemmed in among the multi-million dollar super-yachts of the rich and famous. Pacing the breastwork, one can only imagine that a ship like this is built to work, that it belongs at sea.

The nuggety full-displacement cruiser is the latest in the Watson range of motoryachts – traditional trawler-style ships built to time-honoured design and exacting standards with an emphasis that, like a compass, falls on four cardinal points: Safety, strength, serviceability and range.

Designed specifically for long range cruising and ocean passages with “high-latitude” ability, the new Watson 48 meets the demands for good sea-keeping ability by adhering to the basics which include the lowest possible A/B Ratio which for the Watson 48 is 1.95 and high statical and dynamic stability. The Watson 48 meets the highest International Maritime Organization (I.M.O.) Torremolineas Conference Criteria requirements., plus the I.M.O. “Severe Wind and Rolling” criteria and possesses inherent directional stability. It also has a high standard of watertight closures.

The Watson family name has been synonymous in small ship construction for more than 50 years. Naval architects, T C Watson & Sons, were involved in the design of the first steel trawlers built in New Zealand, some of which have now clocked up more than a million miles. Over the last thirty five years designer Wally Watson has been New Zealands most prolific designer of steel craft which include vessels such as the Tauranga Harbour Tug Te Matua, the 4000BHP ocean going tug Sea Tow 25 and dozens of smaller vessels operating throughout the Pacific.

The common dominant features influencing the design of all these craft are hull forms optimised for seakeeping and fuel efficiency, structural strength, mechanical simplicity and steaming endurance.

Based in Wangarei, Pacific Motoryachts was established in 2001 to develop, build and promote the Watson range of motoryachts. The company’s first build project, a Watson 72, the second of this design, the first was  launched in 1994, has attracted considerable market interest and now led to the development of the entire Watson range. With the launch of the first Watson 48, company attention is turning to the new 54 and 65-foot pilothouse models.

Built on transverse frames, the Watson 48 has a double chine hull form manufactured from 6mm steel plate with 4mm and 5mm decks and superstructure. All steel fabrication was carried out by the Tenix shipyard at Whangarei. Tenix New Zealand was established to fabricate steel components for the ANZAC frigate building program. The company went on to successfully tender for the construction of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s new inshore patrol craft.

Peter Watson says the first W48 has been specifically built as their own boat and a means to further develop the design and template for the new Watson 54, which along with the W48 are the models Pacific Motoryachts believes will have the most impact and appeal in the demanding US-market.

“We may take the W48 to Australia and display her there. We are also discussing shipping the boat to the east coast of the United States if we can meet some key show dates.”


The interior of the ship is best described as having a yacht-like finish with handcrafted Burmese teak cabinetry, solid timber floors, custom-fitted upholstery and furnishings and a practical layout, with an emphasis on” live aboard” ability.

The layout is determined largely by the vessel’s size and dimensions and differs from larger models in-so-much as the main accommodations are forward of the central engine room. The saloon and galley share the aft section. The crew accommodation is located in the foc`sle, aft of the internal collision bulkhead.     

Peter Watson says modelling shows that the location that suffers least from seaway motion is centred at a point two-thirds of the length of the ship from the bow.

“This means that the aft two-thirds is the best location and every endeavour should be made to group the most important accommodations in this location. This includes the owner’s stateroom and guest accommodation, saloon, galley and the helm station. From the W54 up we arrange the owner’s and guest accommodation in this area separated by the engine room. The forward third is reserved for extra crew accommodation.”

While the W48 does not allow for an aft owners stateroom the internal volume is impressive with generous headroom throughout and an easy flow from the saloon to the bridge or two double staterooms. There are various layout options available, in the first boat the cabins are a mirror image of each other, each with a domestic-size double berth with drawers under, large hanging locker and private tiled ensuite with full-size domestic shower, vanity and toilet. Large opening ports provide natural light and ventilation and the use of brass fittings lend a measure of tradition and charm.

The focal point of the W48, however, is the bridge. This again is a ship-like affair and could almost be described as minimalist by today’s modern-yacht standards. While beautifully finished in teak, the bridge has been spared many non-essential navigation aids and big-screen electronics. The wheel is set off-centre with a centre-mounted single compass. Flush mounted instruments include a Furuno Nav-Net system giving radar, sounder and chart plotting capabilities. Communications gear is by Icom and include a 150-watt HF SSB and commercial-grade VHF radio. A TQM electronic autopilot complete with its own secondary back-up system takes care of helming duties.

The bridge layout reflects Pacific Motoryachts belief that people naturally gravitate to the bridge when steaming. To that end a comfortable saloon has been built on the port side of the bridge with a day bunk behind. Opposite to starboard and facing aft is a full size chart table. Visibility is unrestricted with windows facing forward and aft. Port and starboard aluminium doors give easy access to the walk-around Portuguese teak deck, bridge deck and huge twin-gypsy Lofrans anchor windless on the foredeck. 

Back below, the engine room is accessed from the starboard side of the central companionway looking aft. It is steep climb down in to the bowels of the ship but it is a climb worth making. Completely lined in acoustic sound-proofing and as clean as whistle, the engine room is ship-like in proportion, layout and functionality. Daunting to the uninitiated, Peter Watson believes three-hours tuition would be enough to give would-be owners a basic understanding of the vessel’s systems. Simplicity is a function of good design and every effort has been made to ensure the running gear is rugged, practical and totally reliable. Every major on-board system has a back-up to comply with the Class Society Rules, and provide redundancy which is expected in today’s cruising yacht. In the case of piping systems for example, these are all fabricated in metal including the fuel system, the purpose being to protect the integrity of the longitudinal subdivision of the ship, protect fire zones and protect all thru-hull sea fittings.

 “All essential services in our vessels are provided with not only two means of locomotion but also two independent sources of power. These include bilge and fire pumps, fuel transfer pumps and steering gear apparatus. We believe that for complete safety an ocean going motor yacht should also have at least two sources of high-tension power, two complete sets of anchors and cable deployed for immediate use and be equipped with navigation lights that comply in full with the International Collision Regulations”.

Powered by a single 185 horsepower six-cylinder turbo-charged Perkins marine diesel swinging a 40inch four-blade propeller on a 2.5” shaft the W48 has a cruise speed of 8.6 knots at 1800 rpm giving a range of approx. 3300 nautical miles – or 21 litres per hour. This, says Watson, allows for a 10 per cent “arrival” reserve and a further 10 per cent reserve for bad weather. Push the throttle all the way forward to 2100 rpm and the ship will steam along at 9.4 knots and consume about 35 litres per hour.

Back up to the main engine is provided by the Perkin’s 60 horsepower diesel generator. This is equipped with its own shaft and propeller – a procedure referred to as wing propulsion or “get-home”. The smaller engine will propel the ship at 5.8 knots at 2500 rpm.

With a loaded draft of 6’6” and a displacement of 45 tonnes, the W48 is a big boat by any measure but its draft and weight are two of its biggest assets when it comes to handling the yacht in confined spaces.

The W48 is less affected by windage when manoeuvring, “unlike planing hulls and, to a lesser extent semi-displacment hulls. The boat is fitted as standard with a 12 horsepower bow-thruster and hydraulic stabilisers are an option.”

The Watson 48 had its first public outing at the recent on-the-water boatshow at Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour and attracted genuine interest. With a price of NZ $1.5m to $1.6m depending on equipment specification, the vessel is competitive in the growing trawler-style market.

“If people compare apples with apples then I think our prices are very favourable. We believe our well built steel construction with its structural integrity and inherent design quality will appeal to those seeking a genuine open-ocean cruising boat.”


  • Boat Name: Serica
  • Boat Design Name: Watson 48
  • Year Launched: 2006
  • Designer: T.C Watson & Sons
  • Builder: Pacific MotorYachts Ltd
  • LOA: 15.20m
  • Beam: 4.95m
  • Displacement: 44.50 tonne
  • Max Speed: 9.7 knots
  • Cruise Speed: 8.6 knots
  • Construction: Steel
  • Fuel Capacity: 9400 litres
  • Water Capacity: 1500 litres
  • Engines: Perkins

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