A hardcore exterior and twin outboards belie an interior that taps into the builder's megayacht roots.
When it comes to sea trials, the wind and sea conditions are too often mild, which makes it impossible to judge a yacht’s ability to handle rough weather. In those cases, I look for a large ferry wake to jump, because big car ferries throw up an impressive train. In almost all such cases, the operator will slow down before reaching the wake. Not this time. We approached the steep B.C. Ferries vessel wake at 37 knots, and I braced for impact. Remarkably, we charged right through and didn’t miss a beat. None of the typical slamming and pounding, just a comfortable rise and fall while the hull threw out a wall of spray. I couldn’t recall ever doing this — even at half the speed — without jarring and slamming.
I was aboard the refreshingly different Tactical 40 Express. At first glance this aluminum yacht looks more like a military, police, or search-and-rescue vessel, given its battleship gray hull, flat, forwardraked windshield and floatation collar, but that’s only half of it. Aboard, the stylish interior, luxurious furnishings and exquisite fit and finish clearly identify this as a very serious yacht.
The Tactical 40 is the brainchild of Tim Charles, entrepreneur and principal (with partner Dave Marsden) of Richmond, B.C.-based Platinum Marine Group. His group of seven companies offers a wide range of services, from repair and refit to megayacht construction — the only company to currently build megayachts in Canada.
The T-40 is powered by twin 627 hp Seven Marine outboards, which are the most powerful outboards in the world. These supercharged and intercooled behemoths use GM’s Gen IV, 6.2L small-block V-8 engine, the same one used in Corvettes and CTS-V Cadillacs. Seven Marine was recently purchased by Volvo Penta, a move that gave the company a boost thanks to Volvo’s deeper pockets. It also allowed Seven Marine’s outboards to be connected to Volvo’s counter-rotating duo-prop gearcases, and this was the configuration chosen for the T-40.
The huge four-blade props — 19-inch diameter forward and 17 and a half inches aft — and the extreme torque of the outboards require a computer to govern acceleration, to avoid loading up the drives too quickly. These outboards are surprisingly fuel efficient, burning just less than a gallon per mile at a fast cruise of 33.5 knots, a testament to Gregory C. Marshall’s slippery hull design. While speed wasn’t a design priority — these outboards can push the T-40 to 40 knots — ride quality, especially in rough weather, was one of the key design objectives.
Inside, the most impressive feature is the helm, which is where “outside tactical” meets “inside tactical.” Four 24-inch Garmin glass-cockpit screens create a wall of screens, two to each side of the companionway. Here’s where I found a clever feature. Horizontal aluminum rails run underneath the screens and serve as wrist-rests that make it easier to use the touchscreens in rough water. The console is fronted by a row of four S3 Shockwave professional series hydraulic shock-mitigation seats (with harnesses), the same hightech seats used by the U.S. Navy Seals, the Canadian Coast Guard, and other elite military and search-and-rescue organizations around the world.
The four touchscreens and four seats make it possible for everyone aboard to participate in “getting there.” Each person faces forward and can interact with the navigation and other ship’s systems and become part of the voyage instead of being just a passenger.
Several other noteworthy features occupy the helm area. The T-40 doesn’t have a traditional steering wheel. It is equipped with a molded, high-end Super Sport race-car wheel whose integrated buttons can control a number of programmable functions wirelessly. An overhead powered skylight brings in light and ventilation. While the sole of most yachts is carpet or some form of wood, the helm area of the T-40 is finished with a closed-cell foam material called Ultradeck. It is durable, provides a superior grip and is soft underfoot.
At the aft end of the T-40, a teak-soled cockpit serves as both a serious fishing platform and a cozy entertaining space. Fixed and folding settees and a movable table provide plenty of room for lounging and alfresco dining. To accommodate fishing, the bench seat folds up and the table stows. Inset into the transom is an outdoor kitchen with an electric grill and a sink. Overhead, an electric sunshade provides good protection from rain and sun. Joysticks to either side of the cockpit make docking easy.
The coach roof is finished in black carbon fiber–look vinyl wrap, which adds to the tactical appearance. It is topped with a black radar mast that includes a FLIR gyro-stabilized night vision camera.
The salon is entered via a heavy, hinged aluminum door to starboard. To port, a clever drop-down glass window by Diamond Sea Glaze was engineered to eliminate the typical mullion on its inboard edge. With the salon door open and the window lowered, the same-level cockpit and salon become seamless.
Per the owner’s wishes, our test T-40 was designed as a couple’s yacht. A single stateroom occupies the bow, and it is opulent, with an island queen berth and plush carpeting. Since the boat has only one cabin, there is room for separate head and shower compartments, which are welcome cruising features. Both are considerably larger and more stylish than one would expect on a boat of this size. One striking feature is the black, carbon-fiber toilet and raised carbon-fiber sink (custom fabricated to match the toilet). The two items contrast beautifully with the rich Ferrari red countertop and gloss wood cabinetry. The shower room is broken into two distinct wood-trimmed areas, one for the shower and one for towel storage.
Redundancy is the keyword when it comes to onboard systems. The electronics were designed by Vancouver-based Pacific Yacht Systems and built around the NMEA 2000 backbone, which uses a single trunk line with T’s to all the separate components. All systems are integrated into a single CZone digital control and monitoring system that can be connected wirelessly to an iPad. However, as a safety feature, physical switches are also present, to ensure 100 percent redundancy.
Cabin heating is via a diesel hydronic system that delivers ondemand hot water; cabin cooling is via reverse-cycle air. A Seakeeper 6 gyro stabilizer will keep things on an even keel at anchor, while fishing or at slow cruising speeds. A 6 kw Northern Lights generator provides auxiliary power and two 450-amp-hour 8D lithium batteries will provide more-than-ample power. A water-maker supplements the 100-gallon water tank.
On the Water
We tested the Tactical 40 in the Canadian Gulf Islands. Cockpit joystick stations to either side made it a snap to ease away from the dock. The ZF joystick steering is somewhat different, because the outboards don’t articulate independently. Instead, the system works with the engines and the Side-Power proportional bow and stern thrusters. The system also has station-keeping modes and a hold-on-dock function.
The seas were relatively quiet, so unfortunately we couldn’t really test the boat’s heavy weather capability, except for the ferry wakes. However, cruising at speed regardless of sea conditions was the primary performance criteria of the T-40. In those conditions, the inflatable collar has shown to be an excellent spray knocker. That collar also provides a bit of insurance should the T-40 bump up against another vessel, and it looks cool and provides emergency floatation.
Noise is always a concern on aluminum yachts. To reduce this, the interior of the hull was sprayed with foam, which also reduced or eliminated concerns over condensation. With the outboards mounted far aft, most of the noise we experienced was from wave slap.
The all-hydraulic steering was surprisingly responsive, and we carved into sharp turns effortlessly with no slipping. On plane, our bow-up angle was only 3.4 degrees and visibility over the bow was very good. The T-40 has a very solid, comfortable feel at speed. The forward-raked windshield should prove excellent at reducing glare. Add in the large roof overhang, and visibility-reducing rain and spray should never be a problem.
In addition to head-turning looks, the prototype T-40 incorporates many unique and well-thought-out features, and includes equipment and redundancy not normally seen on a yacht of this size. Its flawless fit and finish is certainly up to luxury yacht standards. Clearly every inch has been thought out and executed by highly skilled craftspeople. And of course, with a top speed of 40 knots, California couples can make it to Catalina in less than an hour.