A Boat For the Times

John Ford — 14 May 2020
Fleming Yachts enjoy a prime position on the list of world-class voyagers, and the 58 will deliver you to a distant shores

If ever there was a boat for these hard times, the Fleming 58 might be it. The time of my review now feels like a different era, but even then it impressed me as the perfect escape vehicle. After motoring leisurely down Sydney Harbour, we passed through the heads into a nasty swell. Not all vessels would handle the conditions without some discomfort but the ride of the Fleming was eminently stable, and progress at 12kt was effortless. It was hard not to imagine fleeing to an exotic isle because the Fleming would be just the shot to make the voyage.

Let’s go back a little though, because the brand deserves a wider view before we get into the detail of this particular model.

You can find a vast amount of information about Tony Fleming and his travels online and in his many books and videos. Our potted version sees him train in his youth as an aircraft engineer before travelling the world and eventually working for the fledgling American Marine, who subsequently built Grand Banks yachts in Hong Kong and then Singapore.



His engineering and organisational skills saw him rise to production and development manager. Still, when the company hit hard times in the mid-‘80s, he found himself without a job after 23 years and at age 50. 

Never short of ideas or enthusiasm, he teamed up with a previous colleague and established a relationship with Tung Hwa boatyard in Taiwan, designed a long-distance pilothouse cruising yacht with assistance from American naval architect Larry Drake, and started lofting the plans to make the plug for his first model. The first boat left the shed in November 1986, a mere 13 months after the contract with Tung Hwa was signed.

Right from the start, Fleming knew he wanted his brand to be “stoutly constructed, easy to board and disembark, be a good sea boat and it had to look like a proper boat.” In later years Fleming believed that no other builder put as much effort into every aspect of design and build of what he and many others consider the ultimate cruising yacht. He is quoted as claiming the success of the range is “a design offering the flexibility of performance — meaning you can get the range of a displacement boat at displacement speed but can run fast when necessary.”

It’s true there are larger vessels that also fulfil the expedition mould, but not many can be handled by a couple and have the simple safe engineering of a Fleming.

When Australian Fleming agent, Egil Paulsen travelled from his home in Norway to Taiwan to inspect his first Fleming, a 55, back in 1991 it started a relationship with the company and its founder Tony Fleming that has endured to this day. The pair enjoyed a mutual love of cruising, and over the years Paulson and Fleming have spent many weeks exploring icy Nordic waters.

By 2003 Paulsen had moved to Australia, and when the yacht builder sought advice on who could help expand the brand down under, Paulsen decided to take up the challenge himself and Fleming Australia was born. I’m told our review boat is the 21st to be sold locally and it sits in a range that includes four models from 55 to 78 feet.

The 58 was conceived to bridge the gap between the 55 and the 65, and was the first design commissioned after Tony Fleming handed the company on to a new generation of owners. Norman Wright and Sons in Brisbane undertook the design and tank testing on the new model, which retained the look of its siblings, but was fresh from the keel up.

THE BUILD

Although the exterior design of each Fleming model has stayed true, no two boats are exactly the same. A current 55 looks very similar to the original but, through customer feedback and the ongoing testing of products, improvements and tweaks are introduced on each new launch.

Perhaps the most apparent change over time has been to the electronics package, which is world-class with leading navigation equipment and computer monitoring of all systems aboard. One thing that hasn’t changed is the super-solid construction and operating redundancies throughout for safe and reliable passage-making.

Hulls are solid fibreglass with a matrix of interlocking frames and box section stringers to form a unit that is impact resistant and impervious to water. An outer layer of vinylester resin in the layup, covered in five coats of epoxy paint, prevents osmosis. Additional reinforcing at the stem, in the bow, chines and keel adds to safety. The timber clinker-look of the hull isn’t just for show, it also adds stiffness to the hull structure.

Above the waterline, the construction is sandwich laminate using Corecell M-Foam and superior gelcoat, and there is no timber in any of the more than 55 mouldings throughout the vessel. Certification is to CE category A– ocean-going with a capacity of 15 people offshore or 30 inshore. 

A fine clipper style bow has generous flare and runs to round bilges initially and moderate chines as the hull flattens out from amidships back to the transom. Underneath, a stainless steel shoe protects a full-length keel running 30cm below the running gear. All Fleming models have a 1.52m (5ft) draft as demanded by the American market for cruising the shallow waters of the Bahamas, but the benefit applies worldwide

The full-length keel gives directional stability, and the flatter running surfaces allow the hull to reach planing speeds when needed to run from weather or meet a deadline. A set of 7.5sq ft ABT TRAC fin stabilisers overcome any excessive roll when underway, but the hull is stable at rest thanks to the hefty weight and flatter aft section.

ROOM TO SPARE

The Fleming profile combines a classic high bow and low superstructure in a look that never fails to warm the innards of any true seadog. Little has changed visually over the last 30 years, and why would it? In practical terms it’s probably the ideal size for a couple to handle and live aboard, but with room for extra guests as you choose.

With a maximum inshore capacity of 30, I could easily imagine a party this size with plenty of room to spread out around the various separate areas without feeling confined. The capacity of 15 at sea is perhaps overdoing things for a long voyage, but safe and accommodating for an extended family on a run up to Pittwater or Port Stephens from the Harbour.

SEAWORTHY DESIGN

One of the founding design principals is apparent when stepping aboard because access is straightforward from either side deck or the swim platform. Once boarded, I gazed around the roomy cockpit, and two things hit me, and as it turned out, they said a lot about the Fleming philosophy. The first was the gleaming teak cap rails around the cockpit. Beautiful craftsmanship, I thought, but imagine keeping them pristine. The second was the wide passageways along either side, and I wondered if making them a little narrower might allow a larger saloon?

When he saw me admiring the immaculate timberwork, Egil told me it wasn’t timber. It’s a Fleming crafted composite, impossible at first sight to pick from the organic original. He explained that this Burwood finish is an option most owners choose because it looks the part and needs much less maintenance than real teak. He saw me double-checking the teak deck and laughed. That’s genuine Burmese teak, 5/8th of an inch thick and immaculately fitted throughout the boat.

It took a while to sink in that the wide decks aren’t a design mistake. The imperative on a Fleming is practical seaworthiness combined with optimum living comfort, so the safety and surefootedness of anyone rushing along the deck trumps a few extra inches of room inside. Practical seamanship isn’t the only driver I suspect, because being at sea isn’t all about hiding away inside. Providing spaces where you can be as one with the scenery and action — like a whale surfacing alongside — is a big part of the oceangoing experience and an entirely safe and roomy walk-around deck allows these unique encounters.

THE LAYOUT

Continuing the practical theme is a layout that maximises smooth flow through the whole boat. Those wide side decks with high bulwarks lead to a Portuguese bow forward of the pilothouse with steps down to the bow itself. Sliding doors at the pilothouse open to the sides for immediate access to shore when mooring. Wide safe stairways ease the way from helm to flybridge, saloon to helm deck or down to the accommodation deck.

Aside from a removable polished teak table set in the centre, the cockpit is open and uncluttered. 12mm acrylic wing doors open to the side decks and a flybridge extends overhead for weather protection. Folding chairs are stored in a locker under a step ladder to the flybridge, and a powered hatch in the cockpit sole opens to a large lazarette. Low steps in the transom corners house salt and freshwater showers, while a moulded cabinet to starboard includes an Isotherm fridge and a docking station with engine controls and a low-speed joystick control.

THE ENGINE ROOM 

The standing height engine room is reached down a ladder through another hatch in the cockpit. Impressive in the white-lined room is a pair of white 800hp MAN diesels sitting aside a central passageway. Power runs through Twin Disc Quick Shift gearboxes to a Seatorque Bolt On Shaft System (BOSS). Rubber-mounted to the hull and with a flexible coupling to the engines, the shafts run through oil-filled outer casings to the propeller to minimise vibration and noise.

Hydraulic power take-offs (PTO) operate various systems including the stabilisers, thrusters and one of the anchor winches. For ease of maintenance, a clutch disconnects the PTO so they can be serviced with the engines running. 

Again optimising safety, all the critical systems have built-in redundancy. For example, the engine batteries and fuel supplies can be interchanged, there are three steering pumps, and the freshwater pumps have a prewired backup system with dual power supply. 

Electrical supplies, water strainers and the dual Racor fuel filters are all well marked and quickly reached for checking and maintenance. A 17kW Onan generator supplies house power, but there’s also a bank of eight 6V Lifeline deep cycle batteries in a temperature-controlled box connected to a 5000W Victron Energy inverter for lights and music without the genset.

ELECTRONIC OVERSIGHT

Monitoring and control of the boat’s many systems are though the wizardry of German company Böning Automationstechnologie GmbH & Co. Known simply as Böning, their system is generally associated with ships and superyachts, so seeing it on a relatively small passage maker is a mark of Fleming’s dedication to excellence. Collecting information from all systems, the technology brings the data together on a 15in display at the upper and lower helms and also to an iPad that can be viewed remotely, even away from the boat.

LIVING THE GOOD LIFE

Those in the market for a Fleming generally plan to travel far and spend extended time aboard. Many will have transitioned from a sailing experience, but now seek more room, more comfort and ultra-reliable power. And because they are spending a considerable amount, the expectation of a superior living space is a given.

You only have to step inside the sliding doors to the saloon to appreciate the depth of comfort lavished on the interior. In a hull that’s all business, the living space is pure indulgence. Thick carpet underfoot ends just short of the corners to tease with the sight of the hand laid teak and holly saloon sole underneath. Warmed through with beautiful honey-coloured teak furniture, soft fabric lounges, and gentle mood lighting, it’s hard not to feel immediately at home.

Fiddle rails and handholds guiding the way hint back to the practical, while large windows are set just right to appreciate the ever changing horizons. Keeping the crew well-fed on the journey is essential, and again Fleming raises the bar high. In the forward port corner is a galley full of Miele appliances and an oversize Smeg side-by-side fridge freezer. It’s a sensible working space with room to move and loads of storage to stack a big load of provisions. 

Access to the accommodation deck is from a well-proportioned stairway to starboard of the galley that leads down to a central hallway complete with over and under Miele washer and dryer. 

CHOICE OF CABINS

The review boat has Fleming’s traditional “Option A” layout that positions the master cabin in the bow with port and starboard cabins rearward. It is one of three designs available in the 58 series that also include a full-beam master and variations of a bow cabin with a queen or twin beds. There are further possibilities for the third cabin to be set up with bunks or as an office. 

Those choosing the bow option get more efficient use of space and a more equal sharing of cabin size because the guest cabins are considerably larger than on the full-beam version. In all cases, the master has its own ensuite, while the guest cabins share theirs. 

A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP

The bow master has a queen island bed on the centreline with steps either side for improved access. The decor continues the rich timber theme where lockers alongside the bed and hanging cupboards further aft provide ample storage for a change of season clothing. Overhead is a large skylight that doubles as an escape hatch that’s part of CE certification — there’s a ladder in the port wardrobe. 

The master has its own generously proportioned ensuite with a wide Silestone vanity, Planus head and a moulded corner shower with glass door. A generous head height throughout the accommodation adds to the feeling of space.

Further aft are two guest cabins and a shared head. The port cabin includes single beds running fore and aft, opening ports and a hanging locker, while the starboard cabin has L-shaped bunks with the upper one running along the hull and ample storage in drawers and cupboards below.

THE PILOTHOUSE

Being able to close off the saloon from the lower helm station gives the skipper the choice of engaging with those relaxing below or closing himself off to concentrate on the task at hand. Couples travelling alone will still have the opportunity of each other’s company because twin Stidd helm chairs and a lounge make comfortable positions to while away the hours. A corner day head is a valuable option that means the skipper needn’t leave their station for too long for comfort breaks.

The dash melds timeless teak joinery with an array of contemporary electronics. Two 24in Raymarine Axium glass displays are top centre, surrounded by the all-knowing Boning and another two 16in Axiums for cameras and radar. Other smaller screens show the autopilot, Trac Link stabiliser fin position and engine data. 

At first glance, it’s overwhelming, so it’s no wonder new owners go through training that can last up to two weeks before they feel comfortable enough with all the systems to head off alone.

THE FLYBRIDGE

Stairs to the rear of the helm deck lead up to the flybridge, where most of the lower instruments are replicated ahead of a double Stidd seat. A U-shaped lounge to starboard and another lounge opposite give seating for eight or so guests to enjoy the outdoors under a fibreglass hardtop. Rearwards are a wet bar, fridge and BBQ and a stand for a 13ft RIB tender that is hauled on board with a Steelhead hydraulic davit.

THE RIDE

Happily, photography had already been completed because the day of our review was cold, wet and windy with that 2–2.5m sea running offshore — just perfect for a test, as long as we sheltered inside. 

Even in the relative protection of Sydney Harbour, the benefit of 40 tonnes of displacement was soon apparent with a ride that was smooth and deliberate across ferry wake and the rising wind chop.

Pushed to its limit, the 58 can hit 21kt, so the potential is there to run from a storm when needed, but the real passage maker will settle back and enjoy the ride at a more leisurely 7–9 knots. 900rpm delivers 7.5kt and fuel usage of 18L/h from both MANs for a range of 2057nm with 10 per cent in reserve from the 5488L tanks. Pushed to 9.6kt at 1000rpm and the range is 1580nm at a fuel flow of 30L/h. 

Sitting back in the comfortable Stidd helm chairs, driving the boat is a breeze. The skipper’s starboard side arm rest has a dial for the auto pilot to make manoeuvres with an effortless fingertip control, even bringing the boat around in a slow 180 degree turn. Vision is great and there is only a slight hum and absolutely no vibration through the hull from the engines at cruising speeds. 

THE WRAP

With a price dependant on the American dollar, which at the time of testing was down to 66c to the US$1, the boat as tested would hit the register at $6.6m, including the $700,000 of options fitted. For most folk that’s not an impulse buy, which is a shame because I totally get the Fleming 58. 

It’s a boat that does what it says without any pretension. It fulfils lifelong dreams of sailing off into the sunset — without sails of course, but you know what I mean. Bora Bora is on the list. Perhaps a cruise over the top of Australia or around Tasmania would be on the cards as a shakedown run. All the ingredients are there to travel in comfort and safety.

When Tony Fleming found himself jobless, he probably could have retired comfortably to obscurity. The cruising world must be glad he didn’t because the brand that wears his name has gone on to be one the best in its class and a truly remarkable rendering of his vision. 


FACTS & FIGURES

Fleming 58

PRICED FROM

$5.9M (at Au$.066/US$1)

OPTIONS FITTED

Twin Disc EJS & EPS with hydraulic bow and stern thrusters, joystick controls and position hold displays, FRP 'Burwood' Caprails, Hardtop with 680W Solar charging system, deck extension with aft docking station, Twin Disc EJS & EPS controls, CCTV System with, Docking cameras, iPad integration, Engine room air conditioner, Victron 5000 inverter charger (standard for Oz boats) with battery monitor and colour control display, 800Ah 24V battery bank, Sonos stereo throughout, Foxtel and AppleTV, Cellular Internet and Wi-Fi, Raymarine navigation package, 1850 GPD FCI watermaker, Second 45kg Ultra anchor, Moulded cockpit to flybridge stairs, Flybridge BBQ with sink and drinks fridge and lots more!

PRICE AS TESTED

$6.6M (at 0.66/US$1)

GENERAL

MATERIAL Hull solid GRP; Superstructure Corecell cored construction

TYPE Trawler style Monohull 

LENGTH 19.1m (62ft 9in) LOA

BEAM 5.33m (17ft 6in)

WEIGHT 39,916kg (47,899kg loaded)

DRAFT 1.52m (5ft)

CAPACITIES

PEOPLE (NIGHT) 6 (DAY) Inshore 30, Offshore 15

FUEL 5488L

WATER 1211L

BLACKWATER 625L

ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL MAN i6-800 (x2)

TYPE In-line, direct-injected, turbocharged 6 cylinder, four-stroke diesel

RATED HP 800hp@2300rpm (566kw)

DISPLACEMENT 12.42L

WEIGHT 1215kg

GEAR RATIO 2.5:1 

PROPELLER 36” diameter x 34.5” pitch, 4-blade

MANUFACTURED BY

Fleming Yachts

SUPPLIED BY

Fleming Yachts Australia

Unit 6, Bradly Ave, Kirribilli NSW

P 02 8920 1444

W www.flemingyachts.com.au

Tags

Reviews Fleming Fleming 58 Powerboat Voyager

Photographer

Salty Dingo