"I'm not in this business to build an empire," protests Tony Fleming, with a wry smile. And yet, with 189 of his Fleming 55 trawler yachts sold since production began just 20 years ago, the numbers belie his modesty.
After the overwhelming acceptance of its first offering, Fleming Yachts brought out a 75-footer that has proven to be equally popular. But the boatbuilder also discovered that a 20-foot jump in size was a bit much for some owners. To fill that gap, the Fleming 65 was born.
While the earlier two boats were designed by Larry Drake with styling by Tony Fleming, the 65 is a Doug Sharp design with entirely new hull lines. It still has the long keel of the other Flemings, but the 65 flattens aft for improved speed and stability, while prop pockets keep the draft to just five feet for island cruising. On a windy and rough trip down the Pacific Coast, the first 65 hit 20 knots while surfing some of the big seas. That was far beyond her 11-knot cruising speed, yet she tracked straight with fingertip control on the wheel.
Upping the length from 55 feet to 65 provides far more than just a few dimes' worth of difference: The beam increases by more than two feet and the displacement soars from around 66,000 pounds to 108,000 pounds. Most important, however, is how the interior volume increases geometrically to create a spacious three-stateroom layout with liveaboard space.
From the outside, the new 65 won't disappoint Fleming aficionados, who will see at a glance that the styling cues haven't been lost in the designer transition. The boat still looks long and lean on the water, mostly because the foredeck is surrounded by teak-capped rails rather than the solid raised bulwarks that give some trawlers a bluff-bowed appearance. Here the Portuguese bridge remains forward of the pilothouse, while the wide side decks are protected by the overhang of the bridge (good for sun protection in the tropics as well as from rain in northern climes). The sheerline curves sweetly from bow to stern.
Inside, the design brief was for more comfort, sensibly achieved. Rather than trying to shoehorn in additional cabins, the three staterooms have been enlarged to the size of those on much larger yachts. A day head is in the pilothouse. The owner's cabin is forward, with a queen-sized berth that hinges up on gas lifts to reveal a king-sized storage bin underneath. Two hanging lockers have real-world dimensions so that clothing actually hangs on the hangers rather than simply being wedged in vertically; ample drawers create bureaus for smaller clothing-room enough for a major clothes horse.
Distinguishing the 65, as with other Flemings, are the clever solutions to problems often overlooked or simply swept under the table by other builders. Because the Fleming 65 will be offered in Europe, it must meet CE safety requirements that emergency exits be nearby in each stateroom. To solve the problem, Tony Fleming devised the lighted ceiling treatment in the owner's stateroom so that it hinges down to reveal not only a deck hatch, but a fold-out ladder as well.
The master head is comfortably sized and has a large stall shower with a Corian deck grating and Headhunter pressure-jet toilets, which are standard throughout.
The port guest cabin has twin berths (a queen is optional), plus a Pullman fold-down on the inboard bulkhead and a stretcher-bar berth over the outboard berth. Across the companionway is the guest head with another large shower, with a seat for added functionality.