Classic flybridge cruisers like the well-credentialled Maritimo M51 combine luxury with performance, a combination that has proven popular with bluewater sailors and sports fishers alike.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Classic flybridge cruisers like the well-credentialled Maritimo M51 combine luxury with performance, a combination that has proven popular with bluewater sailors and sports fishers alike.

The Maritimo M51 is a stylish flybridge cruiser with premium Australian quality and liveability throughout.

WHILE FLYBRIDGE CRUISERS OFFER three levels of living space and commanding views from the helm, for the more adventurous there has to be a sturdy hull beneath – that’s something premium Australian marque Maritimo has understood from its inception in 2003 by founder Bill Barry-Cotter. 

Before that, Cotter had established Australia’s other premium marque, Riviera in 1980 – so there’s a vast amount of successful experience that goes into every Maritimo, a fact noticed by discerning sailors. Exports are a major part of the company’s business and with the recent appointment of SG Boating in Singapore, the Asian market is Maritimo’s next strongest selling region after America. 

Another feature of the marque is its dedication to shaft-drive boats and its continued development of this robust transmission system in order to compete with the fuel efficiencies achieved by pod transmissions. Manoeuvrability – another big advantage pods offer – is countered here by using integrated thrusters via excellent systems like Twin Disc and others that Maritimo fits. The company describes the M51 as its most compact flybridge motor cruiser, in a range of five in which the M70 is the largest, but it lacks for nothing, as the 2019 version shows. The M51 model was originally launched in 2016, so for this latest version, some reworking has been done. Modern designers often quote 50 feet as the minimum size to fit all the essentials into a luxury motor cruiser, and the M51 achieves this, via three spacious levels of living areas, three cabins and ample open deck space.

My Reading Room

The enclosed flybridge is air-conditioned with large balcony aft, making for three levels of comfortable living on the M51.

Aerodynamic lines

Sleek aesthetics, a characteristic of many an Australian towering flybridge cruiser, also translates into less windage both underway and at anchor. Thus, the M51’s sleek profile combined with falling shear lines, curving windows and sympathetic overhangs compose a sweet ensemble. And one of which stood before me at Maritimo’s Gold Coast yard where my host for the day, Tom Barry-Cotter who heads the design team, showed me around.

Boarding is easily done, no matter which way the M51 is berthed, as doors on each quarter allow access into the stern deck via the teak swim platform. Here, there’s a transom bench seat that’s integrated with the barbecue and wet bar located outboard, and includes a new hatch on this 2019 version giving entry to a lazarette. An optional Sports layout here suits anglers, with its fighting chair and fish storage, plus more space around the deck without the fitted transom seating.

My Reading Room

Speeding into turns the M51 felt sure-footed with no sliding.

Overhead, Maritimo’s signature flybridge balcony shades the entire area; an important feature for tropical waters. Gunwales contain rope lockers, oversized cleats and deep side decks lead along to tall life rails for safely moving to the bow. Here, the flared bow creates a spacious area to relax in, or to install the optional davit and dinghy combination. Anchoring is well taken care of by a large 24V Muir horizontal windlass with 30-kilogram stainless-steel anchor, which can be controlled from the flybridge. Ample use of cleats including amidships and additional three quarter ones mean securing the M51 can be easily done before you relax inside.

My Reading Room

The solid hull dampened and smoothed the ride, making the M51 ideal for those long offshore legs.

Panoramic saloon

Stepping inside the saloon via the glass-framed alloy bi-fold doors reveals an open-plan interior with galley aft, dinette amidships and lounge forward; a classic layout and for good reason, as it’s usually the most favoured. Inside here, on port is the stairs up to the enclosed flybridge while at the front are steps down to the accommodation. The lounge enjoys panoramic views on four sides but in port you can pull down roller blinds, and that includes on the aft doors. Toughened glass is subtly tinted in the 2019 version to reduce glare. To port, U-shaped lounge seating surrounds the gleaming teak dinette table while opposite is another leather-upholstered couch to finish off this dedicated relaxing area.

For entertaining, the galley bulkhead acts as an ideal bar top for serving cocktails, and opening side windows gives ventilation when the ducted air conditioning isn’t on. Sensibly, the saloon’s design gives access via the island bench in the galley, which allows two passages between cooking area and the outside diners – who can eat at a folding cockpit table. In the galley, gleaming glossed teak cupboards contain a pull-out pantry to hold weeks’ worth of victuals while perishables go into the twin-door fridge. The fit-out also has a four-plate electric cooktop, microwave and deep single sink. Electrical options include fitting a dishwasher into the island bench, washing machine below decks plus a watermaker, so the M51 is well equipped for long-range cruising plans. Generous Corian workspace is available throughout, especially with that island bench but fiddles would be welcome. Another large cupboard opposite on port contains the electrical panel, with manual breakers for the 12- or 24-volt systems, so is quickly to hand.

My Reading Room

The flybridge gives both the skipper and guests plenty facilities, including the double bed that pulls out and wet bar on its balcony.

Room with a view

Climbing up the teak stairs is worth the effort, and not just for the steerer, as the large enclosed flybridge is an all-weather entertaining area thanks to Maritimo’s signature outside balcony – where you can also game fish with commanding views. Alternatively, a cantilevered lounge layout is an option here, and a canvas overhang keeps it all shaded. Indoors on the flybridge, our review boat had an optional pull-out double bed to create a fantastic room with a view or privacy for the paid skipper. Entertaining can easily be done up here as well – simply wind back the electric sunroof, open the aft balcony door and enjoy the stunning views from the large side windows. 

At the steering console, tech help includes twin Simrad Evo3 screens, throttles and the twin thrusters. Trim is controlled by Lenco vertical tabs, with auto and manual modes. As mentioned, the Twin Disc joystick option is a user-friendly docking system for the owner who perhaps doesn’t get enough time aboard to master shaft-drive manoeuvring. Other key data clearly presented are the Volvo engine screens and the essential autopilot, plus chain counter for the Muir windlass. Stylish leather Pompanette American-made seats – that swivel round for socialising – complement this functional and comfortable console area.

My Reading Room

The main console is offset to starboard on the flybridge, with ample space for screens and co-skipper.

Midships master cabin

A stand-out in this class of boat is the full-beam master cabin amidships, with its bed angled to increase the floor space. Set deep in the hull, so comfy at sea, the owner has three steps down to the cabin and should enjoy a restful sleep on the queen-sized walk-around bed with sprung mattress. It’s offset to port in order to maximise leg room and to create a lounge to starboard (or storage with fold-away television) so uses the available space well. Quality finishes here include an aromatic cedar-lined wardrobe, drawer lockers, and new 2019 panoramic windows that open to allow a fresh air flow through the hull to reduce the reliance on air-conditioning.

My Reading Room

The towering flybridge where all navigation is done from on the M51; and note the exterior lip for shade while large windows and the sunroof give plenty ventilation.

Moving to the forepeak VIP cabin, it’s an equally comfortable double with ample headroom thanks to the elevated foredeck. Natural light is slightly limited due to the single opening skylight but ample LED spotlights create a pleasant ambience and surrounding shelves with tall cupboards should accommodate guests. For ablutions the M51 has two bathrooms with spacious shower cubicles and electrical heads. A large opening skylight in each gives plenty of natural light and ventilation as well. Slotting between the two doubles, the third cabin on starboard has two bunks and a large cupboard for the washer-dryer, so is a utility room if the teenagers aren’t visiting, plus there’s an option to transform it into a dedicated workroom.

My Reading Room

A panoramic view of the Gold Coast Waterway from the comfortable lounge of the M51.

Bluewater hull

Our review boat was hull number 29, which is an impressively high number for this 2016-launched model. Key characteristics of deep V-hull, long keel, modest deadrise and flat aft sections for planing give the M51 good offshore characteristics. Additional directional stability comes from moulded spray rails. Inside, a tall structural GRP grid creates deep bilges in this hand-laid GRP hull (monolithic vinylester below the water and balsa-cored above). “The hull is where you need the strength and weight so why compromise it?” Asks Tom Barry-Cotter. Other structural pluses are watertight bulkheads and integral GRP fuel tanks. Rigorous build quality is established via external audits and the success of this was clearly evident in quality hull fixings I saw. 

My Reading Room

Inside the M51, the dedicated saloon is nicely separated from the working parts (galley and upstairs navigation on flybridge).

Access to the engine room is in the stern deck where a spacious layout awaited me as I lowered myself down the stairs to check out the twin Volvo 670s, which have ample working space around them. The sturdy shaft-drive transmission is another popular feature with traditionalists. Using shafts also greatly helps balance the trim, putting weight forward, which aids performance by reducing drag. The shafts use dripless seals and are machined in 2.2-inch duplex stainless steel with large five-blade Nibral propellers, while rudder stocks are bronze. 

My Reading Room

The angled queen bed allows generous lounge space on the starboard side of the master cabin which is located midships to maximise space.

Notable service points included the Racor 500 FG filter for each engine and a generator located high aft, nearby the electrical cut-off and 1.6-kilowatt inverter to run the small goods. The M51 has both 12- and 24-volt systems, charging AGM batteries (800 ampere hours) that are centralised in the hull, with engine start batteries outboard plus two genset batteries. The Onan 11-kilowatt generator, which runs the white goods and aircon, is located aft and has working space around it. 

My Reading Room

A flybridge bed.

Traditional tinned wiring is used throughout the M51, rather than an electronic bus, which allows simple error fixing should faults occur during those remote island trips. The main electrical switches are at the console with a second set down by the inverter panel, so again a sensible layout, as I found with nearly all items on the stylish M51.

My Reading Room

The aft galley layout with island bench and tall cupboards allows room for several cooks and has a front bar section for serving cocktails to the lounge.

Gold Coast offshore trip

Departing Maritimo’s impressive modern boatyard at Hope Island, we snaked our way along the shallow banks of the Coomera River towards the Gold Coast Seaway. Sitting comfortably high in the M51’s bucket console seat gave me commanding views of all the channel markers and shallows, while only a faint rumble told us the twin Volvo 670-horsepower engines were pushing us along. Entering the Gold Coast Seaway, a myriad of channels and sandbars showed on the Simrad Evo plotter screen, easily confirmed by my naked eye as I pushed the throttles down while feeling the precise control from the M51 steering that gave me the confidence to close in on the last channel marker before heading offshore. As the M51 rose in the slight swells, I aimed our bow at the iconic high-rise skyline of Surfers Paradise before putting the throttles fully down, watching as the hull steadily rose onto the plane and levelled out. 

My Reading Room

All was done without much effort as the Lenco vertical tabs automatically levelled the 21-tonne hull, while the numbers on the Simrad GPS showed an impressive 30.3 knots top speed. Reaching this had been done without complaint – no murmurs or groans from furnishings – and there was also no drama when I put the wheel down to feel the hull dig into (rather than slide through) the turns and then cut through our own wake. Throttling back to a cruising speed of nearly 20 knots showed a fuel burn of 168 litres per hour, which would give a range of about 352 nautical miles but for those sea crossings to perhaps New Caledonia displacement mode would dramatically increase this to 800 miles. Returning to the Gold Coast Seaway, slow handling of the M51 was next on my list, as I centred the steering wheel and used the fore/aft thrusters to go astern – just to remind myself about old-school handling – and the M51 obediently went backwards, despite the side wind, with occasional nudges on the bow thruster. My notes stated, at the time, “plenty of style and substance” which is a fair summary of this accomplished Maritimo M51.