The final boat in this group was the Southerly 540, the signature feature of which is a variable-draft cast-iron swing keel that draws nearly 11 feet when in the full down position and a mere 3 feet 1 inch when raised.
“It delivers the best of both worlds,” said Murphy. “When you’re out in the ocean, you want a boat that can handle waves and big seas. But the best part of the cruising life is at the edges where water meets land. The Southerly will take you to both of those places. With the keel down, you’ve got 11 feet under you and all the pointing ability that goes with that. So it’s a deepwater boat but also one you can dry out. It can go places most cruising boats can’t ever go. So the world is very, very opened up.”
“The swinging keel system is very robust,” said Bolin. “It looked foolproof, with a hydraulic ram driving a block and-tackle system with Spectra line on it. You push a couple of buttons and it goes down to your pre-punched-in level. It takes a few seconds. Under sail, I was amazed that we were under load, closehauled, and [the owner] changed the keel configuration. With all the forces acting on it I didn’t think it would move, but it came right up.”
“The build quality was outstanding,” said Sherman. “It sailed beautifully. It’s a true global cruiser.” For the judges, that combination of traits was irresistible. Which is why they named the Southerly 540 the Best Full-Size Cruiser 54 to 58 Feet.
“The Southerly 540 delivers the best of both worlds. When you’re out in the ocean, you want a boat that can handle waves and big seas. But the best part of the cruising life is at the edges where the water meets the land. The Southerly will take you to both of those places.”
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