Palm Beach 42 Express

The pursuit of perfection.

by Gary Reich
In Japanese culture, the word “shokunin” refers to someone who has mastered their profession to such an extent that their work borders on flawless.


  • LOA: 43'
  • Beam: 14'6"
  • Draft: 2'10"
  • Weight: 23,350 lbs.
  • Fuel Capacity: 317 gals.
  • Water Capacity: 172 gals.
  • Power: T-Volvo IPS 400s
  • Price: $1,075,000

Maybe it’s someone like Jiro Ono, the subject of the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” who has spent the last 70 years tirelessly working to create the most impeccable sushi, sacrificing everything for the goal of mastering his art. The life of a shokunin is often a tortured existence; these artisans never completely achieve their idea of perfection.

For those who have seen his work, it’s clear that Palm Beach Yachts founder Mark Richards is firmly planted on the path of a shokunin, having spent the last 22 years relentlessly working to build the perfect motoryacht. If you’ve never been on or seen a Palm Beach yacht before, that probably sounds pretty corny. 

But if you have, you know the deal. The Australian company builds some of the most incredibly perfect machines on the water, their build quality often likened to the hand-built properties of a Rolls Royce automobile. So, as you might guess, a boat nerd (like me) loses some sleep the night before running a boat such as the Palm Beach 42 Express.

A head-turner

The morning after my somewhat sleepless night — having restlessly dreamt of gleaming varnish and the feeling of warm teak decking under my feet — Captain Bob Philburn wipes the morning dew off our test craft as he prepares to get us underway. Lines eventually hit the dock with a slapping sound, and we get moving. With a few joystick inputs, twin Volvo Penta IPS 600 pod drives pivot precisely underneath us to glide the 42 quietly out into the creek. 

The Palm Beach 42 Express — like all Palm Beach Yachts — is a head-turner. Motor it down a busy waterway like we did on Back Creek in Annapolis, Maryland, and everyone will stop what they’re doing. I’m not kidding. Richards has applied a generous tumblehome and bow flare to give the 42 a gorgeous dose of curviness, while an aggressive set of lines at the aft end of the cabin house resemble a Hofmeister kink — an angled L-shape element used in automobile design. The oval-shaped glass windows set into the cabin sides have a bit of Carolina sportfish look to them. While it appears as if they are made from a single piece of glass, there are actually power-opening windows nicely concealed within the boundaries. Add in dark blue topsides, cream colored decks, generous teak brightwork and a seamless, stainless steel bow rail that runs along almost 70 percent of the 42’s length, and you’ve got a serious contender for prom queen. 

Flawless fit and finish

On deck and below is where you start to get an idea of Richards’ perfectionist mindset. Every piece of exterior and interior woodwork on the 42 is flawless; all of it installed using epoxy so that no bungs or plugs are needed to conceal countersunk fasteners. Every piece of wood on-board is of impeccable quality, as well; all of it hand-selected and grain-matched from large batches without a knot or imperfection to be seen. It’s no surprise that the fiberglass and gelcoat work is flawless, too. In fact, the fit and finish of the insides of the engine room and bilges are nicer than the exterior work of some modern production boats.

The 42 Express rides on a modern composite hull that’s immensely strong but very lightweight for its size. The outside of the hull is made up of three layers of multi-directional e-glass laid up by hand using vinylester resin. Corecell foam is carefully fitted next, before two additional layers of e-glass are applied to complete the sandwich. Stringers and longitudinal supports are bonded to the hull structure using an infusion process before bulkheads and tanks are bonded in. The cored deck and superstructure go on last. Set in the water, the 42 Express displaces 23,350 pounds. As a matter of comparison, a fair number of competing boats in this size range weigh as many as 6,000 pounds more than the 42 Express. 

Efficient performance

To get an idea of how well this lightweight composite hull behaves underway, we pointed the 42 Express toward the open Chesapeake Bay for a romp around the buoys. Tucked away and running quietly in the impeccably finished engine room — which is floored with teak decking, by the way — are a pair of Volvo Penta IPS 600 pod drives spun by two 435-hp D4 turbocharged diesels. 

A judicious application of throttle launches the 42 Express up on a plane in only a few seconds with very little racket and, most notably, zero bow rise. None, nada, zip, zilch. In fact, aggressively jostling the throttles at any speed has very little effect on the 42’s attitude in the water. Part of that is by design and part of it is thanks to a nifty trim system made by a company called Zipwake. Instead of the conventional trim tabs, the Zipwake system raises and lowers a pair of vertically oriented stainless steel “doors” at the stern that keep the Palm Beach 42 at a comfortable attitude. Keep the throttles buried like I did and the 42 Express will barrel up to a top end of 33.05 knots at 3,600 rpm. She’s most efficient at around 28 knots, though, burning only 32.76 gallons of diesel an hour. Further math reveals that’s 1.21 gallons per nautical mile, which is pretty darn miserly. 

Out on the water, the 42 Express offered one of the most amazing rides I’ve ever experienced. At cruise speed we galloped over a 1- to 2-foot chop stirred by a 10- to 15-knot breeze with no banging, zero perceptible vibration and not one rattle from any of the 42’s internal components. The Zipwake system worked on its own like a charm, keeping us well trimmed and angled against the waves just right. I also found the 42 quite maneuverable. While hard-over steering inputs are limited by the IPS drives’ computer controls, I was able to carve figure eights like an Olympic figure skater, all from the comfy, elevated helm station inside. 

Overachieving accommodations

Down below, the 42 is trimmed out in high-end materials with impeccable teak joinery throughout. You can have the 42 Express in two different interior layouts. My test craft had two staterooms — a master and guest cabin — with the galley situated up in the main salon. Prospective buyers can also opt for the galley down. This layout further expands the main salon space, with two large lounge areas to port and starboard, but eliminates the guest cabin. 

Our review boat had a starboard galley in the main salon with a large dinette/lounge area to port. The master stateroom is situated in the bow with a double island berth and is packed with plenty of stowage cabinetry. It’s trimmed out with leather, flawless teak and well-placed cloth accents. The guest cabin is to port on the lower level and shares an enclosed head/shower with the master stateroom. Nothing creaked or groaned underfoot and everything — including cabinet drawers and bilge access panels — worked and fit together perfectly.

There’s precision and comfort in the aft cockpit, too. It has an expansive swath of warm-feeling teak decking covering its floor and is surrounded by glossy teak trim. An uber-comfy lounge is set into the aft port quarter behind a teak table, which could easily be displayed as art in a gallery; a wetbar with a sink, refrigeration and stowage is ahead of it. Folks in sunbaked states will want to opt for the well-fitted aft cockpit sunshade, which our review craft was equipped with. But if sun is your thing, step out onto the massive teak-decked swim platform through the transom door and soak it in. It’s like having a private teak beach. 

While I expect Richards will continue striving for higher levels of perfection in his Palm Beach motoryachts, he’s already set the bar pretty high with the 42 Express — and in the rest of the builder’s lineup. Anyone with a perfectionist mindset looking for a boat with similar attributes will want to spend some time on this overachieving motoryacht. 

Palm Beach Motor Yachts USA 

South Shore JUN17