Pacemaker, Uniflite & Chris-Craft's 46' Motoryacht
By Jack Hornor
Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012
Why try to improve on one of the best looking and arguably most livable flush-deck motoryachts ever designed when you can have the real thing? I suspect this might have been the logic when three prominent boatbuilders - one from the East Coast, one from the Midwest and one from the Pacific Northwest - combined efforts to keep this single design in production for 10 years.
Designed by Dave Martin for Pacemaker Yachts, the Pacemaker 46 was introduced in 1977. When Pacemaker went out of business in 1980, the molds were purchased by Uniflite Corporation of Bellingham, WA, who continued production as the Uniflite 46 until 1984 when market pressures forced Uniflite out of business. Uniflite's assets were then purchased by Chris-Craft which continued production as the 460 Constellation through 1986 when production was discontinued in favor of a "stretched" 50-foot version the same vessel.
While the 46 had a somewhat convoluted history, except for a few minor style changes and power options, all three models were virtually identical. Length on deck is 46' 3" although the bow pulpit and transom-mounted swim platform, which were standard on all models, adds about five feet to the overall length. The beam is 15' 3" and draft is 4' 4".
Generally all three manufacturers were known for their high construction standards and for producing well-built boats. The hulls of all models were constructed of hand-laid fiberglass laminates and polyester resin and reinforced by fiberglass composite stringers, floors and frames. Osmotic blisters and age related deterioration of fiberglass composites below the static waterline are issues common to nearly all aging fiberglass boats although the severity of these problems can vary considerably depending on many factors including water temperature, salinity and time afloat, to name but a few. In most cases, properly done remedial repair of these age-related problems, although expensive, are quite successful and worthwhile.
However, a problem with severe laminate blisters, above as well as below the waterline, was one of the factors which contributed to Uniflite's demise. Although the condition did not affect all Uniflites, remedial repairs on problem boats have not been very successful. When considering a Uniflite, special care needs to be taken. If there is any evidence of blisters above the waterline be certain to get an expert to evaluate the condition and assess the practicality of repair.
Decks and superstructure were all constructed of fiberglass composites utilizing balsa and plywood core for localized reinforcement and stiffening. When problems develop they are typically around the installation of cabin windows and at the attachment of deck hardware and are quite repairable.
All of the 46s provide excellent on-deck arrangements whether you're hosting a raft-up party or just out for a family cruise. The flybridge, accessed by a ladder from the pilothouse, features a forward, centerline console and helm seat, molded bench seats to each side and a full-width bench seat across the back. The cabin top over the main saloon offers a molded-in bench seat forward and plenty of area for sunbathing. Wide side decks offer secure passage with side rails and grab rails on the cabin top. The foredeck and bow pulpit are convenient for anchor storage and line handling.
While many flush-deck motoryachts have the after portion of their main deck enclosed with canvas and clear plastic, this model is unique for her size in that the pilothouse/aft deck is fully enclosed, teak-paneled, air-conditioned and often serves as the main saloon for owners and guests.
Below deck there is a head and shower forward followed by a stateroom to port with upper and lower berths and a laundry with washer and dryer to starboard. On the same level, there is large galley to starboard and then up two steps to the formal, main saloon. There is no built-in furniture so it's owner's choice as to what goes where. The cabin sole of the saloon is removable to provide better than usual access to the machinery space below. Further aft and down three steps, there is a small starboard stateroom with athwartship settee and small desk. The area is typically a liveaboard's office but the settee converts to upper and lower berths to accommodate guests in a pinch. To starboard is a large head and shower.
The master stateroom is all the way aft with a centerline queen berth and mirror image hanging lockers, bureaus and bookshelves to port and starboard.
Pacemaker models were powered by 435-hp General Motors 8V-71 diesel engines while Uniflite and Chris-Craft models were powered by 410-hp General Motors 6-71 diesels. Either are good power choices for this type of boat although the larger engines provide a slightly higher top speed. In reality, this is a boat built for comfort not speed and although 18 to 20 knots is possible, a comfortable and economic cruise will be in the range of 12 to 15 knots. On the subject of comfort, one of the more desirable options is roll stabilizing fins. Boats without stabilizers typically sell for $8,000 to $10,000 less than those with them. (2008 estimate)
More than 35 years after the first 46 model was introduced, popularity among liveaboard boat owners and cruisers remains high and that's not likely to change in the near future.
Naval architect Jack Hornor was the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He was on the boards of the American Boat and Yacht Council, the National Association of Marine Surveyors, and the Society of Boat and Yacht Designers. He and his wife sailed their Catalina 42, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.