In early 2003, I had the chance to test the only Hallett 540 to ever make it to the water. It seemed like a good candidate for this feature because the boat was bright red, looking like a giant, aquatic Santa’s sleigh. It wasn’t just any red — the boat belonged to Jerry Herbst, owner of Herbst Terrible Oil and a series of offshore boats known as Mr. Terrible. He had his own trademarked shade of red, and that was the color of this 54-foot-long luxury performance yacht.
The 54-foot boat measured 11 feet wide and weighed 27,000 pounds. It had a twin-stepped bottom drafted by noted designer Michael Peters, and it was powered by twin 700 hp Detroit Diesel engines mated to Arneson surface drives swinging 23-by-35-inch, seven-bladed Rolla stainless-steel propellers through 1.22-to-1 gear reductions. The boat ran 56.6 mph at 2,300 rpm in 3-foot Pacific swells and 20-knot winds.
Highlights of the 540 included a sun pad atop the engine compartment that was recessed about a foot below deck height, so four or five of Santa’s helpers could relax, stretch out and soak up the rays after a busy holiday season.