I couldn't let Walker have all the fun, so I slid into the double seat and he took my spot in the molded three-seater to port. I followed his directions, all the while keeping my eyes on the rpm gauge as well as the Arneson trim indicators located in a easy-to-read cluster just forward of the wheel. Once the 63 was on plane, I found that trimming the drives while keeping tabs on the gauges and adjusting the flaps took a little getting used to. Handling was impressive: At 50 mph I executed a 180-degree turn in less than two boat lengths by trimming the port-side drive down and turning hard to starboard. She dug in, and I temporarily lost sightlines to port-I had made sure to look twice before executing the turn. Walker explained that even sharper turns are possible by using the tiller joystick, which controls port and starboard movement of the drives.
The combination of blistering offshore performance and opulent accommodations make the baia an awesome boat. But she wasn't perfect. Her electrically retractable canvas top wouldn't retract due to a mechanical malfunction, and when I returned from our sea trial, I noticed that the two-burner electric cooktop had dislodged from its housing. Later, Allied Richard Bertram vice-president Oscar Losada assured me that technicians had fixed the top soon after I had left and that the cooktop had only been dropped into the granite countertop for shipping, not secured.
Even with her remarkable looks, luxury, and appearance, the 63 Azzurra faces stiff competition from both Italian contemporaries and stateside builders. So is baia pretending to a luxury cruiser that just happens to have some flat-out giddy-up? Actually, no. She's both, and that's a darn fine thing to be.
Allied Richard Bertram (305) 633-9761. www.arbmg.com.
Gear Onboard >> Arneson Surface Drives (ASD)
The Arneson Surface Drive (ASD) was developed by the same guy who in-
vented the Arneson Pool Sweep: Howard Arneson, who was also quite the boat racer. In his Arneson-equipped catamaran, he captured two consecutive World titles, set several speed records, and logged nearly 100,000 miles at speeds exceeding 100 mph.
When Twin Disc acquired Arneson Surface Drives in 1992, the drives were already a hit with the go-fast crowd and later proved to be an asset to shallow-water cruisers. (Our test boat boasted a skinny, 2'8" draft.) Close-quarters maneuvering was once the bane of the ASD, partly because of the cleaver-style propellers that weren’t terribly efficient at anything less than planning speeds. These issues have been addressed with better tiller controls that allow the drives to swing 45 degrees in each direction, the addition of bow and stern thrusters, and trolling valves that allow engines to throttle down to about 300 rpm, purportedly slowing down idle speeds to about 1 knot.
Baia builds between 45 and 50 Arneson-equipped boats boats per year.
SPOTLIGHT ON | Helm Console
The baia engineers who are responsible for the smart helm layout of the 63-foot Azzurra took special care in placing the Arneson control cluster within easy reach of the helmsman. Located just to port of the wheel, the cluster includes joysticks, from left to right, for: tillers, which control the port and starboard movements of the drives for up to 45 degrees; flaps, or trim tabs; and tabs, or the up-and-down movements of the drives. For close-quarters maneuvering, the farthest joystick to port is for the bow thruster, activated by a switch at the helm.
With gauges for these controls at eye
level, I was able to manipulate all of
the joysticks without averting my eyes from the horizon, rather important at
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