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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Alaskan 65

I was at the helm of a midrange motoryacht, idling into St. Augustine Inlet some while back, when a rather large vessel dead ahead spoke to me. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the vessel came right out and said, “Hey Bill, how ya’ doin’?’” What I’m talking about is the ability of certain watercraft, irrespective of size, type, or age, to arrest one’s attention, in the same way a piece of fine art does.

“What kinda boat’s that?” my copilot wondered. I shrugged noncommittally. The appearance of the yacht in question was classic, and given her distinctive lines and length—I estimated she was a 60-some-footer—there were only a few builders I could think of who might have created her, among them Grand Banks, Marlow Marine, and perhaps Ocean Alexander.

The truth revealed itself as we got closer. The boat was a 65-foot Alaskan Flushdeck called Lady Java—by strange and synergistic coincidence, the very same vessel I was scheduled to test just a few days hence. I backed off on my throttles and watched her pass, wholly charmed by the subtle S-shape sheerline, sweetly proportioned brow, teak-capped bulwarks on the Portuguese bridge, and the proud, clipper bow—a design element undoubtedly inspired by the pen of Arthur DeFever, who over the years has drawn his fair share of classic cruisers for Oviatt Marine, the folks who oversee the construction of the 65 in Taiwan, as well as a whole series of other Alaskan motoryachts, and sell them stateside.

Sure enough, later that week, I returned to St. Augustine to sea trial Lady Java, a happenstance made no less exhilarating by the brief passage of time. As I walked down the long dock behind the Conch House Restaurant towards the boat, she was just as arresting as when I’d first seen her. Standing in one of the pilothouse doors, Capt. Kaylon Green waved a welcoming hand. The boat’s twin 800-hp Caterpillar 3406E diesel inboards were ready to go, he told me. “Then let’s hit the trail,” I replied.

Offshore conditions were calm. I ran the boat from the upper helm station as well as the lower one in the open Atlantic and found sightlines from both locations to be excellent. Thanks to Stidd helm chairs, each spot was comfy and set up for real-world coastal voyaging. All serious cruising boats should have dedicated pilothouses, in my opinion, with a place for a relief skipper to sack out during the nighttime watches. Not only was Lady Java configured this way, with a fully bulkheaded nav area and a convertible lounge for sleeping therein, she was also outfitted with a raft of state-of-the-art electronics, much of them standard.

Steering was smooth, thanks to Hynautic hydraulics—six turns lock to lock. Despite the fact that she was loaded down with a couple tons of Asian artwork, including a wonderful sculpture of a female Buddha in the saloon, Lady Java’s 19-mph top speed was typical of motoryachts in this size range with the same sort of big-time engine package and displacement. Operating efficiencies at and below theoretical hull speed (10.4 knots, or 11.9 mph) were good, with ample range figures in the offing. Running angles were exceptionally low, and sound levels I recorded in the pilothouse were quite low as well, a maximum of 73 dB-A (65 is the level of normal conversation). Moreover, with big props, torquey powerplants, and an optional 25-hp Sidepower bow thruster, dockside maneuvering went smoothly, except for a little snafu that occurred just as we were returning to our berth behind the restaurant.

Green was as surprised as I was. One of our Caterpillars shut down quite unceremoniously, sending forth a cloud of black smoke just as the boat settled against her fenders. Green’s first response to this event was to compliment the Fates on their timing, a sentiment I wholeheartedly endorsed. Green’s second response was to grumble about “a blown turbo” while he cellphoned Caterpillar. Ensuing developments produced a much less dramatic diagnosis, however. Over the next few days, a technician discovered that a bent temperature sensor in the throat of the affected engine’s turbo had produced some extra-high, aberrant temperature readings, thus shutting the engine down. Merely straightening the mount for the sensor fixed the problem, Green subsequently told me.

There was a happy side to this glitch, though. The time Green and I blew trying to unsuccessfully troubleshoot the problem on site served to nicely acquaint me with Lady Java’s engine room. And I tell ya’, it’s a roomy place, even with big mains and the hefty array of ancillary standard equipment Oviatt specifies; headroom was close to seven feet. Batteries were numerous and robust, although I’d prefer to see them stowed above the waterline rather than in the bilge, under the walkway between the engines. And all four black iron fuel tanks were tightly blanketed with aluminum-backed fiberglass insulation; Oviatt says this keeps them totally dry and obviates the moisture-driven corrosion problems other builders have experienced with black-iron tanks.

Lady Java’s interior was just about as compelling. The layout was expansive, with a pilothouse, U-shape galley, and saloon on the upper deck, and four staterooms on the lower one. Both the guest and VIP staterooms were forward of the amidships engine room, with access via an L-shape stairway from the pilothouse. The master was abaft the engine room, accessible via a circular stairway at the rear of the saloon. All heads were en suite, large, and shower-stall-equipped. Hand-rubbed teak joinerwork was immaculately finished everywhere, and appliances and fitments were mainstream, top-of-the-line products. All sorts of layout alterations are available, too, including a version with three staterooms on the lower deck.

“So whaddaya think?” asked Green as I finished up. We were standing in the cockpit, surveying the local marine scene, which tends to be a tad colorful in some parts of St. Augustine.

“Well...that engine-shuttin’-down thing’s a bit of a heart stopper,” I said thoughtfully, “but otherwise, she’s a big, comfortable, classic cruiser, finished to the nines.”

“You like ‘er, then?”

“Capt. Green...she’s as pretty as a picture.”

Oviatt Marine
(954) 925-0065

This article originally appeared in the September 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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