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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Altura 840

The Ferretti Group’s Privilege Days event for owners, high-rollers, and other promising prospects has become an annual fixture in the Italian seaside resort of Cattolica, on the Adriatic coast. At the quayside the company assembles a complete and fully crewed range of boats from the Ferretti, Custom Line, and Mochi shipyards, reserves the local restaurant, and waits for nature to take its course.

People say this is a good time to buy a yacht—there are deals out there. And this was a good weekend. Not only had a South American owner breezed in and ordered two new boats, both over 90 feet (so he could have one at home and one in the Caribbean), but the new Ferretti 840 Altura I had come to see had also been sold, to a Frenchman. The owner wanted it right away, too. Did we want a sea trial? Better be quick!

Ferretti positions this boat as a serious cruising vessel. In Italian, Altura translates as both “high ground” and “deep sea,” and in both senses the word implies far horizons, exploration, and adventure. The boat certainly looks the part—that stepped sheer and chunky, virile profile have an altogether more muscular appeal than the stiletto femininity of Ferretti’s mainstream motoryachts. Paint an Altura grey, and she could look quite menacing.

If this leads you to expect a tough, no-nonsense internal fit-out, though, you haven’t spent much time around Italian yachts. Inside, the Altura is simply stunning. Sturdy but transparent laminated-glass balustrades transmit light all ‘round the main deck, integrating the sunken dining area and raised helm station into one cohesive living space. And it’s not all about first impressions. That dining area, with its sociable extending table opposite a substantial galley, has its own big hull window, which actually opens. I don’t know about you, but it’s exactly the sort of place I’d like to have dinner, with a lightshow courtesy of the evening sky and the water lapping outside just feet away. Bliss.

Overhead there is a comfortable L-shape sofa arrangement on the starboard side of the helm deck, which has excellent views in all directions, but might also be a good spot for a snooze, assuming your captain has everything in hand. The Altura’s interior is finished in a pleasantly simple scheme of satin-varnished teak and white leather. It’s not exactly low-maintenance, but it’s practical enough and looks great.

Below, the guest accommodations are found forward of the galley. The port en suite stateroom has bunks—the lower one a practical 42" wide—while the one to starboard has pair of a conventional berths and semi-en suite access to an unusually spacious day head. The forepeak VIP suite is also a good size, with plenty of floor space, two generous hanging lockers, and a pair of big drawers under the berth, as well as several smaller lockers. Low-level LED lighting is used throughout the accommodations to great effect.

The owner’s cabin occupies the stern. This is a roomy and comfortable domain, with a generous 6'4" x 6'0" bed, two walk-in wardrobes, a chaise lounge, and windows on three sides. If there is anything to criticize it’s the headroom, which at 6'4" might be a little low for some owners, but any higher and there would be an awkward step down between the cockpit and saloon. Personally, I think the designers made the right decision (but then I’m only six feet tall).

With no internal companionway, the flying bridge is accessed from the cockpit via a set of safe teak steps. Sheltered by a substantial hardtop with a fabric sunroof, this area has plenty of seating and eating space, a bar and grill, room for an 11'9" tender aft, and an intriguing tinted panel forward of the helm station to transmit daylight down below.

Down on the foredeck, there is another comfortable place for lunch (or breakfast, or dinner) with big sunlounges and—I’m serious—an umbrella sunshade that at the touch of a button rises vertically out of the table. Cool.

The Altura 840 is without a doubt a beautiful example of the yachtbuilder’s art, although she’s billed as a cruising boat, and a fast and powerful one at that, with 3,600 hp on tap. But for a true test of such a machine, there’s only one place to go: out to sea.

Her best speeds were recorded with a little trim tab deployed. Ferretti Engineering supremo Andrea Frabetti was onboard, driving the boat for me while I noted fuel, sound, and speed data, and he demonstrated how the correct use of the 840’s tabs can make a difference of up to one knot. As I am one of those who equates tabs with drag, Frabetti was at pains to point out that the hull is designed to trim naturally bow-up when underway with a normal load. The reason for this, of course, is that sometimes you actually want a bit of bow-up trim (in a big following sea, for example). The engineer went on to explain that it was while working with the design department at Bertram—bought by Ferretti in 1999—that he first encountered this thinking, which has influenced all his trim calculations since.

For once, we had ideal testing conditions for a fast motor-yacht—meaty seas of three feet and more—and I couldn’t fault the hull. Charging upwind at speed there was no slamming. Beam-on, the waves posed no threat, even though the anti-roll gyros were disengaged throughout the trial. With the seas both astern and on the quarters, the boat tracked straight and true, with minimal input required from the helm. The steering was light and precise, and the props seemed well able to cope with the big MTUs’ bottom-end grunt, for throttle response was instant, and acceleration—from standstill to 20 knots in 25 seconds—quite impressive for a vessel of this size. In fact, the whole driving experience was so much fun that I almost forgot that the 840 is 70 tons of boat.

Prop tunnels can sometimes present problems with vibration and high-speed steering, so on the Altura they have been kept as shallow as possible. Still, the shaft angle is an efficient 11 degrees thanks to down-angle ZF gearboxes, and since the engines are mounted flat, the engine room seem spacious. Brightly lit, painted white, and with 6'0" headroom, the machinery space is packed with equipment, but well organized and beautifully fitted out. The gensets (our test boat had an extra, in addition to the standard unit) are mounted along the forward bulkhead, with the ARG stabilizers slotted in underneath them. This arrangement is intended to keep noise levels to a minimum in the aft master cabin, while the crew accommodations, amidships, provide extra sound insulation for the forward guest areas.

With the Altura being pitched as a proper cruising boat, it was good to see that the engineers had taken that goal as seriously as the marketing department had, with a meticulous, accessible installation that had been carefully thought through. Frabetti pointed out the hatches in the deckhead, which are designed to make an engine change as straightforward as possible, with minimal dismantling of motor or boat. He also drew my attention to the redundancy built into the plumbing, where pipework for all the heads is installed not in series but in parallel. So if there’s a problem with one, you can simply isolate it and ask the guests to share while the problem is fixed, and most importantly, you get on with your cruise.

The 840 is such an accomplished piece of engineering that it’s hard to believe that she’s only the second aft-cabin boat Ferretti has produced. The first was the original Altura of 2005, the 690, a fine boat in many respects but not without flaws, most notably her bluff bow sections that gave a hard upwind ride. With the new 840, Ferretti has built on the earlier model’s many good points, made myriad improvements that would just not have been possible in the smaller boat, and then put the whole package together in an excellent, seagoing hull.

Altura—deep sea, far horizons, the big blue. It sounds a bit like a toast, don’t you think? Cheers!

Ferretti really gets the most out of the Naviop systems-monitoring software on the 840. Just about every conceivable piece of data is available on its 15-inch touchscreen displays, from battery charge and bilge levels to which lights are on and which windows are open. Getting the weather info we need when recording boat-test figures usually means going online or checking with the harbor office. On the Altura all the necessary equipment had been installed to provide us with temperature, pressure, and humidity at the touch of a button. Ferretti even installed sensors in the fridges, so you can check on the well-being of the lobsters and champagne.

Allied Marine (954) 462-5527. www.powerandmotoryacht.com/ferretti/.

This article originally appeared in the August 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.