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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Apreamare Maestro 65

Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe defined the minimalist art movement of the mid-1900's with the oft-quoted statement "Less is more." Both the quote and the movement have been reworked in numerous ways since then, but the key aesthetic remains unchanged: reduce a design to its basic elements. The result is a creation that is inherently simpler, and it's been my experience that this simplicity is an advantage when applied to boats. In the case of the Apreamare Maestro 65, minimalist styling streamlines the vessel and creates a natural feel that actually improves functionality throughout the vessel.

I can see how the design team enlisted this technique on the lower helm. It's split into nearly identical top and bottom sections; you can almost picture the top as an open lid (the appearance is so deceiving that I double-checked to make certain there were no hinges). It contains all of the critical instruments you need while running: MAN engine readouts, a Maptech i3 plotter, a fuel-burn meter, a rudder-position indicator, and so forth. Inset in the bottom section are the autopilot, digital compass, and to starboard ZF electronic throttles. To port are the least-used helm features, including an alarm panel and rows of rocker switches. The placement of the items is tidy and streamlined, and that's crucial. A functional helm provides feedback from all over your vessel and helps a captain make split-second decisions without having to take his or her eyes off the sea.

Centering the wheel, I push the throttles forward, and the 1,100-hp MAN 10-cylinder diesels accelerate the 88,185-pound vessel at the steady rate of about 1 mph per second. In the wheelhouse the slight groans of freshly installed wood echo off the semicircular vertical glass windshield in front of me. Twenty-five seconds later our speed begins to level off in the 30-mph range, and the trim angle, which has increased quickly, levels off between four and five degrees without the help of tabs. Under my feet I feel the boat ironing out two- to three-foot waves with no more jostling or noise than driving a car over a crushed-gravel driveway. Roll is minimal as we run side-to the waves, even without the help of the optional Mitsubishi ARG gyro. With the throttles nearly wide open, I rotate the wheel three turns to port, and the 65 heels predictably into the turn; I spin it back six turns until she's hard over to starboard, and without hesitation she settles into circles that measure about four boat lengths. This Apreamare's LOA and five-foot draft seem to preclude her handling from being sporty at these speeds, but her reactions are predictable and appropiate for a 65, and within minutes I feel completely comfortable behind her helm.

After a few hours of running off the beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I take the 65 back inside to put her though some flat-water maneuvers. She performs gracefully here as well, even when I use only the throttles to steer her. Looking aft as I slowly back down, I can see both aft quarters clearly in spite of the galley-up layout (galley-down layout is optional). The galley runs athwartships and is offset to starboard. Two large windows under each section of elevated cabinetry make the sightlines to the aft quarters possible (See photo B). Although the panes produce some glare, they can be lowered if needed. They also bring the otherwise boxed-in galley into the flow between the saloon and the helm, which means the cook won't feel isolated. Another set of 66"x36" ports on both sides of the saloon also slide up and down at the push of a button.

The decor in the saloon is minimalist but not spartan. Our boat has a retractable 40-inch Samsung LCD TV to port and a C-shape dinette along the starboard side appointed with square, near-white cushions. The eggshell color extends to the wall panels, trim pieces, and overheads and increases the impression of spaciousness. In all three staterooms both off-white carpeting and mirrors at the head of each berth add to this effect.

The openness that the minimalism affords extends to the exterior and for the most part continues to be strongly practical. On either side of the cockpit are molded-in compartments that contain winches, cleats, line-stowage lockers, and sinks. A hinged lid not only blends the fiberglass outcropping into the bulwark but also protects the stainless steel parts from salt spray.

But two other hidden features are the real high points of the cockpit. After sliding open a supersize bolt, I depress a button, and the aft bulwark folds down to form a teak-lined swim platform, a great convenience for sunbathers but especially handy for divers. When the platform is up, there's only a two-foot or so toerail behind the aft bulwark, eliminating guesswork when in reverse and making docking easier.

I hold down another button to open the 65's tender garage. I'm impressed by how quickly the hatch lifts out of the cockpit—it only takes a few seconds. (When opening the entire hatch is not practical, you can access the area via a day hatch in the center of the main hatch.) The garage also houses systems that don't need to be in the engine room, such as the Glendinning Cablemaster, Idromar watermaker, and water heater. Even with them there's still room to stow equipment like dive gear. And although I like the stowage the garage provides, this space raises a few dilemmas, the most obvious one being that on our boat the washing machine is housed here. Doing laundry should not require climbing down a ladder. Also, the big tender bay hatch precludes having a set of steps up to the flying bridge; instead there's a ladder. It seems out of place on a boat this size until I realize that steps with a garage this large would require the removal of at least one of the stylish, curved corner windows at the rear of the saloon; it'd be a shame to lose the view out of them, especially when docking. Fortunately the ladder has sturdy stainless steel handles.

Another possible issue with the bay is that it encloses space that otherwise could have been enlisted for the crew quarters that are between the garage and the engine room, although I suspect most American owners will run this boat themselves. I mean, she handles so well, why not? That said, the 65 stays well clear of the pitfall of small crew compartments common on many Italian designs; there's ample living area for one person. Access to it and the engine room is via a low-profile hatch just outside the saloon doors. Down its ladder you'll find full-beam accommodations with a twin berth, an en suite head, and more than six feet of headroom.

The only place onboard the yacht where a minimalist style doesn't seem to dictate the design is the engine room. It has a clean, intuitive layout, with fine access to all the major maintenance points. The only caveat to this is the aforementioned entry hatch, which seems to be a difficult way to bring parts to and from the engine room. The addition of a watertight door in the bulwark separating the crew area and tender bay might be a good aftermarket addition.

Another simple and clean layout can be found on the flying bridge. The Maestro 65 comes with a curvaceous mast near the center of the flying bridge that not only is fashionable, but also serves as a fine place to mount radar, lights, and antennas. There is a large area aft to stow an extra tender or PWCs and a big sunpad forward of the port-side helm for tanning. To shade the captain from the sun's rays, our test boat was equipped with an aftermarket hardtop. The company that built it did a fine job matching its lines with the vessel's and secured it properly with some four-inch-thick stainless steel supports. I wouldn't be surprised to see this feature added to other Maestros that are marketed in sunny, southern Florida.

An additional applicable Americanization would be a starboard-side helm on the flying bridge, since it's awkward for me, a right-hander, to adjust the throttles with my left hand. But the location poses no problem for fellow right-hander Richard Murray as he weaves the 65 through the twisting New River all the way up to Marina Bay.

After we tie up, I stand back and admire the 65 from the dock. The lower height of the superstructure's aft windows compared to the wheelhouse windows brings out the accentuated sheer. Yet aboard the vessel it goes mostly unnoticed except for the double step that separates the saloon from the galley and helm. This accomplishment is a result of staying true to design ideals—a belief that is apparent in almost every facet of the boat. Apreamare has truly done more with less on the 65, creating a boat that feels welcoming and operates smoothly and whose design philosophy makes her feel more orderly and thereby more boaty.

For more information on Apreamare, including contact information, click here.

There's plenty of stowage space in the massive tender garage aft, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the forward bilge area also has lots of room for gear. After lifting up the panel at the base of the owner's area steps, I climbed into it and found the teak deck level with my waist. I then crawled all the way forward until I reached the bow-thruster motor and watertight bulkhead ahead of it. That means that there's stowage from just forward of the helm station all the way to the head of the VIP berth. All wiring and plumbing for the staterooms also run in this bilge, so there's no need to rip up carpet for routine maintenance or installations.—G.R.

This article originally appeared in the July 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.