I found other nice features,
combining style and function, in the galley, dinette, and saloon. A circular
table adjoining the U-shape settee in the saloon has a pivoting top. Retracted,
it looks like a small round end table while leaving the saloon floor open
to walk around in. Swinging the top outward makes it more like a coffee
table, letting cocktails and hors d’eouvres be placed within easy
reach of guests seated on the settee.
The dinette table offers similar versatility. With a removable center
section in place, it’s roomy enough for four to six to dine or snack
comfortably. But with the center section removed (and stowed in a specially
built cabinet) the dinette morphs into a pair of raised cocktail tables,
with space between them to slip through onto the settee. My only suggestion
is to fit the removable section with a latch so it can’t go flying
if left in place while underway.
Perhaps the most attractive feature of the 55 is her galley, a testament
to the Italian sense of styling and design. Between it and the adjoining
dinette is an elliptical glass-topped counter with stowage for plates,
glasses, and flatware in custom-fitted racks to keep everything secure
underway. On the side facing the dinette, two curved cabinet doors faced
in a striking cherry parquet pattern open within easy reach of the table.
But on the side facing the galley, there are no doors, so the cook has
easy access without having to open a cabinet door.
Along the outboard side of the galley, the design theme is echoed in a
beautiful, curved cherry parquet cabinet door that conceals a double-door
refrigerator/freezer. Here I also noticed a feature rarely seen on a vessel
of this type: The three-burner cooktop is fitted with stainless steel
pot restraints so you can actually use the stove safely somewhere other
than in port.
After I’d finished digesting all these interior features, it was
time to cast off and head out for a seatrial. To reach open water, we
had to negotiate a lengthy stretch of the Miami River, a narrow serpentine
channel with several drawbridges and lots of traffic. Thanks to precise
Micro-Commander controls clutching the Caterpillar 3196 diesels and an
occasional assist from the optional 10-hp Vetus bow thruster we took this
navigational challenge in stride. The hour-long trek to the ocean gave
me plenty of time to explore the yacht’s exterior features and to
poke down in the engine room to view the machinery in action.
Engine room access is good, through a large gas-assisted hatch in the
cockpit sole. It was easy to reach equipment like the Kohler genset, Cruisair
compressors, and the Racor filter/separators, but accessing the outboard
sides of the main engines requires a tight climb around the large-diameter
exhaust piping. And the port-side exhaust, which loops inboard, up, and
back outboard, tended to vibrate and could use an additional pipe-support
The upper helm station was well situated for piloting, but I found the
companion seat a little cramped for my 6'2" frame. However the roomy settee
alongside and a half-acre or so of sunpads aft more than compensated,
and I liked the fact that a spring-loaded, dogged, Plexiglas door covers
the opening for the stairway down. It amazes me that some builders rely
on just a railing to keep klutzes like myself from falling through.
As pleasant as the meander down the Miami River had been, I was anxious
to see how the Azimut 55 performed at speed. We ran speed trials in the
protected waters of Government Cut, recording about 36 mph at the top
end. Out in the ocean, seas were running about two feet, with some large
wakes from the occasional passing ship. None of this posed a challenge
for the Azimut’s V-bottom hull, which carries a deadrise of 17 degrees
aft and 23 degrees amidships. And I was impressed by how nicely she handled
in high-speed turns. Even with wind and sea on her beam, she felt stable
and comfortable. She also felt solid, thanks to hand-laid biaxial fiberglass
backed up by PVC foam-cored internal stiffeners in her hull and cored
composite construction in her deckhouse.
Like gourmet cuisine, the Azimut 55 offers serious food for thought, along
with the promise of first-rate service. Thanks to the recent alliance
between Azimut and Sea Ray, a nationwide network of technicians and dealers
is there to provide service and process warranty claims, to make the ownership
experience as nice as the yacht. How tasty.
Azimut USA (321) 449-9073. Fax: (321) 455-6563.
George L. Petrie is a professor of naval architecture at the University
of New Orleans and provides maritime consulting services. His Web site
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