68 Plus — By Capt. Ken Kreisler — February 2001
Above and Beyond
|Part 2: Azimut 68 Plus continued|
But the real surprise is the inspired Lowe-designed interior, a $48,880 option that beautifully balances cherry wood on all the furniture and bulkheads (and throughout most of the rest of the boat as well) with carefully chosen fabrics and accenting shapes and colors. The result is as pleasing to the eye as it is functional. Enhancing the luxurious feel is the fact that no bulkheads divide the saloon, dining area/galley, and port-side lower helm station. It's one unbroken space from sliding door to windshield.
Within this space the saloon offers a pair of leather couches (with stowage beneath), a tastefully sculpted overhead, nearly seven feet of headroom, an oval coffee table, and a bar and entertainment center. Plentiful recessed overhead lights combine with those big side and aft windows, creating a roomy, wide-open feel. A stainless steel and cherry wood staircase, providing access to the bridge deck, is forward and to starboard.
The galley and dining area are two steps up from the saloon. And while the port-side table can easily seat eight for dinner (my test boat settee was covered in Lowe's blue leather instead of the standard fabric), it is the galley opposite that makes this space special. Applying their craftsmanship to the cherry wood, Azimut's artisans have fashioned a beautiful piece of furniture for the galley, accented by curves and round shapes. In addition, a cherry sliding door can seal the entire space off should the chef wish to hide his or her culinary secrets from diners. I found the expanse of Granulon counter to be only adequate for a boat of this size, but did notice an abundance of cabinets and drawer space, thanks to 6'81/2" headroom.
Just as well-designed and as functional, the port-side lower helm employs burl wood and leather to dramatic effect, creating the kind of command station any helmsman would be thankful for, especially in bad weather. To make things even more comfortable, the high-back leather helm seat has enough electronically controlled positions to afford good visibility ahead for any size driver. Still, the thick, load-bearing frames to either side made me want to look around them while underway, something I learned to live with.
The comfort and style of the main deck continues below. Accessed via a circular staircase just forward of the galley, the four-stateroom, four-head layout offers a good balance of spaciousness, luxury, and stowage. As on the main level, the attention to detail and fit and finish of the woodwork is evident whether in the forward VIP, the double-berth quarters to port, the single-berth room aft and to starboard, or in the sumptuous owner's cabin amidships. (The starboard stateroom is available in four configurations: with two single berths in an L shape, a single-berth captain's cabin with desk, an office, or as on my test boat, a laundry room with a single berth.)
I was particularly impressed with the owner's stateroom. Besides its beautiful decor, there are large oval portholes--more like oval windows--on each side. Not only does this offer a striking appearance from the exterior, setting the 68 apart from older Azimuts, but combined with abundant overhead lighting, also creates a full-beam space that can be as bright as the owner wishes.
But today there are many vessels in this class that offer beautiful decor and details. Performance is what sets the 68 Plus apart, thanks in part to a pair of standard 1,150-hp MTU 12V183TE93 diesels pushing a modified-V hull with 16 degrees of aft deadrise. How much performance? I measured a top speed of 35.7 mph and an average cruise speed of 30.7 mph at 2100 rpm, at which rate the 68 has a range of more than 300 miles based on a fuel tankage of 1,268 gallons. Not bad for a boat that displaces some 80,000 pounds.
On test day Miami's Biscayne Bay was as calm as I've ever seen it, so I couldn't judge the 68's seakeeping abilities. But I can tell you it was exhilarating driving this boat from the bridge. She is quick to answer the helm for port and starboard turns, and sight lines from the two-person port-side helm seat are excellent. With those big diesels humming away below and the warm wind in my face, I had to be reminded that this 68 Plus was supposed to be taken back to her dock. That was too bad, as there's a new resort on Grand Bahama, and we could have made it there in time for lunch.
While at the wheel, I also noted the bridge deck's large entertainment space. Directly aft of the helm is a two-person sunpad, while farther aft is a circular table that seats eight. A console to starboard contains a grill, sink, and refrigerator. Fully aft there's a standard 770-pound-capacity Besenzoni davit and lots of room for a tender or PWC.
Azimut's decision to name this boat 68 Plus is well founded. She possesses the right balance of room, elegance, and performance to make her a cut above the rest.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.