Subscribe to our newsletter

BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Bluewater Yachts Legacy 65

I heard an industry spokesperson say something the other day at a press event that seemed a little strange, at least at first. "The competitors for the products we build are not the manufacturers of other boats and engines," the guy said earnestly, "it's everything else—by which I mean golf courses, condominiums, RVs, motorcycles."

A couple of heads nodded. But otherwise the pronouncement seemed to initially affect everybody else in the room the same way it did me. The very idea that traipsing around a golf course or kicking back in some glitzy condo 20 stories above the ocean might supplant the joys of boating was simply preposterous. I mean, golf? The sport Mark Twain rightly disparaged as "a good walk ruined"?

But then I got to thinkin'.

Just a couple of days prior, I'd tested a vessel that, in terms of both her mission and design philosophy, seemed to absolutely validate the spokesperson's remarks. Indeed, while Bluewater Yachts' Legacy 65 easily qualifies for mainstream-motoryacht status, there's little doubt she also qualifies as a competitor with a whole raft of products manufactured outside the marine venue, from golf balls to condos.

The ample, residential feel of her saloon/galley/dinette area had been the up-front indicator of this. When I stepped aboard from one of the floating docks behind Fort Lauderdale's Marina Bay Resort, I immediately picked up on the immensity of the living space I'd entered through a back-porch-style sliding door located on the starboard side. "How wide is this baby?" I asked Steve Klapmeier, Bluewater's president, who was seated at the Corian-topped galley bar next to Bluewater's company captain, Dick Jaeckel. Klapmeier's reply of "18 feet" quickly sent me into comparison mode, running through a few 60-somethings I'd either wrung out or looked at over the years. Let's see: There was the Aicon 64, with a beam of 17'4"; the Ocean 65 Odyssey, with a beam of 17'5"; and the Carver 65 Marquis, with a beam of 17'11". None of these yachts represented a match for the Bluewater.

But there was more to the deal than just beamy immensity. Take a look at the layout drawing that accompanies this test report. The footprint of the 65, when viewed from above, is fundamentally rectangular, even in some of the forward sections. How does such a departure from the norm manifest inside the vessel? By comparison with curvier, pointier cruisers inhabiting the mid- to upper-range niche, the 65 is not only wider in both mid- and forebodies, she's undeniably more residential in flavor—or, if you like, more condominium-esque.

For example, walls and bulkheads intersect at right angles and arise from a succession of multilevel decks with the same orientation. Sizeable screened windows, which easily slide open, encompass living areas and offer views more in keeping with cottages than cruisers. And due to the vessel's relatively low vertical center of gravity and concomitant low superstructure, these views are available from the comfy depths of the lounges and easy chairs onboard. In fact, I found that kicking back on the L-shape settee abaft the lower helm station is akin to kicking back in a living-room recliner.

The rest of the interior layout dovetails with this theme. The master stateroom abaft the centrally located saloon/ galley/dinette area is large and offers an ambiance more reminiscent of bedrooms than staterooms. Just above a long, built-in cherry desk running athwartship across the back bulkhead, there's a giant window with an excellent view aft. An adjoining "back door" opens onto a broad swim platform that, to strain the condo metaphor to the breaking point perhaps, is rather more like a patio than anything else, especially in terms of size. And the berth, a six-inch-thick, 6'4"x6'9" extravaganza comprised of several layers and densities of foam (with a big slab of memory foam on top), is larger and plusher than you'll find in most luxury hotels.

"What a way to travel," I opined after finishing with the VIP and guest staterooms. The former was darn near as ample as the master, albeit slightly more pointy due to its location in the bow, and just as replete with savvy design details, including a lofty clearance of 3'8" over the island berth and cedar-lined hanging lockers. The berth in the latter? Well, let's just say that in keeping with my belief that the professional boat tester should test every possible aspect of his subject, I laid down on the mattress for a few moments just to test its relaxational possibilities. And while such a diversion may seem like small potatoes, it nevertheless handed me a direct appreciation for the 65's true, trail-hitting potential.

To understand, you need two details. First, because the guest stateroom is to starboard and slightly abaft amidships, it benefits from one of a succession of picture windows on the starboard side, this particular one large enough to offer lovely, almost-water-level views. And second, the engines are beneath the master and guest berths, an unusual arrangement that cuts shaft angle and draft, divides machinery spaces into two compartments (with little room for service and maintenance chores, unfortunately), and imparts a certain vibrational purr to one's mattress underway. Indeed, lying down for a few minutes helped me see exactly how lovely a long-term version of the experience might be, particularly for a guy who both mellows out in the presence of low-idling diesels and enjoys reading while watching the marine scene slip past.

It also helped me see something else. While the 65 offers virtually all of the comforts and amenities of a modern, seaside condominium, she has a singular advantage: You can move the yacht and not have to deal with traffic-chocked four-lane highways in the process!

Of course, not-so-nifty features sometimes dwell alongside nifty ones. The three heads were all missing a vital component. While each had a Raritan electric MSD, Moen fixtures, and an electric ventilator, and both the en suite master and en suite VIP heads had separate shower stalls with tubs, I saw no hatches or ports for fresh-air access. Why not add a few?

Another issue arose when I took the helm. Marina Bay Resort is at a point well upstream on Fort Lauderdale's New River, a twisty, heavily trafficked thread of water crisscrossed by a bunch of bridges. Shortly after I'd maneuvered the 65 out of her slip and through the marina using the engines-only approach, I entered the river downbound and switched to wheel steering, a move that produced such sluggish helm response (due to a whopping eight turns lock-to-lock at the upper helm station coupled with a hydraulic leak that was not immediately repairable) that Jaeckel suggested I resume the engines-only scenario. While that approach worked okay, it got tedious long-term. It did, however, have the virtue of highlighting one feature: the effectiveness of the 65's big wheels. Not only was I able to navigate downbound with minimal gear changes, I was also able to back powerfully astern at one point to safely avoid an upbound motoryacht that swung a turn too fast and wound up on my side of the river.

The actual sea trial in the Atlantic went off quite nicely by comparison, although rowdy four- to six-foot sea conditions offshore dictated we return to Port Everglades Harbor to guarantee the accuracy of our data-collection process. The 65 ran the rough stuff respectably at two-thirds throttle, however, turned with surprising aplomb (I'd guess her turning radius to be about two to three boat lengths), and responded reasonably well to the helm, probably because water was flowing faster over her rudders. In smoother water she did well, too, with an average top speed of 24.6 mph.

Shortly after our return to Marina Bay, I found myself loading Pelican cases (which protect our boat-test gear) and camera bags into a rental car while condominiums were located on all sides. I remember thinking rather absently, "Nice places to live, I suppose—keep your boat right out back."

Yeah, maybe. But consider this: Competition for recreational dollars is indeed fierce these days, with 18-hole lifestyles, RVs, and condominiums highlighting the attractions. Why opt for a chunk of real estate or a clunky, fully furnished bus? Especially when you can cruise our nation's waterways in something that's just as comfortable but way more pleasurable.

For more information on Bluewater Yachts, including contact information, click here.

The Bluewater Legacy 65 is essentially a three-stateroom, three-head motoryacht, but there is a twist. The VIP shares the lower level with a fourth stateroom of sorts, a cool and groovy little space with three on-the-deck berths, sit-up headroom, adjustable lights, handy hookups for electronic games and entertainment, and lots of fun-loving potential. It's a great place for kids to disappear for a while or grownups to chill out. I like it. Reminds me of a few treehouses I built as a kid.—B.P.

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