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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Carver 52 Voyager

It was blowing a steady 15 knots, and I wondered if the windage offered up by the Carver Voyager 52's high sides (19 feet from water to radar arch) would mean difficult exiting and docking. But I soon discovered that the builder's standard docking system, which consists of 7.2-inch bow and stern thrusters, was made for days like this. It simply ignored the blow and pushed the vessel off her side-to slip. A gentle nudge forward of the single-lever electronic controls to idle, and the optional 575-hp Volvo Penta diesels easily motored the 52 down the canal. I'd see the same poise later when docking. Such seamless maneuvering may seem like a small thing, but it makes the statement that Carver wants to provide its owners with an always-comfortable on-the-water experience.

Adding to the comfort is a flying bridge designed for entertaining underway. It starts with the easy access. A five-step, internal stairway takes you here from the saloon/lower helm area. (There's an external ladder from the cockpit, too.) You need to watch that last, nearly 14-inch step to the flying bridge, however. Up top a Bomar door is secured by three Spring Lift struts that ensure it remains closed and rattle-free underway. Six guests can sit at the port-side alfresco lounge and table setup just abaft the helm, with room to spare. A time-tested venturi windshield diverts the wind up and over the helm-bridge area. Welcome breezes can be combined with cooling shade and cold beverages if you opt for the hardtop, ice maker, and refrigerator. My test boat had them, and that hardtop provided a pleasant retreat from the South Florida sun.

Another way to beat the heat is with some speed, and the 52 offers owners a healthy helping of it. According to my radar gun, those optional Volvos propelled the 52 to a WOT speed of 32.4 mph while turning 2570 rpm and drinking 56 gph. I believe that while the 29x32 four-blade wheels could probably stand a little more pitch to get the engines in line with their 2500-rpm rating, the diesels were within accepted tolerances. Based on 800 available gallons and a burn rate of 43.2 gph, the 52's range at her comfortable 27-mph cruise speed is nearly 450 statute miles, the kind of distance that will provide a welcome break from fuel stops for the ICW crowd.

I took the wheel of the 52 and began to do a little cruising of my own on the waters behind Lake Worth inlet. Running her up to WOT, I put the 52 into a hard-over turn and found myself waiting for something to happen. Maybe I'm spoiled by the quickness I've experienced with power-assist steering, but the 52's slower hydraulic system produced gradual three-boat-length turns that led me to think that perhaps she could benefit from both power steering and rudder upsizing.

One aspect of the 52 that is spot-on is her build, which starts with a solid-fiberglass hull bottom. Closed-cell foam and balsa core are used above the waterline to enhance rigidity and strength without adding excessive weight, and an aluminum frame with stainless steel stanchions supports the saloon sole by strengthening it both transversally and longitudinally. Stringers consist of one-piece molded-fiberglass units except in way of the engines, where double-gusseted angle steel plates provide reinforcement.

It was while I was inspecting those formidable stringers that I realized that the 3'5" headroom in the engine room (accessed from a centerline hatch in the 66-square-foot cockpit) is challenging. I'd be willing to give up some of the 7'1" headroom in the saloon to get a few more inches in the ER; such limited space makes it tough to service the engines without opening up the saloon sole.

Aside from the ER's workable space, openness abounds on the 52. She carries a good portion of her 15'4" beam from the amidships master stateroom to the forepeak VIP. A third guest stateroom is located just forward and to port of the master. There's warm, high-gloss cherry throughout the accommodations area and saloon, making for a cozy cruising experience. I noted that the cherrywod on my test vessel received a darker stain than what I normally see. Carver took out some of the reds and oranges to provide a more contemporary visage and upscale feel.

And feel is a big part of this vessel. The sense of control around the slip is commanding thanks to the 52's bow and stern thrusters. The view at the upper helm is safe, as visibility is great in all directions except directly aft, which is addressed by an optional proprietary camera system with dash display, and the interior is warm. Combine the above with the 52's performance and range, and you have one top-notch family cruising package that offers all the comforts of home.

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

This article originally appeared in the February 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.