Hampton 680 Pilothouse — By Capt. Ken Kreisler
|A beautifully crafted cruising yacht is put to the test under adverse conditions... and more.|
Hold on to your grabrails, friends, this could have been the boat test from hell.
It began back in March as I boarded the Hampton 680 Pilothouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to help deliver her to the upcoming Palm Beach Boat Show; about 46 miles as the crow flies. As we are sometimes limited with time aboard due to dealer or owner commitments—leaving the dock at 1 p.m. and absolutely having to be back and washed down by 3 is not uncommon—I would instead have all day to sea trial this Shanghai-built cruiser.
To begin with, the wind had been unremitting from the north-northeast at 25 mph for the past three days. In other words, it was blowing stink. By the time we turned the corner at Port Everglades and were confronted by a roiling, built-up sea right there in the inlet, the stink had turned downright putrid. The “we” consisted of Capts. Forrest Roberts and Bob Baker, the principal contacts for Hampton Yachts on the East Coast.
The wind was pushing up the water to seven feet, with an occasional eight to ten big-shouldered bully rearing up. Roberts and I were topsides on the bridge deck, and Baker was seated in the electrically operated, multidirectional leather Pompanette pedestal seat in the pilothouse. Roberts wisely throttled the boat down a bit in the quickly moving head sea as we listened to the staccato-voiced message on WX-1: “...wind from the north-northeast at 29 miles per hour...,” it intoned.
As soon as we turned up the coast, the quick-duration head sea became quartering, somewhat lengthier, and more predictable. Roberts had the standard twin 800-hp Caterpillar 3406Es pushing us along at about 15 knots.
While these conditions were not right for diagnostics, they were an excellent testing ground for the Hampton’s seakeeping abilities. I found this 68-foot cruising boat, with standard Wesmar RS600 stabilizers, offered a suitably secure platform given the current state of affairs. Of course she was moving around some; what boat of her size, and even some larger, wouldn’t be? However, I did not notice any shuddering, slamming, or hard hits while dealing with the relentless march of the now five- to seven-footers. Instead, the Hampton 680 pushed her way through the water, powered by the steadily and reassuringly humming engines.
Enabling her to do this is a planing hull that is solid fiberglass from the waterline down and vacuum-bagged Divinycell coring to the gunwales. She utilizes a modified deep-V design with high deadrise sections forward that accounted for the smooth entry. Her flatter aft sections with reverse chines allowed for the noted steadiness, albeit those stabilizers were also doing their part. And her prop tunnels lowered the shaft angle for less drag and better directional stability.
With all that wind-driven spray a hindrance to visibility and safety—luckily Roberts and Baker decided to keep the Strataglass enclosure up—we decided to drive from the pilothouse. Before we went below, Roberts pointed out several features of the bridge deck.
With Baker at the wheel, Roberts and I cautiously moved about the bridge deck, finally steadying ourselves aft by the 1,600-pound-capacity Nick Jackson hydraulic davit, which along with an Avon RIB, outboard, and cradle is one of the few available options. Also on the short list is an upgrade to 1,000-hp Cat C18s, a second 13.5-kW Kohler genset, hardtop, and electronics package, among others.
I could easily see this area was well-suited for outdoor entertaining, as I noted a table and seating for six just aft of the port helm and, aft of that, a sun lounge with a stowage compartment beneath that ran its entire length and was long enough to accomodate an Ocean Kayak. Conveniently located opposite the eating area was a wet bar with a refrigerator, freezer, and barbeque. And then the starboard engine quit.
This article originally appeared in the June 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.