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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Hatteras 68C

If you're a regular reader of PMY boat tests, you're familiar with a disclaimer we too often use that goes something like, "Since the conditions were dead-calm on test day, I couldn't evaluate her seakeeping abilities." Well, you won't read anything like those words in this test. The early-December day I was aboard the Hatteras 68C produced some of the snottiest, nastiest, most all-around uncomfortable conditions I've ever had the misfortune to experience. The thermometer had inched its way to 31F, but 25- to 30-knot northerlies made it feel like seven. Although we weren't offshore where the seas were eight and building, we were in the ocean, just outside Beaufort Inlet in central North Carolina, in steep, closely spaced threes and fours that promised jaw-crunching impacts, especially on the quarters.

I can't say the test was uneventful—imagine shooting a radar gun in those conditions at her top speed of 39.4 mph—or that the ride was smooth, which would have been the case only aboard an aircraft carrier. But I can say the 68 was well-mannered, surprisingly dry, and devoid of jarring. At every speed she ate it all up—even if we did not.

One reason she did is traditionally conservative construction that emphasizes strength over lightness. The 68C is simply devoid of squeaks and groans. Another is her hull-and-powertrain package, a remarkable piece of engineering. This is the second Hatteras—the 54 was the first—to diverge from the principals of the late Jack Hargrave, which marked Hatterases virtually since day one. Her deadrise is moderate, from 22 degrees forward to just two degrees at the transom. To avoid a harsh ride—especially with an oversize 21'6" beam—convex forward sections shoulder away seas and soften both horizontal and vertical impacts. Double chines and generous bow flair control spray; on test day it seemed the chines did most of the work. Two strakes per side contribute dynamic lift, stability, and tracking, but I felt they, too, knocked down a lot of spray. Whatever does what, I can tell you that this boat is dry.

Prop pockets not only reduce draft (5'3") and shaft angle, but also propeller-tip clearance--by ten percent, says Hatteras—increasing efficiency the same way ducting does on a jet engine. It's a tricky calculus: too little clearance, and vibration increases, especially at slower speeds. There's none of that on the 68.

Instead of being mounted on the transom, the trim tabs are recessed into the end of each tunnel, where they operate in high-velocity water coming directly off the seven-blade props. More efficient, they can be smaller and require less deflection—reportedly 70 percent less—while maintaining effectiveness.

The 68 is also reportedly the first boat anywhere with tapered rudder bearings that use the weight of the stainless steel rudders to constantly tighten themselves and so compensate for wear. Also new are crosscut strut bearings that improve water flow, and thus lubrication, and a cylindrical keyway and key that reduces prop-shaft stress where the propeller bolts on.

Still another innovative hull feature that's both practical and aesthetically pleasing is the removal of engine-room vents from the hull sides. They're under the cockpit coamings, where there's less direct spray, although demisters are still fitted. The absence of hull-side vents and saddle tanks also increases engine room space: I measured nearly three feet from the starboard Caterpillar C32 to the outboard air conditioning compressors. Combined with 6'4" headroom, the cockpit-accessible engine room is truly spacious. As for the fuel tanks, there are five FRP ones—three mains forward and two day ones aft—necessitating a transfer-pump system.

To make sure the big Cats can breathe, a sophisticated air-induction system employs two fans, one for induction and the other for evacuation during engine operation; an interface with the engine ECUs increases fan speed as engine rpm increases to avoid excessive noise at lower speeds. Flip a switch once the engines are shut down, and both evacuate to quickly reduce engine room temperature.

The 68 is so full of smart engineering details that it's easy to forget that her primary purpose is fishing, until you look around her cockpit—all 195 square feet of it, thanks to that generous beam. A transom door is standard, but there's no gate, as Hatteras believes it compromises the structure. At the forward end are identical-size baitwells, freezers, and stowage tubs; since they're modular, you can order any combination that suits your needs. Cushions on the elevated mezzanine provide 25 square feet of seating, and since there are no fuel tanks below decks, there's room for two 5'5"-long fishboxes plus an 11-foot-long lazarette accessed from the engine room.

Three steps up, the saloon is big: 12'2" long with 6'10" headroom. A port-side, U-shape settee is big enough for three beefy anglers to snooze on. There's stowage below, but rods go in dedicated stowage beneath the C-shape flying bridge lounge. A step up, the port-side, U-shape galley is across from an eight-person dinette. The level of finish here and everywhere is equal to the 68's expansiveness. Cherry panels are finished in your choice of gloss or satin and cut via CNC router off of the boat, which accounts for the near-perfect fit and finish.

Flanking the companionway down to the accommodations levels are two handy rooms. To starboard is a walk-in that holds a standard 4.6-cubic-foot freezer, with plenty of room left for stowage; the port-side one is a hand-and-knees affair that has the CPU for the Ethernet monitoring system, and more stowage room.

At the bottom of the companionway are four staterooms, including a big forepeak VIP and a full-beam master aft and amidships. On our boat the two were separated by port and starboard twin-berth guest staterooms; an optional layout makes the port room a single and adds an en suite/day head, ideal for captain's quarters.

Another option is an open or enclosed flying bridge—sad to say, given the conditions on test day, ours was the former, although with an effective enclosure. Accessed by an athwartships cockpit ladder (if enclosed, you get a circular stair from the saloon), it's smartly laid out, with the console far enough aft to provide a view to the cockpit yet maintain forward sightlines. Two pedestal chairs are standard and a third is optional; either way there's room to stand between them and the aft railing. I'd guess the C-shape seating forward could hold a dozen, and there's also a handy chillbox and aft-facing double seat to starboard.

Such smart design is ubiquitous on the 68, which is why she can run with any convertible in the world. But the boat does lack one thing: a price. Hatteras chooses not to reveal either a base or as-tested figure, making it hard to compare her to competitors. Too bad, but then after my day aboard, I'd be hard-pressed to call her overpriced at any figure.

Hatteras Yachts
(252) 634-4895

This article originally appeared in the March 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.