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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Horizon 68

One of the things I've learned in my years of owning and testing boats is that when you're getting ready to buy a new one, you need to not only ask yourself some hard questions but answer them realistically. When it comes to motoryachts, two of the most crucial interrogatories are, "Do I want/need a crew?" and "How fast do I want/need to go?" (Distinguishing between "want" and "need" is an even more basic issue, the discussion of which belongs somewhere other than a boat magazine.)

As to crew, it basically comes down to one of two viewpoints: "We want someone aboard to do all the hard stuff" or "We want to buy the biggest boat that we can afford and handle her ourselves."

The question of speed is not so easily settled. Most people don't want to go slow—but what constitutes slow? The more pertinent question is, how fast can you comfortably go in anything but dead-calm conditions? For most cruisers, a boat that tops out somewhere around 20 knots can usually provide all the velocity they're ever likely to use.

That being the case, a cruising couple who doesn't want a crew and is looking for a practical level of performance will find the Horizon 68 Skylounge an enticing option. She can indeed manage 20 knots on flat water with a real-world (1,050 gallons) fuel load, and her SCRIMPed and foam-cored Greg Marshall-designed hull (which, like the entire boat, is built to ABS standards but is not ABS certified) should allow you to stay within shouting distance of that number even when things get stinky. A 1,400-gallon fuel capacity means you can easily manage ten hours of running between fuel stops, probably well beyond what either of you would care to endure.

But what really makes the 68 work so well for a twosome is her enclosed bridge, or as Horizon calls it, skylounge. You'll be comfortable here in nearly any weather—if things get really nasty out, just dial back the C18 Cats to 1500 rpm (12.2 knots), turn on the optional Trac stabilizers, crank up the stereo, and settle into the Stidd helm chair for a lengthy but relaxing passage. Have guests aboard? They can stretch out on the comfortable L-shape dinette aft, from which they can view the 26-inch LCD TV that pops up from the port-side nav station. Feeling hungry? There's no need to venture outside, thanks to the interior stairwell to the saloon. Although I found it steep and tight, I couldn't deny its convenience. And if anyone feels nature's call, they can answer it without leaving the skylounge, as there's a roomy day head with a Tecma MSD in the aft starboard corner, right by the sliding door to the boat deck.

The Horizon's skylounge is so comfortable, it'll make any decisions about crew for you. Why would you pay someone else to sit up here in this kind of luxury and enjoy these fine sightlines, especially when helming the 68 is so effortless? Quick (three and a half turns lock to lock), power-assisted steering combines with a tight turning radius (about four boat lengths at WOT) to create a surprisingly sporty feel that belies the 68's 55-ton displacement. She heels ever so slightly into hard turns and accelerates well considering her size. Bow (standard) and stern (optional) thrusters take the sweat out of close-quarters maneuvering, and the optional ZF wired remote (it controls both gears and both thrusters) makes backing into even a tight slip a one-person operation. Line handlers will have it easy, too, thanks to 11⁄2-foot-wide covered side decks.

But such luxury has its price. The standard 68 Motoryacht has a lower helm; order the Skylounge version (a $128,000 option), and the lower station is replaced by a large country kitchen. The table and U-shape seat to port are huge—they can probably seat a dozen—but more important, there's a view no matter where you sit, since there's glass all around. There are also port and starboard watertight doors that lead to the side decks. Alas, the port one requires removal of a seat and a cushion before you can access it, and even then you'll have to slide around the dinette table. Clearly it's a vestige of the Motoryacht version and, while not terribly practical, is nonetheless an asset.

Combined with the 15-foot-long saloon two steps down, the main-deck space is so big a couple could get lost in it. Indeed, the overarching impression onboard the 68 is of a much larger motoryacht, something on the order of 75 feet, and the spacious feel in the saloon is enhanced by a skylight. At first I dismissed it as a gimmick, but after a while I saw that it really does work. The 68's main-deck area is among the brightest I've been on. And the brightness continues below, especially in the vestibule at the foot of the companionway, which is open to the windshield above, and in the midship master, which benefits from port and starboard windows.

Of course, once a couple eschews crew, they become responsible for basic maintenance, and the engine-room layout becomes all the more important. The 68's is accessed primarily via a transom door, a configuration that could make access in bad weather (and when else does trouble strike?) problematic. Fortunately, the 68 has a secondary engine-room hatch in the seven-foot-long cockpit. Its ladder, which stows alongside the port engine, can also be used to access the top of the skylounge from the boat deck.

Inside the engine room there's a lot to like. Fully forward the two identical athwartships fuel tanks, which insulate the master from the mechanical spaces, have sight glasses, and everything pertaining to fuel, including the Racors and the transfer pump, is clustered there for easy service. There's full access to both C18s and both Onan gensets (a 27.5- and 17.5-kW), and the exhaust system is a thing of beauty. It includes Soundown mufflers that, judging from our dB readings, really work. The obsession with neatness extends to enclosing the main raw-water strainers—aesthetically pleasing but of questionable practicality. You really need to be able to look into them quickly. Considering all this fine engineering, I was disappointed to see that there was no crash pump.

As you've no doubt deduced, this is a great couple's boat, but there's one more feature that Horizon has somehow managed to incorporate into the 68 that will give any duo a welcome measure of flexibility: crew quarters between the engine room and the transom. Occupying the port side of the lazarette, it's complete with a double berth, head, and hanging locker. You could use it for stowage or an unruly toddler, but it also provides allowance for change. After all, you never know when you might decide to hire someone to do "the hard stuff."

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

Everything on a boat should have a designated place to be stowed out of the way, and that especially includes line. These aft port and starboard line-handling stations on the Horizon 68 include custom-made, oversize cleats for tying off, deep, molded FRP bins to hold excess line, and roller fairleads to virtually eliminate chafe while allowing the line to move. Additional features are the receptacles for cable TV and telephone that allow you to also keep those cables out of everyone's path. With the molded tops down, you'll never know there's line inside, but open, everything is easy to get to. Note the spring-loaded strut that keeps the lid from inadvertently slamming shut.—R.T.

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

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