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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Horizon 78

It was a grand feeling, standing in the sky lounge of Horizon's 78 Motor Yacht. I could faintly hear the big, 1,500-hp MAN diesels I'd just cranked, idling in the engine room, seemingly miles away. Below on the dock I could see the 78's master, Capt. Heinz Bonde, working his way up the starboard side, casting off mooring lines and tossing them aboard with an old hand's confidence. To compensate for the incoming tide, which was moving the boat subtly astern, I clicked the starboard stick of the Glendinning electronic control into idle ahead for a second, then clicked it back. The 78 eased delicately, almost imperceptibly forward.

"Such responsiveness portends great things," I enthused to myself.

Finally Bonde held his hands aloft, the signal that all lines were off, and started aft. I went aft myself, opened the door in the back bulkhead of the sky lounge, strolled to the starboard side of the boat deck, leaned over the railing, and assured myself that Bonde was safely onboard before beelining back to the helm.

I thought things over. Getting out of our slip was gonna be tricky, according to what Bonde had said earlier. Although the 78 was moored starboard side-to, there were pilings aligned on the port side, preventing me from simply walking her sideways into open water. I needed to do two things instead. First, I had to ease the boat astern just enough to angle the bow out into the fairway between the two lead pilings but not so much to risk nailing the motoryacht behind us. Second, I had to go forward with just enough oomph to keep the boat from being set down against the aftermost piling by the burgeoning current.

I breathed the same apprehensive sigh I always do when handling somebody else's boat and momentarily toggled the hydraulic bow thruster to port while backing down briefly on the port engine. Again, the 78's response was perfectly poised. In moments the bow was precisely where I wanted it, and the stern, which had been pivoting dangerously toward the dock, was nicely under control thanks to a quick shot from the stern thruster. Bonde gave me a thumbs up from the foredeck, and I shifted ahead and throttled up. We were off!

Sea conditions were rough and ready in the open Atlantic, with six- to eight-footers prevailing. Still, Bonde and I were able to comfortably complete all testing procedures without getting much spray on the traditionally styled superstructure. Moreover, sound levels were whisper quiet, mostly thanks to the work of Dutch sound- and vibration-attenuation specialist Van Cappellen Consultancy. Specifically, readings were well below the 65 dB-A level of normal conversation for most of the rpm band and peaked at just 67 dB-A, a remarkable number considering that many large motoryachts I test these days register readings in the mid-60s only at idle, with top-end readings pushing the mid-80s.

Driving was a hoot. The boat kept her nose up in head seas and positively refused to pound, an achievement attributable to a fair amount of transom deadrise, some 12.5 degrees. Down-sea running was smooth, with modest yaw and no propeller ventilation, even when running slow with big waves washing underneath. Vibration was minimal thanks to a substantial clearance between each propeller tip and the underside of the hull (approximately 17 percent of prop diameter), a parameter that also seemed to cut maneuvering rumble dockside. I measured an average top hop of 28.6 mph without tabs and 29.5 mph with them.

Visibility was excellent from the comfy, electrically actuated Stidd seat, and the dashboard was logically laid out: Oft-used items, like tab rockers and indicators, autopilot, rudder-angle indicator, VHF, and depthsounder, were up close. Secondary stuff, like the three Vei screens (integrated with two Furuno NavNets and controllable via a RemotePoint RF handheld mouse), the Elbex closed-circuit TV, and the Tank Tender tankage monitor, were farther away. The only thing I didn't like was the touchpad control for the Spelch windshield wipers—took me 20 minutes to figure it out!

As I was returning the 78 to her slip after the sea trial, adhering pretty much to the same scenario I'd used to depart (except going backwards), a big guy waved from the dock. It was Richard Kull, the boat's owner. Having been occupied with one of his car dealerships or some other business matter for much of the day, he was finally ready to devote prime time to his primary avocation, boating. Kull helped Bonde deal with our lines as I tweaked the 78's positioning, then came aboard and entered the sky lounge about the time I shut down the MANs.

One thing impressed me immediately: Kull was no swaggering dilettante when it came to running boats of this size. Since mustering out of the Coast Guard after serving in World War II, he's owned a slew of vessels and cruised and fished them all over the place and is perfectly capable of operating his 78 all by his lonesome. "Heinz runs her when I don't feel like doing it myself," he explained, resting a tattooed forearm on a helm chair.

Kull and I began examining his boat, starting with the engine room that's accessed via either a stairway at the rear of the saloon or via a walkway from the transom that has a watertight door. My initial take was positive: Bulkheads and other surfaces were paneled with crisp, white, sound-absorbent, perforated aluminum. Beneath this, according to Kull, there were thick layers of sound/heat insulation. Flooring was of tough, serviceable, diamond-plate aluminum. Lighting overhead was abundant, and there were many examples of sea-savvy engineering, including triplex fuel-water filters for the mains, color-coded piping, and sight gauges on the welded-aluminum fuel tanks as backups for the electric gauges.

But one feature bugged me. At Kull's behest Horizon had moved the forward firewall astern about one foot as part of custom modifications that stretched a standard 76-footer into our 78. While this measure added space to the voluminous master stateroom amidships, it crowded components at the forward end of the engine room (filters, stabilizer hydraulics, etc.), thereby restricting access.

Interior living spaces came next. The 78's layout is expansive and features three staterooms forward on the lower deck (with a fourth all the way aft, across from the crew's quarters), saloon, galley, and dining area on the main deck, and the sky lounge on the upper deck. Each stateroom has its own head with separate stall shower and Headhunter MSD. While the arrangement is basic and sensible in terms of liveaboard traffic flow, fit and finish is the real source of its appeal. The paneling and cabinetry of mahogany-like makore on the main and upper decks is elegantly crafted and joined, but no more so than the paneling and cabinetry of bird's-eye maple in the master stateroom, crew's quarters, and fourth stateroom on the lower deck. Fabrics, specified by Kull's wife Mary Anne, refine the look, and bookshelves, cabinets, and lockers occupy every conceivable spot, another of Mary Anne's contributions.

I went to dinner in Fort Lauderdale after the test with the Kulls and some friends. Sea stories were told, addresses were exchanged, an upcoming Virgin Islands voyage was anticipated, and between the festive outbursts that typically characterize gatherings of boaters, one or two serious questions were asked and answered.

"So what do you really think of our new boat, Bill?" asked Mary Anne at one point. "She hangs tough in the rough stuff," I replied, hoisting yet another stone crab claw, "she handles like a champ dockside, and the fit and finish..."

"Yes?" she questioned.

"Absolutely delicious," I concluded with a smile.

Horizon America
(561) 626-5615

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

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