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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Maritimo C60 Sports Cabriolet

The only other time I can remember getting myself into something that sounded this stark-raving mad was a dozen years ago. I'd just finished wringing out a high-performance screamer, and the photographer who was prepping for a follow-up helicopter shoot suggested I come along, not only "just for the livin' hell of it," but also to experience (after the shoot was "in the can," as they say) a phenomenon the photog called "herding sea gulls." I went along, of course, and after herding a few gulls—and enduring every conceivable aerial orientation except zipping along upside down—queasily conceded the exercise was roughly equivalent to dodging and feinting around a hot LZ in a UH-1 Huey in Vietnam back in 1969. Way too exciting.

Now a semisimilar deal was stacking up. The guy in the copilot's seat of the Maritimo C60 Sports Cabriolet I was driving was making a proposal that, at least on the face of it, sounded about as wild and crazy as herding sea gulls with a helicopter. "What say we go surfin' in this lot, mate?" suggested Ross "Rossco" Willaton, a super-enthusiastic Aussie who routinely pilots Maritimo's raceboats at speeds in excess of 160 mph, sitting shoulder to shoulder with throttleman and Maritimo head honcho Bill Barry-Cotter. Willaton grinned, gave me a piercing look, and toggled his eyebrows up and down. "What say?"

Fortunately, the 60 was far from an unknown quantity at this point. I'd already driven the daylights out of her in the open Pacific amid near-shore rollers that were long, smooth, and approximately eight feet high. She'd been a solid performer, with a soft, dry ride whether going up-, down-, or side sea. She'd cornered tightly (with a turning radius of two or maybe three boat lengths), exhibited excellent steering response (thanks to Maritimo's proprietary racing-derived power-steering system), and generally behaved with such competence and mannerliness that I'd developed almost immediate confidence in her.

Visibility from the helm was superb, not only because the deck undergirding the helm station was elevated, but also because the windshield panels, side windows, and polished stainless steel cockpit slider behind me were all immense. Longitudinal balance was flat out perfect. The 60 displayed a running attitude of minus 1⁄2 degree at idle speed, then steadily lifted her nose through the rpm register to 51⁄2 degrees at an average wide-open sprint of 35 mph. I say lifted—the planing process felt more like levitation, like the boat was rising from the water with no change in running attitude and no sense of a hump. As for operating efficiency, thanks to a banana-peel-slippery, variable-deadrise, deep-V hull form and precisely proportioned keel, a savvily calculated weight distribution (which I'd say figures significantly into that feeling of levitation), and shaft angles of a mere nine degrees, the fuel-burn numbers I recorded were impressive. Sure, the 60 carries nearly 1,500 gallons of go-go juice, but her range at WOT is more than 600 statute miles. And she ran smoothly (without pushing a pile of water), from idle to top end.

As if he were some old-west gunslinger, Willaton pointed an index finger toward a long white beach beckoning from a few miles off, with big, barrel-topped plunging waves. We were almost due-east of the modern highrises that mark the Gold Coast municipality of Surfer's Paradise. "Let's go for it," I said, toggling my own eyebrows.

"Best let me drive then, Bill—you know, for insurance reasons, mate," Willaton replied with a tone of lively anticipation. "Just remember: Advise your readers not to try this sort of thing for themselves. Professionals only."

Indeed, what ensued was not your average boat ride—but it was also more fun than doing cannonballs off the cliff at the ol' swimmin' hole when I was a kid. We literally stormed the beach at 35 mph, riding in on the backs of 12-foot juggernauting gnarlies, charging over their summits like the cavalry, turning to roar like a freight train through the canyons between them, and then doubling back to do it all over again. Beyond the uproarious visuals the ride engendered, what was most amazing about it was the absolute impunity with which the boat handled. She never once hinted at a broach, kept her nose up in every turn, and tracked like gangbusters whenever the rollers were whooshing in from behind. And what's more, Willaton never touched the tabs or throttles. He simply drove and kept the windshield wipers honkin'. I must have yelled "She runs like a dang raceboat!" 20 times during our 20-minute surf-o-rama.

The 60 proved to be just as agile inshore. After taking the helm back from cucumber-cool Willaton, I easily negotiated the inlet leading to a relatively protected sound called the Broadwater, then ran a long, narrow channel from there—the boat holds course nicely on one engine with little if any rudder—and finally backed her into a slip near the Maritimo facility at Hope Island by merely bumping her ZF/Mathers electronic sticks (and her 715-mhp Caterpillar C12s) into and out of gear a few times. Although unnecessary at the time, our Side-Power thrusters, fore (standard) and aft (optional), worked powerfully enough when I gave 'em a whirl.

Usually at this point in a test report I'd transition into my take on the interior layout, a comparatively simple affair on the 60, with four staterooms below decks (a master aft, a VIP forward, and two guest cabins in between, one to starboard and the other to port) and a bright, longish saloon on the main deck (with galley aft, electrically actuated, tempered-glass sunroof overhead, and hardtop-shaded, dining-table-equipped cockpit). Then I'd address the engineering, again a comparatively simple topic that would probably subsume the exceptionally robust and efficient all-'glass construction as well as the cockpit-hatch-accessed engine room with its seven-foot standing headroom, sound-insulated AquaLift mufflers, 360-degree engine access (with easy-to-get-at, inboard-mounted filters and dipsticks) and more than enough orderliness to indicate top-notch craftsmanship.

But I'm going to cut to the chase instead. Once I'd finished my day on the 60, complete with tours of both the vessel and the Hope Island facility that will eventually build a series of five Cabriolets from 50 feet to 70 feet, I headed for a local waterfront eatery to have dinner with Barry-Cotter. This guy's the real deal, as most any Aussie will tell you. Trained as a shipwright in his youth, he was the powerhouse behind Riviera for more than two decades before founding Maritimo just five years ago. He wears blue jeans and plaid shirts on the job and refuses to maintain a personal office anywhere, preferring instead to circulate constantly among his employees on the shop floor. And he races Australian Power Boat Association wild things, an activity that he says seeds his Maritimos with not only steering systems and slippery running surfaces, but numerous other technologies.

We had a great time; surfing with Willaton earlier in the day gave us lots to talk about. But perhaps the most striking remark of the evening came when I asked exactly what made the Maritimo C60 Sports Cabriolet run so superbly.

"Well," he replied, pausing to think, "balance is probably the biggest thing. The 60's designed to focus her weight over the center of buoyancy—engines, fuel, water, everything. That way she moves efficiently through the water at any speed—and does a fair imitation of a surfboard as well, by the sounds of it."

For more information on Maritimo USA, including contact information, click here.

Bill Barry-Cotter began building all-fiberglass boats more than 20 years ago. And as other builders have been catching up, he's been refining. For example, the materials in our 60 are for the most part all-'glass and conventional by today's standards. But the way they are put together is not. In addition to stringers and transversals, the hull is beefed up with two complex glued-in, modular components: an engine-room liner that includes engine bearers and an integral amidships fiberglass fuel tank that puts great rigidity into the central portion of the boat. After layup, the deck of the 60 (see below) is held aloft on jigs, with bulkheads and various components, hanging down. This facilitates installation of plumbing, electrical, and other runs by allowing workers stand-up access (and plenty of elbowroom) from the outside. Once the interior's complete (but still suspended from the underside of the deck), it is lowered into the hull and 'glassed into place.—B.P.

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