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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Mochi Craft 51 Dolphin

While driving from Florence to the Adriatic port of Cesenatico, Italy, some weeks ago, I spent a fair amount of time thinking about and anticipating my upcoming sea trial of the Mochi Craft 51 Dolphin. Having tested several other vessels of the same type, from stateside builders like San Juan, Rivolta, and Hinckley, I was interested in seeing exactly what the Italian take on a New England-style lobsteryacht might be.

Perhaps “interested” isn’t precisely the right word to use here, though, given the fact that I was able to ponder and speculate rather deeply while zooming down the autostrada in a rented Alfa Romeo at 110 mph! Perhaps the word “obsessed” would be a better fit.

After all, I love lobsteryachts. And more to the point, I’ve loved them from the first moment I saw one—a Volvo Penta-powered Sisu 22 chugging through a marina in Salem, Massachusetts, back in the early 1980’s. Sure, the humble little vessel was not exactly a yacht in the conventional sense, but she was as salty-looking as a four-masted barkentine and just as honest, gorgeous, and straightforward as her workaday cousins. I’ll never forget how quietly she swept past, hardly deigning to ripple the water.

When I arrived at the marina in Cesenatico, my Dolphin test boat was awash in extension cords, power tools, and cleaning products. She was also besieged by a platoon of workmen from Mochi Craft’s parent company, The Ferretti Group, based in nearby Forli. They explained they were gussying the boat up so her owner could officially take possession on the morrow. The delay inherent in this development was a tad depressing, but I remained seriously enthused. Tied stern-to, with her garage door gaping and teak-paved, stainless steel Besenzoni passarelle fully extended, the boat was a traditional beauty, no doubt about it, with 1950’s-era automotive curves and a racy but muscular look. I could hardly wait to get behind the wheel.

“We can perhaps do a tour while the workmen finish,” suggested Andrea Ameli, one of the Ferretti engineers on the Dolphin project. “There is much to see.”

The guy wasn’t kidding. We started with the machinery spaces, dropping first through an amidships cockpit hatch into what Ameli called “the pump room.” It was chock-a-block with top-shelf, Italian-made ancillaries, albeit some Americanization is planned for the stateside version, which will be marketed and serviced by Ferretti Group U.S.A. and introduced at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show this year. Among the standards I noted were a Condaria chilled-water air conditioning unit, three big, gutsy Gianneschi & Ramaciotti pumps (for salt, fresh, and black water), a set of simplex 1000 MA Racor fuel-water separators (duplex Racors are optional), an Acorn PB water-manifold system, a Mastervolt battery charger, a Mastervolt inverter, and a nifty Anchor Marine Parts micro-bilge suction system.

Farther aft, the engine room proper offered 5’6” headroom and was just as finely outfitted, although I could see no easy way to get to the steering gear (access is achieved through a hatch in the floor of the garage, Ameli explained). Detailing was lackluster in spots—fabric-backed, foam-type sound insulation was raggedly trimmed here and there, for example, and while most fuel hoses had permanently swedged fittings, one was simply clamped. Access to the mains as well as the amidships 12-kW Mase genset was excellent, however. And the electrical firepower on hand was impressive, with wire runs encased in plastic chases and two banks of four 200-amp-hour batteries, one for cranking, the other for house usage. Yet another battery was dedicated to the genset.

As the preparatory melee onboard began winding down, Ameli and I briefly examined the Dolphin’s teak-trimmed two-stateroom, two-head interior, with a small third stateroom for crew at the stern. While the raw materials and equipage used were top-shelf, I bumped into a couple of questionable details. One was the fact that the shower-stall walls on the bottom deck were of varnished wood. Although Ameli assured me that they’d been specially treated to resist water, I’d rather see fiberglass or even high-pressure laminate in such an application. Another problem area was the step down that’s required to enter or leave the galley area on the starboard side, opposite the helm station—it’s both lofty and abrupt. For safety’s sake, I’d add a handrail or somehow significantly decrease the height of the step; anything to keep a person from taking a tumble.

Otherwise, I very much liked what I saw. The level of finish in the interior was high, and outdoorsy living was the obvious priority. More specifically, by opening both the glass slider at the back of the saloon on the starboard side and the fold-up window to port, the saloon/galley/helm area becomes part of the cockpit. This lets them join the cockpit’s giant, hydraulically actuated sunpad/lounge that levitates out of the sole, and its BBQ pit and wet bar that are contained within a single console unit on the starboard side. Mix these kinds of amenities with a serious Bose stereo system in the saloon and an Aquos flat-panel TV that rises via push button from a credenza there, and you’re looking at some extreme sun-and-fun potential.

“So, we are finished?” asked Ameli, after conferring briefly with his foreman, who was stuffing tools into a canvas bag. “Yup,” I replied, snapping my notebook shut, “Let’s go.”

Within minutes the Dolphin had turned her tumblehomed tail to the picturesque Cesenatico waterfront, and I was standing at her helm station, with my butt against a fold-up bolster and my hands on a fancy, if nonadjustable, wheel. Thanks to a panorama of windows and windshield panels, sightlines all the way around were excellent, although with our racing-style Flexitab trim tabs withdrawn into the hull by several degrees, I found I could elevate the bow to such an extent that it was momentarily too high to see over.

A couple of things impressed me as soon as I began leaning on the MAN electronic engine controls. First, the Dolphin’s top speed of 41 mph was sporty and well within striking distance of the performance parameters of stateside lobsteryachts—a tribute to a straightforward, nicely designed deep-V hull form with a 19-degree transom deadrise and slightly convex bottom sections. Second, the boat tracked well, even down-sea, and she turned sweetly, if broadly—again tributes to a well-designed, well-balanced hull. And third, our Dolphin ran softly, dryly, and solidly in the six-footers the Adriatic was tossing our way, thanks in part to a construction regime that includes foam-cored glass stringers and transversals, glass-bonded bulkheads, and a hull-to-deck joint that’s riveted, siliconed, and glass-bonded where feasible.

But playtime was the real hunkered-down kicker. With the side windows open, the slider in the hardtop drawn back, and the whole dang Adriatic, clear to Croatia, in the offing, I put the Mochi Craft 51 Dolphin through a great big pile of figure-eights, U-turns, and downsea beelines—and the test boat performed like a sea-chompin’ champ every time.

Believe it or not, such antics blew bopping the autostrada in an Alfa slam outta the water (no pun intended).

But then what else would you expect from a lobsteryacht, Italian-style?

Ferretti Group USA
(954) 525-4550

This article originally appeared in the July 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.