Navigator Yachts' 56 Classic is as comfortable as a rocking chair and just as sensible.
There were three reasons why I had a little trouble docking the Navigator 56 Classic at the end of a nice, long sea trial in the Gulf Stream. First, because the robust, 6-hp Sidepower bow thruster had been inadvertently cross-wired during installation, pushing the joystick one way made the bow go the other, a mind-scrambling phenomenon if you're mildly dyslexic like myself. Second, the boat deck/cockpit overhang totally obscures the stern of the vessel from the upper helm station where I was standing, making it hard to judge how far to go when backing into a slip. And third, big wheels, big rudders, and a deeper-than-most gear ratio put a heck of a lot of maneuvering oomph into the water--way more than I was anticipating from a set of 430-hp Volvo Penta 74L EDC diesels.
Not that my moves were that bad. I was simply expecting the Navigator, like most other coastal cruisers I've tested within her size range, to be a little slow and hard to handle in a breeze, and she fooled me. In fact she fooled me to such an extent that with the swim platform approaching the inner end of the berth at a sporty rate, Alex Rogers of Port Everglades Yacht Sales, Navigator's Fort Lauderdale-based dealership, felt compelled to yell, "Stop, Bill--stop!" Which was actually pretty easy to do, given the whopping, near-instantaneous effect of the large props when employed with a will.
"Hey, I never claimed to be a boathandling artiste," I shot back, a little peeved with myself. The whole fracas could have been avoided, of course, if I'd just taken the time to familiarize myself with the 58's handling characteristics and thruster foibles in the fairway before going for the berth. I got even more peeved when I went below to shut down the radar and discovered another way the fracas could have been avoided--I could have docked the boat from the lower helm station, where sight lines aft are way better than they are topside, thanks to a clear sliding cockpit door, with corner windows on either side and long, extra-high side windows.
I mumbled to myself for a moment or two while standing at the lower helm. Then I sat down in the cushy, centerline helm seat as another realization hit me, albeit not quite so forcefully as the one I'd just had. Thanks to big windshield panels and narrow windshield mullions, especially in the port and starboard corners, visibility forward from the Navigator's lower helm is as good as it is aft. I eased back, feeling a deep appreciation for the practicality around me. This was a true cruiser's helm. With guest or copilot seating at an adjacent U-shape dinette area to port, a chart table nearby, and plenty of panel area on which to mount an autopilot, chartplotter, depthsounder, and other electronic nav aids, the potential for comfortable long-distance trips was obvious.
And I do mean long-distance. Earlier that afternoon the Navigator had generated some relatively fuel-efficient test data in the modest sea conditions that prevailed. Throttled back to 1500 rpm, for example, overall efficiency was l.78 mpg, and her range was almost 1,000 miles with 10 percent of her 600-gallon capacity held in reserve. Even at a wide-open-throttle speed of 25.8 mph, the range with reserve was more than 300 miles. The promise inherent in these numbers was plain, especially considering the other seakindly features that had announced themselves, among them solid directionality even down-sea (thanks to big rudders and a slightly bow-up running attitude) and solid out-of-the-hole performance, thanks to a slippery hull form and a nicely balanced weight-distribution plan.
The 58's interior specifications were just as nifty. Rogers and I began our tour with the engine room, which we entered through a hatch in the galley sole. At first, I was surprised at how physically small and walkaround-accessible the engines were, given the amount of maneuvering power I'd been working with earlier. The observation elicited a brief rundown from Rogers on the deep gears I've already mentioned. "Squeeze even modest horsepower through a set of 2.476:1 transmissions," he explained, "and you lose a little top end, but the oomph you buy back at the bottom and the efficiency you produce at cruise is way worth it."
I was then impressed with several specifics. Fiberglass drip pans were slung under each engine--good for keeping the bilge clean. The stringers in way of the engines were capped with long, beam-like, extruded-aluminum engine mounts, a bit of engineering that allows Navigator to precisely set isolation saddles in the same plane under each engine--good for strength as well as nixing alignment hassles. Welded-aluminum fuel tanks, constructed in-house by Navigator, were beefy and triple-welded at the corners--good for toughening up high-stress joints and preventing damage during installation. And finally, the overhead/saloon sole was supported on a grid of aluminum box beams and gutsy aluminum uprights--good for general strengthening again and reducing vibration.
The interior layout was pretty standard, although there were a couple of surprises. In general, the Navigator is a three-stateroom, galley-up yacht, with two heads, each containing a separate shower stall. Several hardwoods are available for the furnishings and joinery, including maple and the cherry used on our test boat. The 56's raised-panel doors are custom-built by Navigator, and so are the built-ins. Corian countertops are standard in the heads and galley, and the possibility of layout changes is virtually unlimited, as are the fabric and carpet selections. The master stateroom aft is noteworthy because of its full-beam (15'0") size. The VIP stateroom at the bow is also pretty big and has an en suite head like the master. The third stateroom to port has bunks that are both long enough and wide enough so that I, a 54-year-old geezer with a 5'11" stature and failing agility, could easily vault into the top one and lay comfortably in it.
As Rogers and I finished up, I ran a couple of negatives by him, starting with the windshield on the flying bridge, which I think is flimsy and too low to do much good. The side decks are pretty narrow along the sides of the saloon, too--not much wider than the width of a couple of deckshoes--a tradeoff for interior room. And finally, I wondered if a row of closely spaced through-hulls under the sink in the starboard head might weaken the laminate in that area a bit. Rogers responded that this arrangement clusters the through-hulls so an owner can more easily check on air-conditioning, bilge pumps, and other systems at a glance. He added that the solid-glass hull side in way of the through-hulls is 1/2 inch thick and beefed up with 3/4-inch plywood backing plates. Stout specifications, to be sure, and right in line with other stout, construction-related details, like a solid-glass bottom that's at least 3/4 inch thick (thicker in overlapped areas) and a Sika polyurethane-adhesive-sealed hull-to-deck joint that's also fiberglass-bonded all the way around.
The last thing Rogers and I talked about was money. The Navigator 56 Classic's base price with 370-hp Volvo Penta TAMD 63Ps is $543,680. Our test boat was selling for about $737,030, a figure that reflects a $60,000 engine upgrade and $133,350 in options. Intriguing figures? In light of the practicality and comfort of the design and the superb visibility from the lower station, I'd say so.
Navigator Yachts Phone: (909) 657-2117. Fax: (909) 657-4183.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.