56 Express — By Capt. Chris Kelly
— June 2000
|Neptunus reworks a proven model to create a bigger, more luxurious “entry-level” yacht.|
For most production boatbuilders, a yacht the size of the new Neptunus 56 Express would easily be the Queen of the Fleet. But for this semicustom builder, it’s actually an entry-level model in a line that stretches to 70 feet. It also serves notice that the Dutch yard will continue to challenge UK and Italian competitors as well as domestic brands with innovative designs, quality materials, and fine craftsmanship. And styling. With a deeply raked, stainless steel-framed windshield, racy forward-angled electronics arch, oval port lights, and even oval engine-room intake vents, the 56 Express simply looks fast.
Actually, the 56 is not entirely new. According to Neptunus’ southeast sales manager Greg Cohen, it’s an adaptation of the 54 hardtop the company used to build, of which he recalls, "The helm and cockpit areas were fully enclosed…it was like driving a yacht from your living room." Even though the 54 hardtop was popular, Neptunus designers wanted an open version that would take advantage of better weather in the southern climes. "We build this boat for people who don’t want or need the hardtop, and the open design brings the price down by $70,000 or $80,000," says Cohen. In the design process the yard also added two feet to the hull, which provides the extra buoyancy necessary to carry the weight of a jetboat on the electro-hydraulic platform. The absence of a hardtop also leaves the 56’s spacious teak-decked cockpit fully exposed for maximum sunning and outdoor entertaining.
That cockpit has two lounge areas. Aft, there’s a curved lounge with great backrests; it can seat six easily around a removable dining table. (More on the second lounge area in a moment.) A leaf in the center of the table opens for easy walkthrough access to the engine-room hatch, which is beneath one of the lounge seats. A five-step ladder leads down to a full-beam lazarrette that is easily big enough to house a watermaker or even a dive compressor. A door in the forward bulkhead leads directly to the engine room and the 660-hp Caterpillar 3196s.
Because Neptunus coupled Twin Disc V-drives to the Caterpillars, the engines sit well aft, a configuration that frees up a lot of space in the saloon while concentrating weight aft for good on-plane performance. The diesels are supported by rugged engine mounts (with twin vibration-absorbing pads on each mount), which are bolted through the FRP-encapsulated stringers. There is room to walk between the engines, and the sea strainers, dipsticks, and even freshwater coolant caps are all within easy reach. Strong dripless shaft seals should keep the area dry.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.