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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Ocean 57 Odyssey

Kemah, Texas, is tucked up inside the western shore of Galveston Bay. "Breeze on into Kemah," read the banners as you enter this waterfront town, which bills itself as the Gateway to the Bay. The 2003 census lists its population at 2,333, and some of the nearby major attractions include Space Center Houston, the battleship Texas, and T-Bone Tom's Restaurant out on Highway 146. There are also some 6,000 dock spaces spread out over five marinas in the immediate area to accommodate the proliferation of pleasure craft that ply the waters of Galveston Bay during the year-round boating season. But what brought me here was a chance to test the Ocean 57 Odyssey, the little sister to Ocean's 65 Odyssey, which launched last year. Kemah was a stopover during a cruise that took the 57 from the Palm Beach Boat Show back in March to her slip at the Ship & Sail dealership here on the Texas Gulf Coast, with additional stops in Miami, Sarasota, Panama City, and New Orleans.

The 57 Odyssey has a good pedigree for that kind of cruising. She shares the same hull design as Ocean's 57 Super Sport convertible, a hull designed by the same man who has done all the Oceans, Dave Martin. What sets this running bottom apart from Martin's previous models is what he did to the lifting strakes. "I removed [two of] them and placed the remaining pair farther apart at the bow than at the stern," Martin told me. "And by giving them a down-angle of 33 degrees, I was able to get more water to the suction area typically found at the bottom of planing hulls."

This suction area, Martin explained, is between two-thirds and three-quarters of the waterline length aft of the bow. Supplying more water here reduces running surface resistance and thereby allows the props to get a better bite. The result is improved efficiency due to reduced slippage at lower cruising speeds.

All that techno-speak made for great gear-head conversation, but I was eager to see how this latest edition to the Ocean fleet would perform in the real world. So Dave Foulkrod, one of the principals of Ship & Sail, and I eased the 57 out of her slip in Clear Lake (perhaps it was clear back in the Pleistocene Era, but now it's more of a dull brown) and headed for the fuel dock at Three Amigos, where, as the sign says, the gas is cheap, the bait is live, and the beer is cold. Once out on bathtub-calm Galveston Bay, I throttled up the 57's twin 800-hp 3406E Caterpillars and recorded a top speed of 36.7 mph (31.9 knots) in about 30 seconds. When I dropped her 200 rpm, she held at 33.8 mph (29.3 knots), and at 1750 rpm, we maintained a respectable 27.8 mph (24.2 knots). At that turn of speed, my 57 test boat had a range of 431 NM. Not bad in my opinion for a boat that displaces 71,000 pounds plus full fuel and water.

By the time we left Galveston Bay for the Gulf of Mexico I was ready to travel. "Hey Dave, how 'bout we make a left there at Galveston Island and have some dinner in New Orleans?" I suggested. I didn't need to raise my voice, as sound levels in the enclosed bridge registered just 70 dB-A at 2000 rpm (65 is the level of normal conversation). But for the occasional crackle of the VHF, the gentle whisper of the air conditioning was the loudest sound I heard. (And by the way, it's 312 NM to the Big Easy from where we were, with plenty of places in between for a quick fill if we needed it.)

Driving the 57 from the enclosed helm was a treat. I had excellent visibility into the seaway despite the four substantial mullions. There are two comfortable Pompanette helm chairs, a couch for two to port—stowage beneath, of course—and a wet bar with U-Line refrigerator aft and to starboard. An entertainment center houses a 13-inch television and DVD player, and there is an additional steering station to port just outside.

Since I had only calm seas, I couldn't judge how well Martin's design would fare in challenging conditions. What I can report is that she held herself true on straight runs and turned on a dime when asked to, and when the time came to back her into her tight slip, it was just one touch from the optional bow thruster and we were in.

The 57's three-stateroom, three-head layout is a perfect complement to her fine handling and speed. There's plenty of room for you and the family or your traveling companions. The plan is, not surprisingly, similar to the convertible's: VIP in the forepeak, double berth guest quarters aft of that and to port, and a full-beam master amidships. Likewise are the amenities, being fine fit and finish, an average 6'5" headroom throughout, and substantial stowage.

What do I mean by substantial stowage? In the forepeak, that includes three large drawers in the island base and a pair of two-drawer night tables. There are four cabinets on the port bulkhead above the berth, and another cabinet is located on the starboard bulkhead. The twin guest stateroom has five cabinets—three forward and two aft—and each bunk has drawer space beneath, plus there's a cedar-lined half closet. The master has a pair of two-drawer night tables, an 11-drawer bureau, a double door, a cedar-lined closet with three cubbies inside, and three more cabinets on the port bulkhead. And as I went up the steps leading to the galley/dinette and saloon area, I found two stowage compartments built into the bulkheads on either side that measured 3'9"x3'.

But there's even more stowage than that elsewhere on the 57. On the main deck, I found the same attention to space utilization in the port-side galley. There are two large cabinets on the forward bulkhead, with nine others and three large drawers in the base for the Corian countertop. The saloon provides more stowage beneath an L-shape couch to port and in the base of the adjoining coffee table, accessed by a hinged top.

But in laying out the 57, Ocean didn't forget the skipper. The engine room, accessed via an athwartships cockpit entrance, has almost 5'9" headroom, full access around each engine, and a battery box conveniently positioned between the diesels.

With all that stowage, creature comforts, speed and range, the 57 might be the ideal boat for your odyssey, whether your destination is Kemah or Key West.

Ocean Yachts
(609) 965-4616

This article originally appeared in the August 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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