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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Ocean 58 Super Sport

The Ocean 58 SS, the replacement for the 57 SS, is the baby of John Leek IV, known around the industry as J4. This is J4's second boat as general manager—his first was the 54 SS—and if he and his team were looking for a challenge, they found one. The 57 was one of Ocean's top sellers, so any redesign had to be conservative enough to keep traditional Ocean Yachts buyers happy and progressive enough to lure new buyers to the Ocean family. To meet these requirements, J4 and his team conceived a tournament-capable sportfisherman with interior spaces offering significantly more comfort.

Since the 57 had a reputation for being fast in heavy seas, the design team started by keeping the 57's Dave Martin-designed hull but adding 11 inches to it. It did, however, introduce prop tunnels to reduce the shaft angle and draft and, by delivering cleaner water to the props, increased efficiency. Pockets also let the designers slide the engines a few inches aft, freeing up space forward in the engine room and redistributing weight farther aft to improve running angles.

Of course, none of these alterations were readily visible when I stepped into the cockpit of the 58 in North Palm Beach, Florida. What was in the cockpit, however, was the mezzanine, the single feature that really prompted the redesign. J4 told me he had wanted a boat with mezzanine seating but only if he could get one that had other improvements as well. I could see why he wanted the mezzannine, for it's not simply a place to sit, it also provides a home for a stainless steel bait-prep center, a stowage area for cleaning supplies like chamois and mops, and a convenient place for twin tackle drawers. Since these drawers are part of the mezzanine step and elevated, anglers won't have to hunker down to access them as they often do on conventional boats. The fishboxes are also slightly larger (they're now 5'8"Lx2'10"Wx2'2"D) and can be converted to either refrigerators or freezers. On my test boat optional teak coaming enclosed the cockpit on three sides, a single massive slab of teak covering the entire aft gunwale. At its widest part (two feet), there was an oval flip-up door providing access to the centerline livewell, while to starboard was an optional transom door without a gate to maintain an uninterrupted coaming. J4 said Ocean did this partly for looks and also to prevent a taut line from snagging on the hinges.

Compared to the alterations in the cockpit, those on the bridge deck seemed relatively minor. The 57 had a centerline helm molded to the starboard side with a port-facing, C-shape settee forward; the 58 has a pod-style centerline helm with an aft-facing, U-shape settee that loops around the helm (a lot like a well-thrown horseshoe around a stake). This configuration not only seats more guests, but improves traffic flow by allowing people to pass on either side of the centerline helm. Lifting the settee cushion reveals stowage in the forward section, and on both port and starboard sides there are insulated boxes with independent thermostats that allow you to use them as stowage, refrigerators, or freezers.

Our helm console was uncluttered: just two Northstar 6100i displays on either side along with digital readouts for the MANs, the Simrad AP 26 autopilot, and the Furuno RD-30. I wondered what had happened to the analog gauges until Ocean captain Gene Hawn, who was standing at the helm, revealed a flip-out panel at his feet that housed not only the fuel gauges for all three tanks but also the remote pull levers for the Sea-Fire fire-suppression system and rocker switches for the windlass, fuel-transfer pump, and horn. I would have preferred to have seen analog tachometers to corroborate the electronic readouts, but I'm obsessive about redundancy. Speaking of which, in an overhead compartment, our boat had twin Icom VHFs (one is standard), so you can simultaneously monitor two channels without scanning between them. Another overhead compartment just aft of the helm contained the twin optional Miya Epoch US-Super 8 electric teaser reels.

But all the exterior changes taken together were moderate compared with those in the interior. When I slid back the door to the saloon and stepped into the aft seating area, I found myself staring at a Miami Dolphins football game being displayed on the 42-inch Sol LCD TV. It's on electric struts so it can be raised and lowered out of a cabinet, the front of which opens so you can watch programs when the seas are too rough for the TV to be raised. Because it's a few feet farther aft on the starboard side than on the 57, anyone working in the galley has a much better view of the screen.

That galley recieved a face-lift as well. It's now big enough to accommodate two cooks (not so easy on the 57), a modification that according to J4 was made without annexing space from the sitting area. Across from her galley, the 58 can seat six people at the dinette—two more than the 57. To accomplish this without adding beam, the design team attached a slide track under the table, allowing the entire top to come out from the wall four inches, so even the most full-bellied sport fishermen can dine in comfort.

Moving quietly down the six thickly carpeted steps, I found new layouts in both the VIP suite and crew cabin. The VIP now has a more traditional aft-facing centerline queen berth rather than an inward-facing, port-side queen berth. To accomplish this the team moved the en suite head from the forepeak to the port side. As for the crew stateroom, it no longer has twin berths running athwartships but rather side-by-side berths aligned fore and aft, which allows not only for a more conventional and pleasurable sleeping alignment during off-watch hours underway, but also for an extra four to five inches on each mattress.

They looked inviting, but there was no time to rest. A fresh breeze had been piling up the water outside North Palm Beach for three days, and WX droned reports of nasty weather all afternoon. The wind was blustery in the calm waters of Lake Worth, enough so that it increased our sound-level readings as we gathering the performance data. Afterwards we headed out past the breakwater. There the three-to-fives posed little resistance to the 58's 67,469-pound displacement, as she ran through them at nearly 20 mph without a slam. We stayed dry up on the bridge deck, although I was twice able to overpower the bow flare and speckle the isinglass with salt by running up the larger waves at indirect angles (two to three compass points from head-on). With the wheel nearly hard over, she heeled predictably into the turns—perhaps a bit more than normal due to the tuna tower—but never dug in. She seemed like a fine rough-weather boat, but with nasty weather approaching quickly from the south, I handed the wheel back to Hawn, and we made our way toward the inlet.

I wasn't surprised that she handled the seas so well given her proven hull. As for all those modifications, they seemed to have accomplished what J4 and his team set out to achieve: maintaining the seakeeping and performance of the 57 while making day-to-day operations of this new tournament vessel—fishing, cooking, and sleeping—easier and more comfortable. And she's tournament-ready. Not only had she just returned from four days offshore the night before my test, but she was heading back out to rejoin the circuit the next morning. And even with the stacking seas outside, I had no doubt she'd make it to the tourney on time.

For more information on Ocean Yachts, including contact information, click here.

Back when Dave Martin designed the Ocean 57, he planned out an entirely new bottom for her that incorporated four parallel lifting strakes, and he removed the two inner strakes and realigned the two outer ones so that they were farther apart at the bow and closer together at the stern. According to Martin, this adjustment funnels cleaner water toward the propellers. He also says that the removal of the strakes lessens pounding, since the two remaining strakes stay submerged and the wider layout at the bow won't cup the water on impact. After years of real-life usage, J4 and the design team gladly kept this hull for the Ocean 58 Super Sport.—G.R.

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

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