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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Ocean Alexander 60

I’m a reasonably social guy, meaning I either host or attend my fair share of civic events, dinner parties, and other lubberly hoorahs. But when it comes to long-distance cruising, I prefer traveling with a single companion: either my wife, a friend, or a relative. Elbowroom’s part of the deal—even sixty-footers can feel a tad cramped after a week or so, particularly with a passel of yakety-yaks onboard. But safety’s a factor as well. I find it’s often easier and safer to cruise with one trusted, predictable individual than with a raft of nabobs, each sporting a different level of skill and emotional development.

This attitude’s neither high-falutin’ nor uncommon. In fact, its popularity was seriously underscored just a few weeks ago when I arrived in Stuart, Florida, to check out a salty-looking, Ed Monk Jr.-designed trawler that, in virtually every respect, targeted buyers who routinely go to sea short-handed. Whether you consider the big, China-built Ocean Alexander 60 Classico ERC (Extended Range Cruiser) from the standpoint of layout (unlike other vessels in her peer group, our test boat had only two staterooms, not three), performance, engine-room make-up, or livability, the message is clear: A crew of two can handle this baby with ease.

Let’s talk layout. Those two staterooms are both on the lower deck. The master, just forward of amidships, is ample enough to offer a queen-size berth with end tables, two large hanging lockers, a bureau, and bookshelves. The VIP, at the bow, is only slightly smaller, with a queen-size berth flanked by end tables, a hanging locker, and shelves. Each space has an en suite head with separate shower and the same high level of finish that exists throughout the rest of the boat. Notables include seamlessly joined teak panels, trim pieces, and burl inlays; solid, pocket-jointed drawers; cedar-lined lockers; and beefy polished stainless steel hatches and portlights from Bomar and Manship.

The main-deck accommodations are just as capacious and comfy, with a large saloon aft (its Diamond Sea-Glaze Dutch door opens into the cockpit), an equally large wheelhouse (with a raised dinette, large chart flat, and Diamond Sea-Glaze doors port and starboard), and a roomy, U-shape galley in between. A stairwell on the starboard side communicates with the lower deck and a stairway on the same side, but further aft, leads up to the flying-bridge helm station and crane-equipped boat deck. Wide walkways protected by overhangs and a Portuguese bridge complete the picture.

I’d be remiss if I failed to mention one rather unusual feature I liked about the layout. Instead of the crew’s quarters/third stateroom (an option) between the master and the ER, my test boat had a utility room, an ample amidships space that not only boosts convenience by concentrating a host of amenities (including an extra U-line reefer, Maytag washer and dryer, workbench, and several stowage areas) in one area, but also insulates the stateroom from ER-related noise.

Yacht interiors are interesting, of course, but performance is the name of the game. Our sea trial started auspiciously—the 60 handled like a champ dockside. I had no trouble extracting her from a slip at Harboridge Marina, even though it was tight and fraught with pilings to port, a face dock to starboard, and an array of pulpits protruding into the fairway. “Sweet,” I concluded while finishing a series of back-and-fills that slowly rotated the boat into the fairway without slamming her swim platform against the face dock or shoving her bow into a protruding pulpit. Upon returning to the marina after the sea trial, I put more emphasis on her optional KeyPower hydraulic bow and stern thrusters than the low-end torque of her optional twin 455-hp Caterpillar C7s, and if anything, the sense of control I enjoyed was more pronounced.

As for the test out on the open water, sightlines from both the upper and lower helms were excellent throughout the rpm register, cornering was broad (her turning radius averaged about four boat lengths), and tracking was arrow-straight except in the shallows (around six-foot depths), a characteristic of many big, displacement-type vessels. Moreover, sound levels were whisper-quiet, with most readings at the lower helm falling well below the level of normal conversation.

Now to the issue of speed. With a top end of 10.6 knots, our 60 fell well short of the 14 knots Ocean Alexander predicts. Two extenuating circumstances were perhaps responsible, according to the folks from the company. Marine fouling—our test boat had a healthy (or rather, unhealthy) dose of drag-inducing slime on her bottom—and the test venue. Because an unusually low tide prevented us from going beyond “The Crossroads,” an area at the mouth of the St. Lucie River that’s pestered with shoals and powerful currents, we were constrained to collect data in the 12-foot depths of the river itself, not the ocean. “So the resistance inherent in big transverse bow waves and other shallow-water effects probably contributed to the speed reduction you saw,” suggested Ed Hageman, the hydrodynamicist behind the 60’s underwater engineering, which by the way, includes a bulbous bow that in cross-section resembles a pumpkin seed.

After the test, I also noted one last feature that makes the 60 a perfect short-handed cruiser: her user-friendly engine room. Almost as soon as I’d entered the place, I got a handle on the basics. Duplex Racors for both the mains and genset (see “Noteworthy,” this story) as well as most other fuel-related paraphernalia were accessibly forward, either on or near the firewall. Other components were dealt with just as savvily, with the genset outboard of the starboard main, air-conditioning compressors outboard of the port main and commercial-type Delta “T” blowers overhead. My only complaint: creaky painted plywood panels with rubber tiles underfoot.

Creaky’s not that big a deal, though. Indeed, such minor considerations are hardly worth factoring into a thumbnail summary. The Ocean Alexander 60 ERC is a salty little luxury liner with an expansive, finely wrought two-stateroom layout, reasonable performance, lots of solid engineering, and most important, characteristics that make her easy to handle and maneuver for a shorthanded crew of reasonably social but privacy-guarding seafarers. Like me.

Noteworthy: Duplex Genset Rancors

Our Ocean Alexander had a single genset, a 12-kW Northern Lights M843NK. Nothing unusual here—plenty of cruising vessels have a single genny. But what set our 60’s auxiliary-power system apart was the way its fuel system was plumbed. Instead of a single Racor fuel/water separator, which is what’s common on single gensets on sixty-footers these days, our Northern Lights had two, standard-issue Racor 75/500FGX30s, an unusual touch. Of course, duplex separators, whether for gensets or mains, let an owner continue running an engine on one separator while he drains water from or changes the element in the other. Team such capabilities with a centrifuge or fuel polisher—our test boat had an optional one from Gulf Coast Filters—and you’ve got a system that can deal with a load of bad fuel effectively and efficiently.


Altima Yachts (954) 547-1011

This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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