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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Ocean Alexander 64 Pilothouse

Back in the 1960’s, some West Coast brokers discovered that if they built boats in Taiwan, where the labor rate was a fraction of what it was in the United States, they could undercut domestic manufacturers and increase their profits. The first hardy souls who embraced this gambit were quickly reminded that there is no free lunch. For while they possessed an inherent talent with the crafting and finishing of wood, the Taiwanese knew less about fiberglass and even less about marine engineering. Consequently, full-time, on-site supervisory staff was required to make sure things were done right.

Today, that’s all changed. The labor-cost advantage is gone, but so are the deficiencies. Taiwanese yards are now widely considered to be among the world’s best, which is why many of the most respected designers and naval architects routinely build there. That includes Alexander Marine, which is different in that it has built boats only for itself for its entire 26-year life. That includes more than 1,000 Ocean Alexanders, delivered to a worldwide dealership network that today numbers 12.

Such stability and success are in part due to its boatbuilding prowess and partly to its exclusive relationship with three men: naval architect Ed Monk, Jr., hydrodynamicist Ed Hegemann, and structural specialist Tim Nolan. Hegemann makes sure every hull performs the way it should; and Nolan makes sure they are strong, but it is Monk, the Pacific Northwest icon, who gives each Ocean Alexander the look of a real sea boat and the generous interior proportions almost any cruiser would love.

The newest Ocean Alexander is no exception. It’s called the 58/64 Pilothouse because two transom configurations are offered: one with an integral swim platform and the other with a “Eurostyle transom” that features port and starboard curved stairways to the platform, a larger cockpit, and a longer bridge overhang. I tested a 64 out of the Newport Beach, California, dealership, Orange Coast Yachts.

The moment I stepped aboard, two things struck me: lots of beautiful wood and lots of room. The former is a reminder of what made Taiwanese boats famous. Our test boat displayed Burmese teak, cherry burl, and bird’s-eye maple, flawlessly crafted and finished (in optional high gloss). Nearly every wall was paneled and every corner was radiused with solid wood. Since Ocean Alexanders are semicustom, virtually any wood is available. In fact, the yard is amenable to any changes that do not alter a vessel’s engineering or structural integrity. Such flexibility was obvious in the 64’s saloon, which is typically configured differently by each owner. Teak dominated on our boat, with burl accenting an expandable circular dining table in the aft starboard corner and port-side cabinets that housed the retractable plasma TV (aft) and other entertainment components (forward).

As for the roominess, a signature of Monk designs, it’s all the more remarkable considering the one-foot-wide side decks, a feature that along with port and starboard pantographic pilothouse doors (with nifty retracting screens), cockpit and pilothouse bridge stairways, and waist-high stainless steel rails will be appreciated by the majority of 64 owners who run their boats themselves. Those who do take along guests will also like a pilothouse that promotes socializing. Directly to port of the helm, a big, circular dinette delivers a killer combination: 180-degree views, proximity to the helmsman, and ready access to the galley, which is directly abaft the helm. Besides solid-marble counters and an efficient U-shape, our galley displayed a full-size, side-by-side refrigerator, microwave, four-burner cooktop, and trash compactor. There was also plenteous stowage, including a handy cabinet for dishes in the table’s pedestal. Careful planning is obvious: The dishwasher is on the forward side of the galley-helm counter, in what would otherwise be dead space, and the Lazy Susan in the aft starboard corner is encircled in wood so things can’t fall out and get lost in the corner.

The smart planning extends to the accommodations, which are equally practical for a husband and wife and a group. Somehow every stateroom feels big, even the smallest one to port, which has double berths. (Ocean Alexander will move bulkheads here to accommodate personal preferences.) The nine-foot-long forward stateroom is plenty large, although it has no en suite facilities; a single large head with a large marble-accented shower is directly aft and to starboard and also functions as a day head. Our midship master, a tad over ten feet long, did have en suite facilities, plus a queen-size berth on the aft bulkhead, insulated from the engine room by two 600-gallon aluminum fuel tanks. An alternative layout, probably preferred by the cruising couple, has the stateroom two feet longer, with an athwartships berth and starboard head. An engineering note: Each stateroom has buss bars to make for easier electrical troubleshooting, plus lighted bilge access.

A couple will also appreciate the extra six feet of bridge deck that comes with the 64. Everyone sits up front, either in two pedestal seats or at the large U-shape settee directly aft. This leaves room aft for a 13’2” tender and Brower davit, which on our boat was connected to a Key Power hydraulic system that served fore and aft thrusters, stabilizers, and a Maxwell windlass and was powered by a pump on each engine.

Speaking of which, the engines are reached via a tight hatch at the forward end of the 8’5”-long cockpit. The MTU Series 60s enjoyed nearly full walkaround access, and I was impressed by the engineering here, too: oversized Groco strainers, full-length saddle-style engine bearers of polished steel, color-coded piping, explosion-proof lighting, and triplex fuel-water separators. Two Northern Lights gensets occupied the aft bulkhead, along with a Filtration Concepts watermaker. The inverter and inverter battery bank are located in the six-foot-long lazarette.

Also notable is the fact that the 64 is vacuum-bagged using carbon fiber, although she’s no lightweight. She’s listed at 69,300 pounds, but because of all that marble, high-end plumbing, and other top-end fittments, our test boat no doubt weighed a good deal more. Yet she performed well on a flat sea: a top speed of 26.4 mph and a 20.6-mph/2000-rpm cruise speed with 0.45 mpg for a range of nearly 570 miles. Planing was also relatively quick, with modest bow rise, and in high-speed turns the yacht banked slightly outboard, due to her nearly full-length keel. Also impressive was her quiet noise level: I measured a maximum of 82 dB-A on the flying-bridge helm and barely 70 dB-A in the pilothouse (65 is the level of normal conversation).

But what impressed me the most about the 64 was not her beautiful joinery, a Taiwanese trademark. It was her solid design and engineering. That’s why in the end, it really didn’t matter where this boat was built, just how.

Ocean Alexander Marine
(206) 344-8566

This article originally appeared in the September 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.