Ocean Alexander 98 CockpitBy Capt. Bill Pike
I crossed the equator the first time onboard the oceangoing tug Betty Wood, and, barring a few initiation pranks by guys who were already card-carrying members of the "Royal Order of Shellbacks," the event consisted mostly of a party, or what passes for a party on a merchant vessel in the midst of the Pacific. And it was fun, partly because revelry, when practiced miles from nowhere, is more intense, and to some extent because the Betty Wood, one of the largest, most thoughtfully designed but also resplendently outfitted long-rangers of her time, was by virtue of these attributes a party animal of the first order.
Let me expand upon this sentiment by referencing at length a vessel I recently sea trialed off the coast of California: Ocean Alexander's 98 Cockpit Motoryacht. Vastly different from the Betty Wood in most respects, the 98 was spacious enough, comfortable enough, and well appointed enough to qualify as a top-shelf party animal herself. Within minutes of my stepping onboard, it was obvious: Here was a big, long-legged greyhound of the seas, capable of serving up pure enjoyment to gangs of folks, even in miles-from-nowhere venues. No electricity? No fresh meat available locally? No fuel in the area? No movies? No problem for the 98.
Electrical firepower's a major source of all this independence. Reportedly, the owner of our test vessel is as seriously taken with coastal Mexico as he is with offshore fishing, and in either case, he likes traveling with close to a dozen crewmembers and guests onboard at any given time. And while the bottom deck of the 98 can easily accommodate such numbers in four staterooms (with four en suite heads, each with a separate stall shower) and crew's quarters aft (with stall-shower-equipped en suite head and berths for three), what makes the boat such an excellent and affable host is her full-time, full-load electrical oomph.
Just consider: The 98 comes standard with a 120,000-Btu Aqua-Air chilled-water air-conditioning plant, a 1,500-gpd FCI watermaker, a matched set of 30-gallon Torrid water heaters, a Whirlpool Duet home-size washer and dryer, Key Power backup electro-hydraulics for deck machinery, a Marantz AV entertainment package, and a raft of pumps, motors, and other components that gracefully support the sybaritic lifestyle. Flipping switches for all this stuff, especially if done simultaneously, creates an immense demand for 12-, 24-, 120-, and 240-volt electricity.
But the 98's got the goods. Her clean, well-lit engine room is home to two hulking 32-kW Northern Lights gensets, a house battery bank containing 20 (that's right, 20) deep-cycle, golfcart-type Trojan L16s, an engine battery bank containing eight Lifeline AGM 8Ds (four starters and four MTU computer energizers), a backup battery bank containing two Lifeline AGM 8Ds (for emergency nav-equipment operation on the bridge), four (!) 3.5-kW OutBack Power Systems inverters, and a hydraulically actuated, 400-amp alternator to generate power in the highly unlikely event of a shortage.
Secondary shindig-supporting systems are just as impressive. Take cold-storage capability, for example. Not only is there a big, chest-type GE freezer in the engine room, but there's also a huge, teak-clad, 16-cubic-foot built-in in the dining area, beneath the windshield and at the foot of the stairway connecting the bottom deck and the main deck dining area. Add such packing-house potential to the combined capacities of a 48-inch stand-up Sub-Zero refrigerator in the galley and four drawer-style Sub-Zeros in various other locations, and you've got a cold-storage capability of 70 cubic feet, a number that virtually guarantees thrills on the grill well into a long vacation.
Given the electrical engineering outfitting and other extremes that Ocean Alexander has obviously gone to in creating the 98, it's no wonder the vessel tips the scales at 224,000 pounds. And having sensed her heft through my deck shoes shortly after venturing aboard, I was well pleased to cast our lines off and depart Redondo Beach for the open Pacific Ocean once I'd finished looking around. How would the boat actually perform?
The answer came resoundingly. Thanks to a semidisplacement hull form styled by Ed Monk, Jr. and a set of nozzled-down "lifting tunnels" of the sort West Coast hydrodynamicist Ed Hageman is famous for, our test vessel clocked a rousing average top speed of 25.6 mph with a highly efficient, drag-reducing running attitude of just 3.5 degrees. Moreover, visibility was great from the sumptuously decorated, precisely joinered pilothouse. The electrically adjustable Stidd helm seats there were comfy, and keeping tabs on our 1,500-hp MTU 12V 2000s, as well as all other shipboard functions, was a piece of cake thanks to a glass-bridge-style console running an MTU engine/yacht-monitoring system.
But while all this sweetness and light was at least as gratifying as the smooth, dry ride we experienced in both tight turns and on straight stretches in two- to three-foot rollers, it didn't hold a candle to the sound readings I recorded. At an idle rpm of 575, engine noise in the pilothouse was close to indiscernible. At 1000 rpm, my reading was just 51 dB-A, some 14 dB-A below the level of normal conversation. And finally, with the MTUs going full chat, I recorded a sound level in the pilothouse of just 60 dB-A. Mute—or almost mute—testimony to Ocean Alexander's sound- and-vibration-attenuating techniques, which include floating cabin soles on Sylomer urethane padding, blanketing bulkheads and overheads with thick layers of Soundown insulation, and using isolation mounts on machinery wherever possible.
We returned dockside late that afternoon. Since there are five remote helm stations beside the primary helm onboard the 98, each at different locations and with controls for two powerful 50-hp Key Power hydraulic thrusters as well as the mains, our skipper had little trouble easing us back alongside.
As I was disembarking, he mentioned something about his owner heading south soon with a whole passel of friends. The names of a few exotic Mexican destinations were dropped. And a fast but good-timey fish story or two.
"So whataya think of the Ocean Alexander 98 Cockpit Motoryacht?" the guy concluded at length.
"Well," I opined, "she reminds me of a boat I used to work on. Big. Sophisticated. Lots of fun."
I was thinking of the Betty Wood, of course.
This article originally appeared in the January 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.