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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

SeaVana 60

I was a little leery at first. A friend of mine had seen an unusual and noteworthy flying-bridge motoryacht at the 2003 Miami International Boat Show, a boat I'd somehow missed while strolling the docks. And he thought I'd better give her a look, perhaps even take her for a test spin and write up a report. What had so intrigued the guy apparently was the fact that the vessel's exterior had, for the most part, been designed around a whopping interior, a novel prioritization in an age that often favors sleek, sexy exterior styling at all costs. Moreover, the guy who'd created the interior layout, Long Islander Joe Esposito, was a residential architect, not a naval one. "He's done some interesting things," my friend promised, "maybe because he's not all tangled up with traditions and preconceptions."

I caught up with the SeaVana 60—an appellation derived from the savanna-like allure of the open sea, according to some brochures I'd gotten ahold of—at the Rybovich Spencer yard in West Palm Beach. My chary attitude took the first big hit as soon as I caught a glimpse of the boat's curvaceous, highly styled superstructure--it seemed sleek enough and at least as sexy as the superstructures of most other big Euro-stylers on the market these days, maybe even sexier. Whether or not the interior layout would really knock my socks off I wasn't able to tell at this point, of course, but I could certainly vouch for the profile and the glasswork—it looked great.

Esposito stuck out a friendly hand. Then, while we stood on the expansive, teak-paved swim platform for a moment, he told me a bit about the project that's taken up so much of his life over the past couple of years—the creation of a sort of hybrid motoryacht with European styling and finish, and a huge, wide-open American layout. The story began with a quest. Esposito, an experienced boater, was shopping the 50-something range, looking for a layout with three fair-size staterooms, each with an en suite head, and a main-deck accommodation as commodious and comfortable as a high-end stateside condo. "I eventually discovered that what I wanted simply didn't exist," he explained, "so I began noodling around and finally put together a layout I felt was pretty unusual and just about perfect."

The next step took Esposito to England, where Southampton-based naval architect Bill Dixon drew up a nicely proportioned, seaworthy envelope to accommodate the layout and a group of craftsmen from the boatbuilding town of Oundle began breathing life into it. As things progressed, Esposito figured he had to be on the right track—going with British naval architecture, craftsmanship, and styling addressed one of his major concerns, and his own all-American layout addressed the other.

I was able to judge the outcome as soon as we stepped into the SeaVana's saloon. Indeed, the place was huge, thanks to a couple of subtle strategies. For one thing, the galley/dinette/helm area had been pushed well forward, a move that added considerable elbowroom. And then, the layout was savvily configured to facilitate traffic flow in the same way a thoughtfully designed home might be. I found I could move within the thoroughly open and integrated arrangement with unobstructed ease, whether my aim was the galley, lower helm station (with full standing headroom, thanks to Dixon's ample profile), or dinette area. The stairwells—one leading down to the master and VIP forward, and the other leading to the guest stateroom and engine room aft—were unobtrusively sidelined behind plush, Ultraleather-upholstered furniture.

Comfort was an obvious priority. Seamlessly covered by crisply carpentered American cherry doors, a full range of appliances in the galley included a set—that's two, not one—of high-end Fisher & Paykel dishwashers. "Extra dish stowage," explained Esposito. The pop-up Sony plasma TV—part of a whopping optional entertainment package that also includes satellite capability, Surround Sound, and an AV Star audio/video distribution system—was kick-back viewable from the full-size, built-in sofa as well as the moveable barrel-type chairs, once they were strategically positioned. And visibility, whether from the galley alcove (with granite countertops and flooring), the saloon, or the lower helm station, was excellent, thanks to the enormous windows Dixon had unobtrusively blended into the design.

But it was the staterooms on the bottom deck that really showcased what Esposito has been able to accomplish with the SeaVana. The full-beam, amidships master measured approximately 16'x12' and the adjoining head almost 5'x7'. Such "bedroom-size" dimensions are extraordinary in the 50-something range. The VIP suite, too, was large and as amply supplied with cabinets, lockers, and drawers as the master. And finally, the guest accommodation aft, entered via a stairwell that also yields access to separate doors to the en suite head and the machinery spaces, was a true (7'x10') stateroom, a tribute to Esposito's creativity. He'd lowered the sole into the very bottom of the boat, incorporating the stringers that would otherwise intrude into the berth, cabinetry, and other aspects of the space. The ploy seemed to work fairly well, although I found stepping over a relatively high stringer top to get into the large, separate shower stall a bit onerous.

I discovered the same expansive theme at work in the engine room, which lay beyond a thick, sound-nixing, gasketed door. There was 6'2" standing headroom above the centerline walkway and a full two feet between the mains, which also offered outboard access that was almost as good as the inboard.

The auxiliary electric system impressed me most. There were 20—again, that's 20—Trojan batteries onboard, eight for domestic use, four for engine start, four for the optional 10-hp BCS electric bow thruster, and four for the optional 6-hp BCS electric stern thruster. Batteries are important on big cruising boats. I've tested some in this size range that were equipped with ten or less.

Driving the SeaVana was enjoyable. The BCS power-assisted hydraulic steering was smooth, tabs were unnecessary, visibility was great, from both the upper and the lower helms, and the Opacmare seats at both locations were comfortable. In addition to Esposito's other concerns, he'd been shooting for a motoryacht that could be easily managed by two people; he's hit the mark in my opinion. Docking our test boat was a simple, near-effortless procedure, thanks to good visibility both forward and aft, a couple of powerful thrusters, a sweet set of ZF/Mathers electronic engine controls, and the maneuvering oomph inherent in a pair of comparatively big wheels, 28x34 four-blade Hyperform.

As we shut the mains down, Esposito told me that Rex Yachts of Fort Lauderdale will be representing the boat and arranging for warranty work. "They've had lots of success with new lines in America, like Cheoy Lee and Guy Couach, and I'm hoping they'll do the same with the SeaVana," he said.

Considering the unique mix of styling and layout that the boat offers, I'd say there's an awfully good chance of it.

SeaVana Yachts
(954) 463-8810

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