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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Smooth Operator

I’m crankin’ up this test report with something that’s gonna sound a little strange, at least at first. My sea trial of Hampton Yacht’s Endurance 650 LRC (Long Range Cruiser) took place in two, totally different, geographically discrete installments. The first occurred on Lake Washington on a cool Seattle afternoon and the second on the Intracoastal Waterway on a steamy morning in Destin, Florida. Let me explain. The 650 in Seattle, although a fine specimen, had a small but significant problem I discovered only shortly after jumping aboard: her digital fuel-burn readouts had not yet been calibrated by Caterpillar, the manufacturer of her twin commercially rated, 873-bhp C-18 diesels. So, since Hampton is touting the 650’s efficiencies in both the slow-mo mode and the herecomes- a-thunderstorm-let’s-run realm, it was critical that I either get Caterpillar to make a short-notice house call or somehow come up with another test vessel in order to do a sea trial worth writing about.

The first option fizzled, but the second flourished. Only a few weeks after I’d recorded everything but fuel burn on the Seattle 650, I encountered a brand-new sistership, owned by Cathy and Ray Masker, in my own, North Florida backyard. And while the data I subsequently collected on the Maskers’ boat (Hull No. 2) was solid and complete (as well as virtually identical to what I’d got from Hull No. 3 in Seattle), a confidentiality issue obtruded, dictating that I report only performancerelated info from Destin, and stick with the Seattle vessel for everything else.

But before delving into performance, let’s first consider Hampton’s Hybrid Hull, drawn by West Coast naval architect Howard Apollonio. It undergirds not only the 650 but two larger members of the Endurance Series, the 700 LRC and 720 LRC. Thanks to what Apollonio calls “split chines,” the Hybrid Hull attempts to synergize two totally different approaches to seafaring: the planing hull form and the displacement hull form. Hampton’s take on the idea brings a lower-chine segment forward from the transom and then lets it fade out in the forward third of the vessel. An upper chine begins subtly in the mid-sections and becomes increasingly pronounced as it sweeps forward, all the way to the stem. In tandem, says Hampton, these two elements, in league with some relatively large, draftreducing propeller pockets and a significant keel, produce “high efficiency across a range of speeds.”

This particular generality can be broken down as follows: At displacement speeds, the 650’s lower chine remains underwater, lending transverse stability to the boat’s progress but not otherwise interfering with it. The upper chine, meanwhile, serves as a spray knocker, while rounded, trawlerish sections forward whoosh along with slippery, displacement-type efficiency. At faster speeds, things change. The upper chine continues in its spray-knocker capacity but the lower one begins to work in conjunction with somewhat flat aftersections to generate lift, ultimately producing the ride and speeds of a planing boat.

How does the Hybrid Hull work in the real world? The first feature I picked up on, right after I’d finished chortling about the cool comfort of the Maskers’ optional air-conditioned skylounge, was the 650’s predilection for leaning outboard in turns, a characteristic that’s often related to the amount of surface area inherent in a vessel’s keel and rudders. Big keels and rudders encounter considerable lateral-resistance or drag when a boat begins a turn by sliding her stern sideways. Ultimately, they begin to lag behind the rest of the vessel as the turn continues, thus causing a slight outboard lean. Reducing the surface area will reduce the effect, of course. But in any case, while the phenomenon’s disconcerting to some novices, I’ve encountered it several times on big boats over the years.

The sea trial revealed more. At lower speeds (up to a theoretical hull speed of 10.2 knots or 11.7 mph) the 650’s operating efficiencies (measured in nmpg) were excellent, although not radically better than some I’ve recorded for twin-engine cruisers with more conventional hulls. Moreover, at higher speeds, some more conventional cruisers have actually posted better efficiencies and top hops. Nevertheless, the 650 is far more versatile than your typical single-engine, displacementtype bluewater trawler. Indeed, I believe she’ll leave most of these in her wake, although she surely won’t match their efficiencies in the displacement realm.

Driving was pure enjoyment, though. Most likely due to the 650’s ample rudders and keel, she tracks like a train, and her stability characteristics underway are solid as well, although mellifluous sea conditions in both Seattle and Destin hardly matched the open-oceans conditions Apollonio says the 650 was designed to thrive in. Sightlines forward and to the side from both the upper and lower stations are excellent, thanks to expansive windows and windshield panels, and any dockingrelated visibility concerns astern are addressed by a couple of extra control stations. Indeed, when it came time to spin our test boat in front of her slip and back down, Masker simply began the process at the upper helm, descended the port-side ladder to the cockpit, flipped up the lid on the control station at the bottom of the stairs (with Caterpillar electronic engine-control and joysticks for bow and stern thrusters), and slid ‘er home with an unobstructed view.

The engineering on the Seattle boat—and on the Maskers’ boat, for that matter—was tops all the way ‘round. I accessed the engine room via a stairway at the rear of the saloon, although there’s a transom door as well. Maximum headroom inside is 6'2" and there is plenty of wrench-turning space on either side of each main engine, as well as plenty of serious sound- and vibration-reduction measures, including numerous isolation mounts under ancillaries and lots of acoustical insulation on the overhead and bulkheads.

Redundancy was an obvious biggie. There are two PTOs on each main. One is forward and the other at the rear, on the transmission. The forward set power-assists the Teleflex SeaStar steering system, while the oversize set on the gears powers up her Wesmar bow and stern thrusters, Naiad stabilizers, and Steelhead crane. Thus, all hydraulics onboard will continue to function, even with one engine down, a very cool feature. Other notable redundancies include two Northern Lights gensets, two seawater pumps for the Marine Air chilled-water air conditioning system, two temperature probes on the main engines’ exhaust elbows (see “Noteworthy: Safety Sensor,” this story), two engine-driven emergency bilge pumps, and two freshwater pumps.

One last point: The makore (African cherry) interior is beautiful, whether in the standard lower-deck layout (with en suiteequipped full-beam master, VIP forward, and port-side guest stateroom), the main deck (with centerline helm station and port-side dinette forward, saloon aft, and starboard-side galley in between), or the optional crew quarters aft.

And such was the case, whether the boat was floating on the cool waters of Seattle or the sunshiny depths of Destin’s ICW.

Noteworthy:

Safety Sensor

My test boat was equipped with temperature sensors in two critical locations: at each main engine’s exhaust elbow. And although Hampton’s been installing these nifty devices on its boats for quite some time now, the feature is still not totally mainstream. Why are exhaust-elbow sensors such a good idea? Let’s say you lose a couple of fins from the raw-water impeller on one of your main engines or you suck a plastic bag or other debris into the sea strainer plumbing. Most likely, well before the engine itself shows a temperature spike, the elbow sensor will pick up on the reduction in cooling water (via a temperature change) and signal you with a blinking light and/or a buzzer. With added forewarning, you’re more likely to be able to reduce rpm and baby your problematic main back to the dock for repairs. —B.P.

Contact: Hampton Yacht Group (206) 623-5200.
www.powerandmotoryacht.com/hampton/.

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

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