Uniesse 55By George L. Petrie
For most owners, yachting is a source of relaxation, a getaway from stress and a time to enjoy the company of family and friends. So the very act of owning and operating a yacht should be as stress-free as possible. Maneuvering in and out of a tight slip should be an occasion for the owner to impress friends and family, not a cause of domestic discord. Electronics should be configured so that if any component fails, a backup will seamlessly come online. The status of mechanical and electrical systems should be instantly viewable at the helm, and in the event of malfunction, meaningful diagnostics should be displayed and the appropriate manuals should be readily at hand. And for good measure, there should be easy access to factory technicians for consultation.
Sound like a pipe dream? For sure, several builders do offer systems that provide some of this futuristic functionality. But as the owner of a forward-thinking technology applications firm, Marc Trachtenberg wanted his new Uniesse 55 to do it all. His criteria seemed simple: a sturdy, well-constructed hull, a finely crafted interior, and the ability to fulfill his wishes. But "his wishes" included all the functionality set forth above, with redundancy for every critical system on the yacht, plus several other high-tech wrinkles.
The project evolved as a joint effort. Trachtenberg and his company masterminded the electronics, monitoring, and control systems, while Uniesse integrated the mind-boggling array of equipment with the yacht, flawlessly and without compromising the yacht's aesthetics. The result is a singularly impressive blending of design, craft, and technology.
I've seen many fancy electronics installations, but none that even come close to the system on this Uniesse 55. For starters, there are two complete radar systems, one with a 4K dome and the other with a 10K open array. There are two independent plotter systems, a Raymarine 631 chartplotter and a Raymarine L1250 depthsounder/plotter, both viewable at either the upper or the lower helm station. And there are three GPS systems: two Raymarine 120 WAAS units (one a backup) plus a Raymarine 114 DGPS. Both are live, with WAAS as the primary on SeaTalk and DGPS as secondary on NEMA. A computer continuously monitors both systems, and if the WAAS should fail or become inaccurate (due to momentary interruption in the augmentation signal), the DGPS output automatically intercedes.
Between the twin chartplotters (at both the upper and lower helms), there's a digital display console that runs a full suite of PC-based navigation and cartography software, supporting both vector and raster formats. The PC screen also allows access to the yacht's monitoring and control systems, along with full Internet connectivity. Thus, in the event of a problem, operating parameters and engine diagnostics can be readily uploaded to a Web site for review by factory technicians.
Perhaps the capstone on this high-tech tour de force is a small, wireless, touch-screen device slightly bigger than palm-size but easily handheld. With it, Trachtenberg can display and control any system from anywhere on the yacht. It's pretty neat, doing everything from changing waypoints to checking engine temperatures, literally in the palm of his hand. Radar, plotter, navigation, or Internet—even a complete set of engine manuals is accessible.
But Trachtenberg's high-tech innovations aren't limited to just computers and electronics. For peace of mind, a panel to the left of the lower helm station puts all A.C. and D.C. breakers within easy reach. A Mastervolt battery-management system regulates all 12 of the yacht's batteries, and a Mastervolt inverter provides A.C. power when the gensets are offline. Even the genset controls are at the helm, with digital readouts of all critical operating parameters.
There are backups for everything. At the upper helm station there's a Ritchie compass, and at the lower helm there's a KVH digital compass. Power take-offs on both main engines provide redundant power supplies to the 15-hp hydraulic bow and stern thrusters. To let the owner keep tabs on his machinery, there's an engine-room camera system that auto-switches between full-color display when the engine room lights are on and infrared (night vision) when the lights are off.
With all that technology onboard, you might think the yacht would look like a giant video game. That's where Uniesse achieved a tour de force in design and construction. All breakers, switches, and status displays are neatly laid out on horizontal panels outboard or forward of the raised lower helm station, above eye level from the saloon and virtually out of sight from anywhere but the helm seat. From elsewhere in the interior, only the digital display and the two chartplotters are visible, handsomely ensconced in a stunning burl panel forward of the helm.
Uniesse accommodated the owner's wishes in other respects as well. For example, the standard interior is a three-stateroom, three-head layout. But the owner wanted a large head adjoining the master stateroom, so Uniesse reconfigured the arrangement to eliminate one guest head and offer an enlarged custom head in its place. Per the owner's request, floors and countertops in both heads were done in rich, buttery yellow marble that makes the spaces seem even larger and brighter.
Though Uniesse added several custom features to the yacht, most of the niceties I saw aboard are standard, testimony to the builder's attention to detail. For example, all bulkheads are reinforced with a solid-wood molding around the perimeter of each door opening, to keep the doorways square and to keep the bulkheads from distorting. Furthermore, all mirrors and cabinet doors are flush with rather than protruding from the surface of the surrounding bulkhead.
Interior joinery was flawlessly executed in Tanganyika wood, selected for its uniform grain and its resistance to fading and finished with a luxuriant nine-coat multigloss finish. The exterior decks were covered in lowlands Burma teak, a dense variety that has low porosity and weathers especially well. One of the few faults I could find became painfully obvious as I was climbing from the cockpit up to the flying bridge, jabbing my back on a steel latch that secures the hatch.
The discomfort was short-lived, as the focus of my attention turned to our sea trial. Winds were whipping across New York Harbor at more than 45 knots as we rounded Battery Park in search of calmer water in the East River. At 35 knots in a three- to four-foot slop, we took a splash of spray across the bridge, but nothing major considering we had 80 knots of apparent wind across the deck. It was an exhilarating ride, but comfortable and smooth thanks to 26 degrees of deadrise amidships and 17 degrees at the stern. Course keeping at speed was excellent, although at low speeds I would have preferred a faster rudder response than the seven turns lock-to-lock that the owner specified. But the combination of bow and stern thrusters makes low-speed maneuvering easy in any situation.
With a sturdy fiberglass hull, foam-cored in the hull sides and deckhouse and conforming to CE/Class-A construction standards (CE is a European set of standards that cover a wide variety of consumer products, including yachts, with Class A being the highest rating), the Uniesse has certainly fulfilled Trachtenberg's requirements. She's beautifully designed and finely constructed, and with full manual and automatic backup systems and almost every contingency planned for, what's left to do but relax and have fun?
Global Yachts International
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.