As we ventured out into the bay and past the old castle and monastery on the Iles de Lerins, we felt the full force of the breeze for the first time—a steady, Mediterranean yachtsman's blow, constant, warm, and strong. The waves were already a steep five or six feet and would certainly get bigger as we proceeded downwind. I waited for the start of the roll. And waited.
I checked that the ARGs were indeed switched off. I waited some more, glancing aft to gauge the size of the waves again. And as I waited, and nothing happened, I began to relax. It wasn't that the fins were merely coping, keeping the roll to a minimum—they were ironing it out completely. We were cruising down the coast as steadily as a battlecruiser: 13 knots at 2070 rpm, with decks dead level. I could walk without reaching out to steady myself. Drinks stayed where they were put. The only interruptions to our steady, calm progress were my repeated expressions of disbelief.
But what if it wasn't really all that rough? We turned through 180 degrees to see what would happen. The Navetta's fine bow sections and generous flare punched through the seas like a trawler, while the wind picked up the sheeting spray and hurled it clean over the wheelhouse. Okay, it was rough. No wonder there was hardly anyone else out. Beam-on, I expected the fins to struggle against the momentum of the yacht's superstructure. We were going to roll. I braced myself. Nothing happened. At 90 degrees to the waves, we simply rose up and down on a dead-even keel. It was more than impressive, it was extraordinary. Who would have tagged the Navetta 26 as a sea boat? Not me.
Reassured, I took some performance readings. At our 13-knot cruising speed, the 26 was burning 59 gph, which meant a range (allowing for the usual ten-percent reserve) of around 650 nautical miles. The maximum speed I recorded was 14.5 knots at 2350 rpm, burning 93.5 gph, for a range of approximately 460 miles. With a waterline length of just under 71 feet, the Navetta has a theoretical hull speed in displacement mode—and thus its most efficient cruising speed—of a shade over 11 knots.
Monaco was soon visible ahead, nestling beneath the towering, 1,800-foot bluffs of Plateau Tercier. Even without such geological assistance, we would soon have spotted the diminutive principality by the fleet of yachts gathered outside, either ejected from their home berths to make way for the show or waiting to be allowed in to take their places.
We saw T6, a striking New Zealand-built, 159-foot expedition yacht, leaving, along with the 156-foot Christensen One More Toy, well known on the charter circuit. Pitching into the seas as they left the shelter of the enormous new floating breakwater, both seemed to be off to ride out the show, and the blow, at anchor, in the lee of Cap Ferrat.
Although the water was calm in the harbor, shielded from the southwest, the wind was still howling across the berths at what I'd guess was 25 knots, with stronger gusts. We learned later of various expensive wind-borne mishaps, as unwieldy superyachts arriving for the show got away from their hapless captains.
In the meantime, our tall, shallow-draft 86-footer was not exacly the sort of boat to make docking in such conditions fun, unless you're made of much sterner stuff than me. Fortunately our captain, Costanzo Domenico, was. After getting the yacht into roughly the right area from the wheelhouse, he walked out onto the starboard bridge wing to line us up in front of our berth, which appeared to be an impossibly narrow gap between a Pershing 72 and a Custom Line 97. Then, after a quick glance around, he darted down to the cockpit and took charge from the lower controls on the port side, reversing the yacht into the slot in one steady, precise, and decisive movement. Bravo.
For Domenico and his crew, the day's work was nearly done. After cleaning and tidying the boat, they could relax and enjoy the show. For me, though, the relaxation of the trip was about to become a distant memory. An ocean of shiny fiberglass stretched out in every direction across Port Hercule. I was going to need a new notebook.
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This article originally appeared in the May 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.