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Birchwood 460 Flybridge Page 2

PMY Boat Test: Birchwood 460 Flybridge continued
Birchwood 460 Flybridge — By George L. Petrie — May 2002

Conspiracy in the First Degree
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You should know, however, that the cockpit also converts into an enclosed air-conditioned space, forming yet another all-weather entertainment area. You should also know that I'm not a big fan of the usual "camper-top" cockpit enclosures--the ones where the aft curtain invariably sags and rubs the top of my head when I sit on the transom settee. So I was glad to see that the side and rear curtains were supported by removable vertical struts that bow slightly outward--they both kept the Plexiglas curtains from rubbing my noggin and made the space feel roomy even for my 6'2" frame.

In typical British fashion, Oddie intimated that he first thought Gianassi was slightly daft when he specified a six-zone, 53,000-BTU chilled-water air conditioning system. After all, the 460's parent hull (marketed as the 450 Flybridge in Europe) had less than half that cooling capacity. But after spending two weeks on the yacht in South Florida, Oddie conceded that the specs on the climate control system were just right. I reached the same conclusion after just a few hours.

Birchwood made a lot of other changes in designing the 460, which weighs in at some 4,000 pounds more than her European counterpart. Among the more notable ones are the larger genset (a 13.5-kW Onan), larger-capacity appliances, dozens of comfort and convenience items, and a pair of 480-hp Cummins diesels for muscle.

One of the features I particularly liked was the flat-screen plasma TV in the saloon. Not the TV, per se, but the fact that it was mounted low, beneath the side windows, where a second settee would otherwise be placed. The upshot is that with only one large settee on the starboard side, the saloon has plenty of walkaround space, making it much better for entertaining guests. And if you need more seating in the saloon, there are two upholstered stools that nest around the leg of the hi-lo cocktail table, inconspicuous and out of the way until needed. Slick.

Joinery features American-cherry veneer applied over a fiberglass substructure that is bonded to the hull. Moldings and trim are of solid cherry, and surfaces are meticulously finished to a deep gloss that looks attractive, durable, and bright. Galley countertops are fiberglass but don't look it; finished in a black-and-white speckle pattern, they have a nice appearance and texture. And I was pleased to see that the usually unsightly microwave was hidden in its own cherry cabinet, but readily accessible on the countertop.

All three staterooms have good-size cedar hanging lockers, with additional stowage in assorted drawers, cabinets, and bins. In the master, I liked the recessed cherry panel that conceals the hatch above the berth. In the two guest staterooms, berths are tucked beneath the helm and galley sole, so there's standing headroom in the forward ends of these two rooms only. Light textures and tones and recessed lighting, make all lower deck spaces feel airy and bright.

I do have a complaint about the Birchwood, however: Space for routine access in the engine room is limited. A hatch in the cockpit sole provides the easiest access, but with only a foot of clearance between the inboard cylinder banks of the engines, it's difficult to reach filters and other necessary maintenance points. Ditto for the port seawater strainer and several of the auxiliary systems. They're visible, but to reach and repair them, I'd have to be a lot smaller and more agile. Several panels in the saloon sole lift out easily to offer access to the engines from above, but that route is somewhat inconvenient and still entails a long reach to get at filters mounted low on the engines.

The gloomy spirits that assailed me in the engine room passed when we took the 460 out for trials. She navigated the narrow channels of North Miami like a ballerina then blasted out of the inlet like she was shot from a cannon. At full throttle, in a light chop or flying off the six-foot wakes of passing motoryachts, she was solid and steady, with nary a hint of shaking, slamming, or pounding.

Credit part of that smooth ride to an unusually deep forefoot, coupled with a scallop in the hull side just above the waterline that kicks spray well clear of the hull. And credit the rest to robust construction, with solid laminates throughout the hull, supported by four massive longitudinal girders combined with stout transverse ribs spaced about two feet apart.

Considering the 460's comfort, performance, and quality, I think her design was a noble conspiracy. And her arrival on our shores is like foreign aid coming this way.

Birchwood Marine International Phone: (44) 1623-515133. Fax: (44) 1623-440328. www.birchwood.co.uk.

George L. Petrie is a professor of naval architecture at Webb Institute and provides maritime consulting services. His Web site is www.maritimeanalysis.com.

Next page > Birchwood 460 Specs > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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

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