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Baia Azzurra 63

I am a voracious reader, but occasionally I find it tricky to decipher the meaning behind certain works. In his book Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut made it easy for me: He states the novel’s theme in the preface. “You are what you pretend to be,” Vonnegut writes, adding that we should be darn careful about what we pretend to be, as we may just become that. Recently I was at Allied Richard Bertram’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida, office for a wring-out of baia’s 63-foot Azzurra, and a below-decks inspection had me thinking of Vonnegut’s statement. Had baia turned its back on its racing heritage in favor of luxury and comfort?

Her saloon is huge and luxurious, with 6’8” headroom and a plush, L-shape, red leather settee to starboard. Across from here, her granite-topped galley’s full-size Whirlpool refrigerator/freezer and abundant stowage could easily swallow a week’s worth of cruising provisions for a family of four. Two aft staterooms, each with a set of single berths, complement a forepeak master with walkaround queen. In addition, en suite heads with showers serve all staterooms.

Looking around this well-appointed interior, I began to wonder. Cantieri de Baia made a name for itself over the last 20 years on the European racing circuit for its exclusive use of surface-piercing drives and pre-impregnated Kevlar hulls, not cushy accommodations. Had baia gone soft?

Not by a long shot. My test boat reached an average top speed of 54.4 mph, darn respectable for a 63-footer, especially when you consider we were in the open ocean, bouncing over steady three- and four footers. Attribute her speed partly to a relatively lightweight Kevlar composite hull: At 55,000 pounds, the 63 is approximately 10,000 pounds lighter than a competitor’s similar-sized and-powered express. But some of the credit also goes to her optional 1,502-hp MTU 10V 2000 M93 common-rail diesels and standard Arneson ASD12 surface drives.

Piloting the 63 was markedly different from running shaft-driven counterparts. “It’s a technical boat to run,” commented Allied Richard Bertram’s Capt. William Walker, who joined me on the sea trial. I watched closely as he provided a tutorial.

To get the 63 up on plane, he trimmed the Arnesons all the way up using joysticks grouped on the helm along with sticks for the bow thruster, tiller, and trim tabs. Next he firewalled the MTUs: With half of the big Rolla props (Twin Disc, which owns Rolla, declined to release the prop size) out of the water, there wasn’t much bite, and the 63 crawled forward. Once the MTUs reached about 1200 rpm, Walker slowly dropped the drives. At 1500 rpm the props, now fully submerged, got a good bite, and as Walker yelled, “Here we go!” and as the MTUs went from 1500 to 1750 rpm, our speed doubled to about 39 mph. Walker then raised the drives, reducing drag and bringing the blades half of the water, which produced a roostertail a few boat lengths off our stern: Just like that my Stalker radar gun read 56.4 mph before conditions dictated that Walker throttle back to a cruising speed of 48.5 mph at 2000 rpm.

Our retreat to cruising speed wasn’t because the 63 couldn’t handle the conditions. She didn’t pound and eased through the troughs, although things got a little harsher in the confused seas of the inlet. I also noticed that a lot of spray was reaching our windshield and occasionally over our roofline. After a little investigation, I concluded that this was due to two factors: At these speeds the forward chine flats were no longer parallel to the water, so they couldn’t effectively knock down the spray. Walker demonstrated that by using the flaps as “a fine-tuning tool” to lower the boat’s trim angle, he could reduce the spray somewhat, although it never disappeared.

I couldn’t let Walker have all the fun, so I slid into the double seat and he took my spot in the molded three-seater to port. I followed his directions, all the while keeping my eyes on the rpm gauge as well as the Arneson trim indicators located in a easy-to-read cluster just forward of the wheel. Once the 63 was on plane, I found that trimming the drives while keeping tabs on the gauges and adjusting the flaps took a little getting used to. Handling was impressive: At 50 mph I executed a 180-degree turn in less than two boat lengths by trimming the port-side drive down and turning hard to starboard. She dug in, and I temporarily lost sightlines to port—I had made sure to look twice before executing the turn. Walker explained that even sharper turns are possible by using the tiller joystick, which controls port and starboard movement of the drives.

The combination of blistering offshore performance and opulent accommodations make the baia an awesome boat. But she wasn’t perfect. Her electrically retractable canvas top wouldn’t retract due to a mechanical malfunction, and when I returned from our sea trial, I noticed that the two-burner electric cooktop had dislodged from its housing. Later, Allied Richard Bertram vice-president Oscar Losada assured me that technicians had fixed the top soon after I had left and that the cooktop had only been dropped into the granite countertop for shipping, not secured.

Even with her remarkable looks, luxury, and appearance, the 63 Azzurra faces stiff competition from both Italian contemporaries and stateside builders. So is baia pretending to a luxury cruiser that just happens to have some flat-out giddy-up? Actually, no. She’s both, and that’s a darn fine thing to be.

Allied Richard Bertram
(305) 633-9761

This article originally appeared in the April 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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