Uniesse 66 MYBy Capt. Bill Pike
Usually, I know a bit about a test boat before I test her—I’ve either done some preliminary Web-based research, read a brochure or two, or harkened to a little gossip. Occasionally, however, I find myself climbing aboard a test boat I’m about as boned-up on as I am on the finer points of brain surgery or the dating preferences of Mary-Kate and Ashley, the Olsen twins of television fame.
Such was the case with Uniesse’s 66-foot Motoryacht. While hoofin’ it around the marina at Miami’s Biscayne Bay Marriott, looking for the 66, I realized at some ineffable juncture that I knew virtually nothing about the boat. Not what she looked like, not what engines she carried, not even if she was brand-new!
This last detail turned out to be critical. Once I’d located the 66, I decided to go onboard alone, since the guy who was joining me for the day, Uniesse importer Gerry Berton of Global Yachts, had called to say he was running late. So, with the blessing of one of the ladies in Global’s front office, I opened the solidly constructed watertight door at the transom, stepped into a large lazarette (with 6’6” headroom), and immediately copped a bad attitude. To starboard, Craftsman tools and toolboxes were strewn across a welded-aluminum workbench. To port, spools of three-strand nylon were stashed against a stacked pair of Onan gensets. And in other places, plastic crates of cleaning supplies were scattered about haphazardly. “Jeeze,” I grumbled.
The engine room was disappointing, too. I entered via a thick, louvered-aluminum door in the lazarette’s forward bulkhead and surveyed an unlikely scene. Frowzy water lay in the bilges. Aluminum, diamond-plate panels in the deck showed wear. Rust stains blemished sparkling gelcoat. And rag-filled Tupperware containers obscured big banks of expensive, fast-charging, zero-maintenance Optima batteries. Had Berton not arrived when he did, with a four-person cleaning crew in tow, I think I might’ve thrown some kind of fit.
“Sorry I’m late, Bill,” he apologized, “and sorry about the way things look—this boat’s been through it. I’m just introducing her stateside, but she’s been on tour in Italy for over a year now. See the hour meters.”
I scrutinized the gauges Berton was pointing at—233.3 hours, they read—and experienced a change of heart almost immediately. Our test boat wasn’t grubby and questionable, she was simply used. Moreover, she was a bonafide bluewater cruiser—Berton said she’d been built to “Class A” European standards for “unlimited offshore” duty. I looked around again. Under the superficial wear-and-tear that had sidetracked me earlier, I began seeing safety features, systems redundancies, and gutsy construction details galore.
Take the fire-suppression system, for starters. In addition to the automatic bottle-type setup, a fire pump was installed at the foot of the workbench in the lazarette. It supported two full-fledged fire stations, one on the foredeck and the other in the stowage trunk at the transom. The pump itself was a big, two-stage, cast-bronze affair from the respected Italian manufacturer Gianneschi & Ramacciotti. And the canvas hoses at the fire stations were of the commercial sort, with big, bronze nozzles.
The ventilation system was cool, too. Again, for the engine-room blowers, big Gianneschi & Ramacciotti electric motors and fans had been used, along with densely baffled, eductor-equipped demisting boxes with emergency air shutoffs. Topside, air-intake ports were installed in the after corners of the boat’s deckhouse, not in her saltwater-ingestion-prone hull sides where most builders put them.
Redundant features were plentiful. Large, duplex 75/1000FGX Racors protected both engines, and Italian-made Linda fluorescent lights contained supplementary, emergency-type incandescent bulbs. The big, cast-bronze primary bilge pump (once again from Gianneschi & Ramacciotti) in the engine room was backed up by a Rule pump, an arrangement replicated in the rest of the boat’s six watertight compartments. And there were two Glenndinning Cablemasters serving two 50-amp shore-power connections, one on the foredeck and the other at the transom.
Electrical firepower was even more impressive than the redundancies. A whopping total of 22 Optima batteries were onboard, 12 solely dedicated to house service and the rest to engine cranking, thruster operation, and the functioning of on-deck auxiliary equipment. Moreover, the Dolphin battery charger was a 120-amp-capacity honker, and there were two inverters (one dedicated exclusively to refrigeration and the other to entertainment systems) as well as an IsoBoost-50 isolation transformer for raising low and/or fluctuating shore-power voltages.
And finally, scantlings were massive. Mahogany-cored engine bearers were knee-high and as thick and beefy as the through-bolted steel engine mounts atop them. The solid bottom of the boat was wrist-thick, according to Berton, and the Airex-cored hull sides were twice that. Stomping on the laminate under the prop shafts was like stomping on concrete. A tightly knit egg-crate grid system within the hull kept maximum dimensions for unsupported panels forward to a mere 18 inches, and the four main stringers were immense at the bow for extra strength when running hard—Berton said they were more than four feet high.
When we finished examining the 66’s machinery spaces, as well as the standard crew quarters that adjoin the lazarette, we toured the interior, which was being fiercely spruced up by the cleaning crew. The layout’s conventional, with three staterooms on the lower deck (or four if a buyer chooses) and a saloon, galley, and wheelhouse on the upper. Into the simplicity of this arrangement, Uniesse pours a lot of beauty. Joinery throughout our test boat was of reddish-blonde Tanzanika under seven layers of polyurethane. And the marble, granite, and onyx countertops and floors in the galley and heads were both gorgeous and resistant to cracking in heavy seas—I measured 7/8-inch thicknesses for the most part.
We sea-trialed the 66 on a near-calm Atlantic. I ran the boat mostly from the flying bridge, where the power-assisted BCS steering was smooth, the Glendinning electronic controls were crisply detented, and the sightlines forward and to the sides were unobstructed. For grins I used the standard lower helm station for a while, too. Controls worked just as nicely here, and sightlines were darn near as good.
The average top speed of 41.5 mph I recorded was fast, given our hefty displacement and the tons of books, food, and other gear stowed onboard. The 66 tracked nicely down-sea thanks to a substantial keel, and cornered with a comfy, inboard-banking orientation. The only thing I didn’t like was the Italian-style helmseat with its short, vertical back: uncomfortable as hell.
But what the heck? While returning to the marina after the sea trial, I decided I was way more enthused about our tried-and-true test boat that I’d been initially.
Indeed, Uniesse’s 66 Motoryacht is a competent performer, with the heft and redundancy to handle the offshore conditions. And she cleans up quite nicely, too.
This article originally appeared in the February 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.