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Mochi Maxidolphin 74

When Norberto Ferretti unveiled the Mochi 51 Dolphin at the 2003 Cannes Boat Show, he mockingly referred to her as a "langoustine boat" —in other words, a lobster boat with a Mediterranean twist. She was beautiful and performed well, but at 51 feet she was bigger than any lobster boat I had ever seen.

I had no idea then what Ferretti had in mind for the future, namely the Mochi 74. The appropriately named MaxiDolphin made its European debut last autumn, and any doubts I had about whether this distinctive style of motorboat could be adequately translated to a hull length over 70 feet were quickly dispelled when I saw her sitting quietly at the dock in Cannes' fashionable harbor, looking as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. She was gorgeous.

No longer a lobster boat—at this length and this tonnage, any residual Downeast connotations have long since evaporated—she came across instead as a particularly pretty yacht, with curvaceous yet subtle styling that somehow belied an impressive length and beam. That graceful sheer, modest superstructure, and surprisingly upright stem, a bold flare to her bow worthy of an American sportfisherman, and lower freeboard than most flying-bridge boats in this class—all these stylings combined to produce a look that seemed right and familiar, yet at the same time was completely distinctive.

And although there is a world of difference between 51 and 74 feet, Mochi Craft has been here before: Prior to the Ferretti Group's takeover, it was building more conventional-looking flying-bridge boats of almost this size and volume. The difference here is that the MaxiDolphin just doesn't look big enough to pack in four en suite cabins. With a low freeboard and short superstructure, she was surely designed to be pretty first and practical second. But hull volume is more a factor of waterline length than length overall. As Andrea Frabetti, vice president of Ferretti's engineering group, pointed out, if she had the same angle of rake to her stem as more conventional boats, she'd be an 82-footer. Instead, that broad-shouldered bow and pugnacious stem give her beamy hull nearly 74 feet of useable volume.

All this is just another way of saying that although on the outside she looks small for a 74, on the inside she's more like an 82-footer. And Frabetti isn't exaggerating. The forward VIP cabin is set well into the bow, but with headroom of around 6'9", an unusual amount of beam, and plenty of light admitted through a pair of portholes and an overhead hatch, it really feels spacious.

The amidship owner's suite also benefits from the Dolphin's full 22'6" beam, as well as from those huge windows in the topsides, so it's no surprise to find that even with a significant amount of floor area taken up with a dressing room, it still seems vast. With its big curved sofa, a dressing table, and matching en suite head compartments linked by a huge spa bath, this is a place where you could happily spend time reading and relaxing.

Even the two en suite guest cabins, with bunk berths on the port side and a pair of single berths to starboard, enjoy plenty of daylight thanks to some generously proportioned windows in the coach roof sides. And throughout the accommodations, volume has been used intelligently: whichever cabin you put them in, guests and family will not lack stowage space.

Satin-varnished mahogany is used extensively below decks, but with all the daylight available there doesn't seem to be a dark corner anywhere—or even a slightly gloomy one. Japanese-style cream fabric paneling also helps to brighten the overall scheme, as do the pale tones used for headliners and much of the upholstery. Nowhere is this clever and restful combination of light and shade, of pale surfaces and dark woods, more successfully achieved than in the deck saloon. Whether you're on the sofa, at the dining table, or at the helm, the glass cockpit bulkhead and huge windows provide an almost 360-degree view. The whole space is flooded with light, which has allowed the stylists to go for beige leather on the sofa, the armchairs, and at the helm—providing a much homier and more domesticated ambience than the usual cream or white. Only the 'fridge-freezer cabinet in the galley impedes the view; in every other direction you're taking in the seascape.

The outside spaces are also optimized for sea views. An aft-facing benchseat along the cockpit bulkhead is an excellent place to sit while underway, watching your wake reaching back to the horizon. So is the large dinette in the forward half of the flying bridge, which is shielded pretty effectively from the breeze and has its own bimini. At lunchtime, the cockpit seats and table can be shaded by a clever electrically powered awning that emerges from the flying-bridge molding, while the entire port side of the glass cockpit bulkhead hinges up on a hidden gas strut. This really opens up the main deck layout.

Reached via a hidden companionway on the starboard side of the cockpit, the engine room ought to be small—after all, the accommodation spaces are so big. But it hasn't worked out like that. Even allowing for a midships crew cabin to provide sound insulation between the machinery and the master cabin, the engine room is a good size for the big, flat-mounted MTU V-12s, which drive conventional shafts through ZF down-angle gearboxes. Headroom is 6'4" minimum, access all around is good, and although the only way outboard of the starboard engine is over the top, fixed stainless steel steps and a platform are provided for this purpose. The stern gear has its own large and well-lit compartment, under the dinghy garage, reached via a watertight hatch on the port side.

At 1,522 hp apiece, the MTUs offer plenty of grunt, and the MaxiDolphin handles it with panache. The hull is a conventional hard-chine shape, with convex bottom panels and a fine entry of around 40 degrees at the forefoot receding to 21 degrees of deadrise at the stern. Acceleration in a sparkling Gulf of La Spezia was brisk, a 32-knot top speed seemed more than adequate, and 25 knots at 2000 rpm proved to be a comfortable cruising speed. She responded willingly to the helm at all speeds and planed down to 16 knots with a little help from the trim tabs. In a head sea—our own three- to four-foot wake—it also paid to keep the bow trimmed down, bringing those fine forward sections to bear. The crosswind had little effect, thanks to the long waterline.

Visibility from the lower helm is superb; you could moor the boat stern-to from here without too much difficulty. Both upstairs and down the driving ergonomics are excellent, like so much else on this highly developed machine.

There are things about the MaxiDophin that people won't approve of, inevitably: the lack of guardrails for one, although the side decks are good and wide, and the long mahogany handrail that runs along the superstructure is as practical as it is pretty. But there is also plenty to like, from the obvious and visible (that dolphin-fluke radar mast and clever cockpit sunshade, say, or the beautiful mahogany and stainless steel detailing around the deck) to hidden refinements (like the way all domestic pumps and compressors are installed aft, in the engine room, so your guests will never hear them). And along with bigger gensets and the beefed-up air conditioning, the U.S. standard spec includes another luxury item that European buyers have to write a six-figure check for: Mitsubishi's sophisticated Anti-Rolling Gyro stabilizer system, which works to keep the boat on an even keel whether at anchor or underway.

Mochi's new baby is an immensely likeable and useable motoryacht—easy to handle, not too bulky, and mild-mannered at any speed. From below decks to the flying bridge, she's a pleasure to be aboard. But as so often happens in Italy, all too soon it was time to come in for a late lunch. Langoustines, of course.

MarineMax
(866) 693-3293

This article originally appeared in the September 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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