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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Apreamare 16m

At the 2002 Genoa Boat Show, I walked up to the foredeck of the first of the new Apreamare 16ms and found a sofa. So I sat down. I imagined a pretty girl lying on one of the sunpads there, pictured something long and cool to drink, and marveled at the inspired idea of providing a bimini top to keep the sun off. A bimini on the foredeck—sheer genius.

Even though the boat was inside a large concrete exhibition hall, and even though it was a gray and rainy October day outside, I realized that this was where I'd want to spend most of my time on the 16m. Whether underway, in a harbor, or at anchor, this perfect little foredeck oasis seemed to me to be the height of maritime sophistication.

It took me nearly two more years to catch up with an Apreamare 16m on the water, but at last fall's Cannes Boat Show, I finally got my chance. I was surprised to discover that this particular boat was Hull No. 14. So they sell well. The company's range now spans eight models, from 23 feet up to this substantial 53-footer, and if the style seems a little unusual to transatlantic eyes, rest assured that these craft are prized as cool dayboats and practical cruising machines by Mediterranean buyers. Apreamare was established in 1988 (and bought by the Ferretti Group in 2001), and lookalike boats are now produced by dozens of imitators.

The hull shape is a hybrid. Based on a Western Mediterranean fishing boat, the Sorrento gozzo, its apparently round-bilge form in fact has long planing surfaces aft to make it, technically, a semidisplacement (or semiplaning) hull: happy to trundle along all week through anything at its theoretical hull speed (which in the case of the 16m is around 9 knots) but equally capable, with the application of enough horsepower, of picking up her skirts and planing off over the horizon.

Luckily horsepower on our test boat was not in short supply. This was one of the first boats fitted with a pair of MAN's new 900-hp common-rail diesel V-8s, delightfully compact and refined engines with masses of torque, set into a substantial and well-organized engine room. So while at 25 tons the 16m is no lightweight, she felt positively sprightly during our acceleration trials. If 25 mph in 25 seconds is a respectable yardstick for an average planing cruiser, she's easily better than average.

All mental comparisons with sports cars and muscleboats ended after the straight-line trials, however, to be replaced by thoughts of tanks and trucks. Although smaller boats in the Apreamare range can display engagingly sporty driving characteristics thanks to their more advantageous power-to-weight ratios, the beefy 16m inevitably handles like the battle cruiser she is, with a wide turning circle and heavy steering. This is, after all, no round-the-buoys racer but a big family cruising boat: Just set the autopilot and let her get on with reeling the horizon in.

Before setting off on any long voyages, though, the serious cruising owner will want to get to grips with the 16m's trim characteristics. The trim tabs are like barn doors: Use more than 50 percent downward deflection on both, and they lift the stern so much that she bow-steers; put just one of them all the way down, and she refuses to answer the helm at all. Fitting smaller tabs might be an idea. But, on the other hand, the benefits of such reserves of lift can be seen at low planing speeds: At 1500 rpm and tabs up, she trundled along at about 13.5 knots during our trial. With just a little tab applied and no increase in power, our speed went up to nearly 14.8 knots. This, in turn, means an improvement in miles per gallon that equates to an extra 20 nautical miles of range on a tankful—worth knowing.

Of course the distance to the horizon or the next port of call is not the only vital statistic of serious cruising. The distance between the sole and the deckhead—or from one side of the boat to the other—can be equally important. And the Apreamare 16m is huge. She's a full foot or more wider than any comparatively-sized trawler yacht, and with her round-bilge form, the hull is extraordinarily voluminous. The layout makes sensible use of the available space: I really don't think there is anywhere in the accommodations area where even a well-fed owner could feel constrained, except perhaps in the showers, and even those looked fine to me.

The builder offers three standard layouts below decks, and our test boat featured the one I regard as the most versatile: two twin cabins and day heads aft, a master en suite double in the bow, and a big U-shape dinette opposite the galley. The test boat was finished in good-quality, high-gloss cherry, with maple splines in the floor making the accommodation areas seem even bigger.

Headroom is generous, and so is the amount of stowage space. In fact there is so much of it that I had to sit down with my notebook and take stock of all the lockers. Including those under the saloon sole, I counted a total of 27 below, some of them big enough to hide a buffalo. And this doesn't include the ones in the head compartments or any of the many fiddled shelves.

When you also consider that all the top-hinged locker doors are supported by gas struts, it becomes clear that Apreamare isn't trying to build down to a price. In fact everywhere onboard you can see where money has been spent, and lots of it: the diameter of the stainless steel handrails, the big steering wheel and footrest at the helm, and the commercial-style waterproof switch gear on the instrument panel, for example. The hinged teak flap over the fuel-fill cap is another nice touch, and bomb-proof deck hardware like this doesn't come cheap, either. I was also very taken with the varnished mahogany capping on the bulwarks.

On the main deck there is a comfortable L-shape sofa behind the helm station and a wet bar—with more lockers!—across on the port side. Closing the cockpit doors (which at $23,600 are a fairly pricey extra) would turn this area into a cool and bright deck saloon. It is also the main dining area; down below, the sofa seats four to five, but only three or four of them can get around the relatively small table. Up on deck, with the help of two stools, the table seats six in comfort. Out in the cockpit a long sofa follows the curve of the transom, inboard of a raised walkway, which is essentially a continuation of the side decks. You can walk all around this boat without having to step over anyone's legs, an excellent safety feature. It's also here that you find the access hatch to the small, single-berth crew cabin in the stern.

We had taken the boat out during the busy Cannes boat show, and all too soon it was time to get back alongside. There hadn't been a lot of time to savor the moment, but I was left with many favorable impressions of the Apreamare 16m as a capable cruising boat, and it didn't seem right to be heading back in so soon. C'est la vie.

As for resolving, all those months ago, to spend some quality time on that sofa on the foredeck—well, real life is often a disappointment. The business of boat testing is too beset with notebooks, decibel meters, and fuel-flow computers to allow much time for sitting around with a long, cool drink. And besides, although the French dealer and his crew were charming and cooperative, there wasn't a pretty girl in sight.

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