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BOAT TESTS

Doral Alegria Sport Yacht

Innovation is vital to the success of almost any product. Consider how the ubiquitous sport-utility vehicle has evolved, morphing from an overgrown station wagon with four-wheel drive into a plethora of luxurious landyachts, each seeking to outdo the rest by offering features like TV, DVD players, and onboard GPS. In the boat business, the counterpart to the SUV is the express cruiser, a breed that offers a similar mix of performance, style, and versatility and which has likewise spawned a burgeoning field of entrants into an increasingly competitive market. As larger and more luxurious models appear, they are often said to have evolved into a more refined genre, the sport yacht.

In a fiercely competitive environment such as this, what sets one product apart from another? That’s right, innovation. And a leader in the express cruiser market, Canada-based Doral Boats, has built a reputation for ingenuity that would do a Yankee proud. So I figured that with the introduction of its first sport yacht, the 47-foot Alegria, Doral would have some tricks up its sleeve. I found a slick mix of novel features, some big, but many just thoughtful enhancements that should nonetheless make cruising easier, safer, and more enjoyable.

Topping my list of favorite features is, literally, her top: a standard bimini that cantilevers fore and aft from the radar arch. What’s novel about that? For one, the top extends from the windshield all the way to the transom, offering protection from the weather (and standing headroom) throughout the entire bridge deck. And with full side and aft curtains (also standard) in place, the deck and cockpit can become true all-weather spaces. But the really slick trick is hidden in the radar arch. Rising 11’3” above the waterline to the base of her standard Raymarine radar, the arch could be a nuisance in areas with low bridges. But our test boat was fitted with an optional hinged arch, so with the mere touch of a button, hydraulic cylinders can tip it forward, reducing clearance by up to two and a half feet. To prevent inadvertent operation, turning a key is required.

Another sleight-of-hand ploy I like is the disappearing windshield, also a standard feature. It’s really only the center panel that disappears, to allow easy walk-through from the bridge to the foredeck, but the way it works is pretty smooth. Touching one button initiates the following sequence of events: A recessed panel on the center of the foredeck tilts up, a two-foot-wide windshield panel retracts into a space beneath the panel, and the foredeck panel closes. Another touch of the button reverses the process. And to facilitate the climb up from the bridge deck to the foredeck, a set of handsome teak steps flips down when needed and folds flat against the forward bulkhead, out of the way, when you don’t.

Even the foredeck offers several slick tricks. Take the Alegria’s sunpads, for example: not run-of-the-mill flat plastic pads, but rather a pair of teak-slatted seats with back rests that can tilt up or lay flat. For comfort on hot, humid days, the removable pads are covered in soft cotton fabric. And for safety underway, there’s a full-length grabrail alongside each seat. Oddly, though, the built-in cup holders are too far aft for easy reach when the seat backs are tilted up.

Flat, nonskid deck surfaces and near-waist-high bowrails should keep all hands safe while handling lines on the foredeck, and four large stainless steel cleats on either side will facilitate almost any docking situation. Our test boat was further tricked out with teak decking throughout. But teak is not an all-or-nothing proposition with Doral. Owners can opt for as much or as little as they want—foredeck, bridge deck, cockpit, and/or swim platform, in any combination.

To keep the foredeck shipshape, a recessed bow hatch conceals not only the windlass and washdown, but fender racks as well. Among the 47’s other fine details, the base of each stanchion has a smooth stainless steel cap that covers the heads of the through-bolted connections, giving the deck a clean, custom look. LED lights built into the side rails provide soft illumination along the side decks.

At the aft end of the starboard side deck is a set of teak steps down to the swim platform, offering easy pier-side boarding for a wide range of dock heights. Along the port side, molded steps from the side deck lead down into the cockpit, just aft of a full-featured wet bar equipped with an electric grill and a built-in cutting board to prepare your favorite fresh-fruit garnish. A couple can get cozy in an aft corner settee with its own cocktail table, or the whole gang can stretch out on a starboard settee that will seat at least six. Alongside the helm (with twin bucket-style seats) is a semicircular dinette for another four or more, so the captain and his or her companion can converse with guests even while underway. Because the cockpit and bridge are all on one level, guests can move freely without stepping up or down.

Two large hatches (one 31/2’x4’, the other 11/2’x51/2’) located in the bridge deck offer superb access to the engine space, among the roomiest I’ve seen in a boat this size. You can easily reach all four sides and the tops of each engine and all auxiliary systems. Steering gear and shafts are accessed from hatches in the swim platform or through openings in the aft engine room bulkhead.

Leaving the bridge to reach the saloon, you descend a stairway and pass through a solid sliding centerline door alongside the helm. A built-in screen door provides natural ventilation below. Features of the fully equipped galley include Corian countertops, undercounter, side-by-side Nova Kool refrigerator and freezer, a stainless steel sink, and a two-burner cooktop with removable cover. There’s also a cutting board that stashes out of sight in a slot beneath the microwave and a built-in soap dispenser alongside the sink.

My last order of business was to see how the Alegria performed, and I’m pleased to report that she’s as impressive underway as she is dockside. During performance trials on a sheltered stretch of the ICW just south of Fort Lauderdale, she was sure-footed and well mannered. Twin 480-hp Cummins diesels brought her up on plane easily without excessive bow rise at any speed, despite the extra weight that an optional TNT hydraulic tender platform on her stern adds. When carving turns at speed or creeping between bridge abutments, she tracked consistently on course.

Sea conditions outside the Fort Lauderdale inlet were a bit sloppy, but the Alegria never broke stride. Even at near-30-knot speeds, her 19-degree-deadrise hull ironed out the ride in a two- to three-foot chop, a nasty slop that will jar your fillings loose in a lesser boat.

And all too soon, we were back on the ICW, threading our way up a narrow channel leading to the marina. With our standard bow thruster and an optional stern thruster, docking was a snap, even with a fast tide running. One of the few faults I found was that the detents on her ZF controls were a bit soft; but in the grand scheme, that’s really picking nits.

While the Alegria is packed with slick tricks and clever features, she’s also a solid performer, built tough with cored composites throughout. She’s the model of innovation, focused on function and devoid of gimmicks.

Doral Boats
(888) 84-DORAL

This article originally appeared in the August 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.