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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Azimut 50 Flybridge

I found a lot to like about Azimut’s 50 Flybridge. Sightlines from the lower helm are excellent; there’s only a single, narrow mullion in the windshield, and the forward side windows are at eye-level from the helm. The aft side windows are a bit lower, giving guests in the saloon a great view from the plush Ultraleather settees, and affording good visibility while docking alongside a pier, and sightlines aft are great, thanks to the full-width glass panels and sliding glass door to the cockpit.

Our test boat had the two-stateroom, two-head layout, which offers an exceptionally spacious galley on the lower deck, only three steps lower than the saloon, so the chef can still converse with guests. And directly above is the large, sloping windshield, flooding the cooking area with natural light. Two large, circular portholes alongside rich-looking, black molded countertops offer more light and air, while recessed fixtures provide task lighting for the chef’s toils.

But what I liked most about the galley was its roominess, with copious stowage spaces and appliances sized for real cooking, not just warming up a few snacks in the microwave, which is out of sight in a cabinet below the sink. Speaking of the sink, it’s a double-basin affair, as big as one you might find at home, with a built-in dish drain along side. I was pleased to note that each of the cooktop’s three burners was fitted with a stout pot restraint, a functional feature too seldom seen on yachts of this style. Forward of the stove is about four feet of open counter space for food prep, a full-height double-door refrigerator/freezer (in a handsome varnished cherry cabinet), and a matching full-height cabinet with five shelves, each about two feet wide and more than a foot deep. There are also five big under-counter cabinets for stowing bulky items; one is fitted with bottle racks, while another has a nifty pull-out shelf for spices and smaller items. Tucked behind a series of varnished wood panels that look like a decorative cornice above the counter are five more eye-level cabinets, perfect for canned goods, jars, boxes of cereal, pasta, and the like.

In the three-stateroom layout, the galley is about half this size, yielding just enough space for another small stateroom with bunks. Personally, I’d opt for the two-stateroom layout and leave the kids at home for the weekend. But in either configuration, the layouts of the master and guest staterooms are the same; both are big and bright with three-sided access to double berths.

Located beneath the raised helm, the guest stateroom offers at least 6'6" headroom and more than ample sitting headroom above the berth. Guests will appreciate the privacy of the adjoining head, which allows entry from the stateroom or (as a day head) directly from the main passageway. Teak soles in the head and the separate shower area add a classy touch, as does the polished glass countertop, complete with a household-size under-mount stainless steel sink. Above the sink there’s a mirrored panel that serves as a door to the medicine cabinet, and when the panel is slid to the side, it also covers a porthole, offering privacy to anyone using the facilities.

Clever. Above the cabinet, though, there’s a quirky feature: An overhead bin that offers nice stowage for extra towels or paper goods. But its door is in the underside of the bin. I couldn’t figure out how you could open it without spilling the contents. A vertical flip-up door, similar to the overhead cabinets in the galley would work better.

Buffered from the guest stateroom and the galley by two heads, the master stateroom, all the way forward, is a private oasis with an astounding amount of stowage. Along each side of the centerline double berth are two, 24"x18" eye-level cabinets, plus under-counter bins for your wallet, camera, cellphone, and such. To starboard, there’s a full-height, 30-inch-wide hanging locker and an adjoining cubby with three shelves (each about 2'x2'x1'); a great place for stowing extra towels, blankets, and other stuff that finds its way aboard. Alongside the locker is a full-height cabinet, 24 inches wide, with three drawers and three deep shelves; plenty big for a weeklong getaway.

But the slickest feature of the stateroom is built into the aft bulkhead. Gently tugging on a tiny cloth tab deployed a small fold-up dressing table, complete with built-in makeup mirror and lights. Folded up, it disappears into the beautifully lacquered panels on the bulkhead.

On top of all this, the 50 has a large lazarette that on my test boat was given over to crew quarters. Accessed through a hatchway under the cockpit settee with a single berth and its own head and shower, the space even has room for an optional washer/dryer. For American owners, this could be the perfect place for a child—especially if he or she misbehaves.

Beneath the stairway up to the flying bridge is another surprise compartment, this one holding a folding cockpit table that will seat up to four. Matching folding chairs can be neatly stowed in special racks built into the lazarette with plenty of room left for fenders, lines, and other gear.

Access to the engine room is through a hatch in the cockpit sole. Not surprising in a vessel this size, it proved to be the only nonspacious place aboard, with only about a three-foot-high alleyway along the centerline to access the big Caterpillars. Exhaust piping and structure made it all but unthinkable for someone my size (6'2") to access the outboard sides of the engines. In the event that serious engine work is required, hatches built into the saloon sole do provide overhead access to each engine.

Overall, I really liked the 50’s layout and with a top speed in excess of 32 knots, it was hard to fault her performance. But I wasn’t so enthusiastic about her handling. In a steep two- to four-foot chop, she rolled uncomfortably and had a marked propensity to take spray over the deck, necessitating frequent use of the wipers at the lower helm station. Roll motions were most pronounced at slow speeds and diminished to normal once we were up on plane; deck wetness, of course, exhibited just the opposite trend, becoming more pronounced at higher speeds.

To be fair, she was lightly loaded: Her fuel and water tanks were barely a quarter full and there were only two of us and minimal gear aboard, which made her sit higher in the water and ride a bit more tenderly than she might otherwise have. Nevertheless, she never once pounded or slammed, even at her 37-mph top speed with seas on the nose.

I found her steering a bit slow, and in following seas I had to frequently turn the wheel by as much as half a turn to maintain course. Fortunately, her hydraulic steering was as effortless as any I can recall, and at higher speeds she tracked well, responding nicely to the helm and banking comfortably in a series of tight, controlled turns. Heading back to the marina against the strong outgoing tide, she easily threaded her way between narrow bridge abutments along the Intracoastal, and with her bow thruster and a pair of high-torque Caterpillar C12 diesels, she backed into her pencil-thin slip with ease.

Despite my few criticisms, I found the Azimut 50 to be a roomy, well laid-out, and beautifully appointed yacht. Given her copious stowage and creative stowage solutions, she’s ideal for cruisers who enjoy their space with dashes of luxury and Italian style.

Azimut Yachts
(39) 011-93161

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

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