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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Bluewater 6000 Custom Series

“Fishing stories told here,” read the sign over the counter of Dave and Mary Beth Tillman’s Siskiwit Bay Tackle Store in Cornucopia, Wisconsin. Outside, over the entranceway, unlit strings of Christmas lights still festooned the eave, and photographer Jim Raycroft saw a photo op. “Hey Dave, any chance of flicking on those lights?” he asked Tillman. “Sure,” Tillman said, still a bit distracted by the Bluewater 6000 Custom Series yacht we had come in on that was tied up in his marina.

“Water’s pretty skinny here. How’d ya get a big boat like that inside?” he asked when we first pulled in. “She’s tunneled and draws 32 inches,” I explained. “No kidding,” Tillman said as he adjusted his Siskiwit Bay fishing hat. “Big boat like that?”

Now, I don’t know how much you know about Bluewater Yachts, but if you are like me, these “different by design” vessels have always been head-turners at boats shows and around the dock if for nothing else other than their, well, different design. And while I had only done walk-throughs on them in the past, I was not only already enjoying this trip, but pleasantly surprised to be discovering that this Bluewater was a very practical cruiser.

Tillman propped a small ladder up against the building. “Better stand back,” he said as he plugged the line in. The lights flickered, glowed for a second, and then POP! The lights also went out inside the store. “I was afraid of that,” he said, as he descended the ladder to reset his breakers. “Now about that boat of yours.”

That boat of mine belongs to Jolie and Steve Klapmeier, owners of Bluewater Yachts. They don’t exactly own the vessel, but as Bluewater is their company...well, you get my drift. Raycroft and I were their guests, along with Bluewater’s vice president of sales Juan Pasch and his wife Liz, for a two-day jaunt across a small part of the western portion of Lake Superior. Our departure point was Duluth, Minnesota, birthplace of Robert Zimmerman, a.k.a. Bob Dylan, and once the native soil of the Ojibway People—sometimes spelled Ojibwe and known to folks around these here parts as the Chippewa.

We made our first stop, the aforementioned hamlet of Cornucopia, about 40 NM northeast as the crow flies from Duluth, in less than two hours. Pasch kept the boat at a comfortable cruise speed of about 23.5 knots. (My test boat had a pair of 480-hp Cummins 480C-E electronic diesels. Optional power includes twin 450-hp 450C nonelectronic Cummins.) At that rate of speed, and with a 46-gph fuel burn and her 480-gallon fuel capacity, our 6000 had a 221-NM range. When I cut her back to 2000 rpm, I calculated a 324-NM range at 18.5 knots.

Our plan was to stop here for lunch and then leave another 35 or so nautical miles in our wake and put in at Bayfield, Wisconsin, on the south side of the Bayfield Peninsula, for the night. We’d visit the scenic archipelago of the Apostle Islands the next day and end with a dinner aboard the 6000 back in Duluth.

While Raycroft ambled about Cornucopia, I sat with the Klapmeiers and the Paschs at the dining table—seating for eight—amidships to port on the 6000’s expansive top deck, as we enjoyed generous portions of Jolie’s wild rice soup, an assortment of Wisconsin cheeses, and an endless bowl of salad.

How expansive is this deck? I measured 17’5” from the end of the helm area forward to the molded-in stairs aft and 12’6” from port to starboard. Besides the dining table, the deck features a large sunpad aft, flanked by seats just forward of the stairs and another one to port. There’s also an optional Jenn-Air electric grill opposite the table, and aft of the helm, a refrigerator, is also an option. The hardtop extends just short of the aft sunpad and shades the deck. To say that this design is perfect for entertaining is putting it mildly. With 20 people up here, there would still be plenty of elbowroom.

Once Raycroft was back aboard, we said goodbye to Tillman and set out for Bayfield. Sitting at the double helm seat (there’s additional seating to port), I took note of the careful positioning of all the navigational instruments and the ease I had in reaching the controls and switches.

At various times all six of us were up here enjoying the panoramic views. Later, we stopped at sandstone caves along the shoreline of the peninsula. We quickly and safely launched Raycroft in the dinghy for a photo op, via the standard electrically operated transom lift, while listening to Lyle Lovett on the CD stereo and engaging in lively conversation. It was a good thing this Bluewater 6000 had the optional four-side enclosure, as a midsummer Lake Superior thunderstorm caught up to us late that afternoon.

Lightning strikes were plentiful, and we saw a bolt almost tie itself in a knot. I noticed the boat handled the quickly building two-to-four seas and accompanying wind with little or no wallowing. And with her sharp entry and low center of gravity—she’s only 11’3” from the waterline to the bridge windshield—she gave us a relatively comfortable ride through the slop. We made Bayfield in the rain and, with nothing else to do, settled into the saloon for some snacks, wine, and conversation.

Like its counterpart above, I found the main deck perfect for entertaining. Bluewater boats feature a one-level design that on the 6000 includes three staterooms. The master and its en suite head are aft, and the guest berth is to port and amidships. The forepeak also has a private head. All the staterooms have plenty of closet and drawer space with enough stowage to accommodate any extended cruising schedule.

The galley is to port with dining area opposite, and the lower helm is forward and to starboard. A convertible couch sits opposite. There are extra large windows all around for a wide-open feeling whether seated or standing, and there’s enough room so that all six of us were comfortable not only in our seats, but also while moving around. I measured an average 6’5” of headroom throughout, with a whopping 7’61/2” in the lower helm area.

As the rain pattered above, Jolie served an endless procession of appetizers she’d prepared in the well-equipped galley, which featured a four-burner electric stove top, double sinks, spacious Corian countertops, a stand-up refrigerator and freezer, a microwave/convection oven, and plenty of drawer and cabinet space for a week’s worth of ships stores.

Raycroft and I sat at the serving island—it also houses the optional washer/dryer—while Steve lounged in the Devin Series 2002 adjustable helm chair. The Paschs took the couch. With the rain now more insistent, we engaged the optional electric lift on the 42-inch Sony plasma screen—also an option—and enjoyed a DVD.

Later we dined ashore, a sumptuous meal at a local B&B, after which we retired to the boat for some after-dinner drinks. By then it was time to turn in, and I soon found a peaceful, comfortable sleep in the aft stateroom. At least until the wind picked up and the halyards from the nearby sailboats that began clanking were soon joined by a foghorn conveniently located just opposite our slip. Oh well, the Bluewater’s accommodations were comfortable. Nothing I could do about the rest of it.

After a quick breakfast we were under way and explored the waters around the Apostle Islands; there are 22 that are part of this natural preserve, with Madeline Island being the only populated one. By mid-morning the wind had subsided, and we sat back and enjoyed cruising the unspoiled wilderness area that makes up this national park.

With time on my hands during the trip back, I had an opportunity to meander around the 6000. I took particular note of the safe feeling I had while standing aft with 31/2-foot-high rails surrounding me. I also had the same sense of security going forward from the top deck, down the molded-in stairs on either side. However, I found engine access problematic. Accessing the port engine requires lifting the berth in the starboard guest quarters, while to reach the starboard engine, you must enter a compartment in the galley counter. While I found I could reach all critical maintenance areas once in either space, any other engine work could be somewhat dicey given the limited access space.

I enjoyed my time aboard the Bluewater 6000 and found her to be a cruising boat that is as at home on the open water of Lake Superior as she could be in the islands or exploring any coastline. And while she may look nontraditional, don’t let that profile fool you. As a cruising boat, she’s as traditional as they come.

Bluewater Yachts
(320) 679-3811

This article originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.