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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Vicem 85 Classic

Sometimes I wonder how I find my way out of bed in the morning. Here I was looking for Turkish builder Vicem Yachts' latest offering targeted to the American market, the 85 Classic, maybe the largest lobster yacht afloat, and I couldn't find the darn thing. Huh! After giving me the address of a canal-side residence in Fort Lauderdale, Michael Landsberg, president of Vicem's stateside distributor Down East Yachts, had promised that I'd see the boat I planned to test out back. "Just walk around," he'd advised. So now I was pushing through one last, thick swathe of shrubbery to get to the edge of the briny. Where was she?

A sideways glance held the answer. Obviously, I'd gotten my street numbers bollixed up and mistakenly traipsed through some neighbor’s yard—the 85 was off to port several hundred yards and, to put it mildly, conspicuous. "Now that's a lobster yacht," I exclaimed, momentarily taken aback by the immensity of the low, clipperish bow and the smooth, creamy superstructure surmounting it.

I headed for the test boat, examining her long, sinuous starboard hull side, her sculpted flanks, and finally her giant, hydraulically actuated swim platform. All of it was smoother than a hound dog's nose.

The 85's a cold-molded vessel, meaning her hull and virtually every other structural thing about her are comprised of crisscrossed layers of wood and epoxy, WEST System epoxy in the 85's case. And while this time-honored way of building boats has advantages—displacements are often comparatively light, for instance, because hull forms have near stand-alone strength and need fewer stringers, ribs, and other internal strengtheners—it's also prone to cosmetic imperfections. But I noted no hull-surface goofs associated with staples, nails, or other temporary fasteners, though. Just lovely blue Awlgrip.

Landsberg met me at the stern. After exchanging pleasantries and speculating on what kind of seas the strong easterlies prevailing offshore were liable to nail us with that afternoon, we began delving deeper into the details of cold-molding technology and, more particularly, Vicem's robust take on the subject.

The company starts the process on a lofting floor with a giant, full-scale paper drawing that includes station frames for the entire hull. This is a traditional approach except that whole frames, not halves, are drawn, a savvy little twist Vicem says speeds up the precise assembly of sawn-plywood parts into a jig. Four layers of khaya mahogany planks are then epoxy-laminated over the jig in various orientations using noncorrosive plastic staples and other fasteners, with the final layer running longitudinally. And finally Vicem adds a scrim of epoxy-bedded woven E-glass along with epoxy filler, after which the entirety is abrasively long-boarded to a fare-thee-well.

Additional strengthening is massive. A laminated-mahogany keel and four longitudinal girders of the same material muscle up the hull, along with bulkheads bonded with epoxy/microfiber fillets and other components (laminated deck beams, carlins, sheer clamps, locker sides, etc.) similarly epoxied and filleted to bolster structural integrity. Decks, deckhouse, and cockpit are laminated of two layers of opposed, epoxy-glued Okume marine ply except for the coach roof, which boasts three layers.

"Vicems are robust—no question," said Landsberg, trouncing the teak-planked cockpit sole with a deck shoe. "For example, the structure we're standing on is probably six inches thick, given the two layers of ply under this teak and the thick lattice of laminated mahogany beams under the ply."

I got a clearer understanding of what Landsberg was getting at once I’d followed him into our 85’s interior, headed forward through the saloon, descended a central stairway, and continued through to the galley, where I lifted a deck hatch and dropped into the bilge. Wow! While I was aggrieved to find top-notch Vetus Nosmell sanitary hoses installed down here with the plastic shipping wrap still intact, an oversight that jeopardizes proper bilge-pump operation with plastic refuse, I was certainly impressed with the scantlings. The longitudinal girders were knee-high and thigh-thick, for example, and the ribs near the stem looked just like dinosaur bones. Moreover, everything was clear-coated with epoxy to nix the chance of water intrusion.

Upon climbing out of the bilge, I examined the rest of the interior. The layout seemed simultaneously expansive and unusual, with a huge, full-beam master abaft the engine room on the lower deck, a couple of VIPs just forward of it, one guest/crew stateroom in the forepeak, and two enormous dining-table-equipped saloons, one between the galley and the two VIPs on the lower deck, the other just abaft the steering station topside. Two saloons? Why not? The lower one offers a cozy, relaxing, intimate feel, which can be brightened with ports and a skylight if desired. The upper is all about light and spaciousness, thanks to wraparound windows and doors that open directly into the cockpit.

And attention to detail? Whether it was cabinetry with beveled-glass mirrors; beautiful raised-panel doors of thick, solid mahogany; table inlays of somber-toned wenge; or precisely dovetailed drawers in the galley, every aspect of the joinery appeared artisanally executed. And although the overlying varnish smoldered with a satin sheen, it evinced a wonderful reflectivity as well.

The last stop of my tour was the machinery spaces. Both the engine room and lazarette just forward of the transom were generously sized and easy to access. I simply walked straight into the ER through a door at the end of the hallway separating the VIPs. And I entered the lazarette just as easily by lifting a small cockpit hatch. All this was pure grooviness, of course, but there were vexations. While many electrical runs in the ER were carefully loomed and laid out, some were not. Moreover, a few of the perforated-aluminum panels on bulkheads and inwales had been poorly fitted.

In the lazarette the actuating unit for the hydraulic swim platform bore an obscure—at least to me—brand name. Ezberci Marine undoubtedly manufactures fine equipment in Turkey, but I’m betting parts and service are not widely available stateside at present. Then there was the sizable coffee-colored stain emanating from a fillet along a painted deck beam against the lazarette’s after bulkhead—it continued to trouble me despite Landsberg's quite reasonable explanation. "Sea water probably got into a poorly caulked cockpit locker left ajar," he told me, "and migrated down through mahogany and sawdust."

As expected, the wind was whoopin’ it up offshore, so it was no surprise that once we’d cranked up the 1,187-bhp MANs and worked our way out through Port Everglades Harbor and Bar Cut, seas in the open Atlantic were cresting at a minimum of four, with genuine eights occasionally whomping through. Sightlines from the helm were excellent, even when coming out of the hole. Turning was broad and smooth thanks to BSC steering hydraulics with a dedicated power-steering pump. And while the top speed of 25.4 mph (22 knots) I recorded was respectable, the fact that we were tangling with such sporty weather points to an increase in top speed of perhaps a knot or two in smoother water. Downsea our test boat tracked like a train, but upsea she ran surprisingly wet at higher rpm, with enough water periodically hitting the windshield to nix the long-term radar-gun return necessary for recording an accurate acceleration curve.

Overall, though, our Vicem 85 Classic handed us a solid, sea-battering, relatively quiet ride under comparatively rough conditions, a phenomenon directly related to the two qualities that set her apart.

First, she's an immense Downeaster—so immense, in fact, that even those of us who tend to wander, lost amid the shrubbery of suburbia, can easily recognize her from afar. And second, she's resiliently handcrafted of wood—epoxy-laminated, expertly joined, lovingly finished wood at that.

For more information on Vicem, including contact information, click here.

Vicem's no slouch when it comes to the finish on its interior joinery. Sanding is accomplished in stages, each a tad less aggressive and more smoothifying than the last. Once the job's complete, ten layers of Interlux two-part polyurethane sealer are applied with mild sandings between each. Then when the sealer's thoroughly cured, four layers of Interlux Gold Spar Satin Varnish are applied, producing a soft, rich satin sheen that's both elegant and understated. While the tone of the wood on our test boat had me thinking stain had somehow been involved, such is not the case. "You are looking at the natural shade of the mahogany," says Vicem's Deniz Ozcakir. "No coloring at all."—B.P.

This article originally appeared in the August 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.