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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Maritimo 48

Maybe it was just the way things looked that morning around the marina at Roche Harbor Resort, a lovely little spot on the northern coast of evergreen-fringed San Juan Island just a short floatplane ride west of Bellingham, Washington. Or maybe it was just the weather, which was absolutely spectacular, with an air temperature of 68F, atmospheric conditions so incredibly clear that visibility seemed unlimited, and just the faintest whiff of a breeze now and again. But I swear, once I'd come up the teak-paved stairway from the saloon of our Australian-built Maritimo 48 and entered the flying bridge, the view dang near took my breath away. And I was just as impressed with the cruise-friendly ambiance of the place.

Off to port I could see the smooth waters of Nelson Bay glowing electric blue. To starboard, the rocky shores of Henry Island shone with equal vivacity. And toward the rear of our flying bridge, I noted a big sliding-glass door that opened onto a porch-like aft deck with stainless steel rails, two comfy-looking deck chairs, and dewy visions of the resort's fabled marina. What a grand and lofty observatory, I thought to myself.

"The windshield panels and the side windows up here are immense—it's almost like they bring the outdoors inside," enthused Chris Eilliot of Compass Point Yachts, Maritimo's West Coast dealership. "It's one of the reasons why the 48's flybridge is so impressive, I guess."

I added a couple of other reasons while leaning on one of the two Stidd adjustable helm chairs abaft the starboard steering console, the only one onboard given the absence of an optional lower helm in the saloon. For starters, there was the layout of the place, one of two Maritimo offers with the 48. Ours put the helm and helm chairs all the way forward, leaving space for an L-shape settee and dinette table directly abaft and a benchseat lounge to port and just forward of the stairwell. Whether you go with this arrangement or the second, which simply exchanges the settee/dinette area for the helm, there's little likelihood that driving the 48 will ever be a solitary endeavor, unless, of course, you're into that sort of thing. Conviviality is key here, with meals underway in the offing as well as plenty of plain ol' sightseeing with friends and relations.

There was another, subtler feature as well: the pure ease of handling facilitated by the 48's flying bridge. Shortly after firing up our twin 670-mhp Cummins QSM11 diesel inboards, I slid back the side window next to the helm station, stuck my head out to make sure Elliot had tossed off our lines and jumped safely back onboard, and began working the ZF-Mathers electronic controls with my right hand. What ensued was almost instantaneous confidence in the 48 and her oomphy, wholly agreeable dockside maneuvering capabilities.

Sightlines were excellent. By simply leaning out the side window to check on the stern or glancing ahead through the giant windshield to observe the movement of the bow, I was able to easily measure my progress while walking the 48 to port from her side-to berth. And responsiveness? Thanks to lots of torquey diesel horsepower, a gutsy 2:1 gear ratio, a powerful 24-volt Side-Power bow thruster (I didn't need our optional stern thruster), and a comparatively simple, modified-V running surface aft (prop pockets often tend to muddle sideways maneuverability, I've noticed), I stayed well clear of the teaky green-hulled cruiser moored just under our stern.

Handling in open water was excellent, although the smoothness of extant sea conditions offshore nixed chances of getting a feel for rough-water performance. The average top speed of 36.6 mph was sporty, steering was quick and steady thanks to the Marcon Hydraulics race-type system onboard, and running efficiencies were good (making 0.63 mpg at 2100 rpm while doing 31.2 mph is none too shabby for a vessel of the 48's type) and thanks to a tightly sealed, thoroughly insulated engine room, sound levels were low, with decibels staying less than 70 well beyond the 20-mph mark. (Sixty-five db-A is the level of normal conversation.) In addition, the running attitudes I recorded were indicative of a sweetly balanced cruiser: optimum angles for planing vessels at speed generally run from two to four degrees, and our boat stayed close to those numbers throughout the rpm register.

Returning to the dock was a trip. Once I'd positioned the Maritimo 48 in close proximity to her berth, I descended to the cockpit, stood on the starboard side, and walked her home with a cool little tool: a ZF handheld engine/thruster control. The thing worked like a champ once I'd gotten my mind around the fact that I'd literally abandoned the boat's helm. And it was something of a showstopper as well. The couple on that aforementioned teaky, green-hulled cruiser hit the foredeck in apparent alarm at first but ultimately turned appreciative and curious as we zooped into our spot, just a few feet from their boat.

Once we'd done a proper tie-up, I became an almost instant fan of the 48's engine room, accessed via a cockpit hatch and a short stairway. Headroom is approximately 4'7", and there are four large, vibration-resistant fluorescent lights overhead that illuminated every nook and cranny. Service points on the mains were easy to get at, either from the centerline walkway or the diamond-plate-surfaced outboard crawlspaces. The look of careful craftsmanship was pervasive. Noteworthy details included a crisp, easy-to-keep-clean inner liner, a veritable arsenal of 8D gel-cell batteries in two robust, lidded fiberglass boxes (I counted four starters and four service batteries); safety-conscious, hinged, diamond-plate aluminum panels over the exposed portion of the stainless steel propeller shafts; and lots of mainstream ancillaries (like Racor fuel-water separators and Shurflo salt- and freshwater pumps) bulkhead-mounted on King Starboard panels.

For the most part, the 48's interior was as satisfying as her machinery spaces. The layout's fairly conventional. On the main deck there's a window-encompassed saloon with opposed L-shape lounges forward and a U-shape galley in the aft corner to starboard. Below decks there's an island-berth-equipped VIP forward, an island-berth-equipped master aft and to port, a guest cabin opposite the master with bunks, and two nearly identical heads with separate shower stalls, one accessible from both the guest and the VIP staterooms and the other accessible from the master exclusively. The level of finish was high everywhere, and ventilation and light clearly had been a priority for the 48's designers.

There were a couple of things I didn't like. Both heads have bowl-shape glass sinks. While they boost counterspace and have a certain visual appeal, they have no place onboard a floating conveyance that can yaw, roll, and/or pitch. Not unless some designer's able to come up with aesthetically pleasing baffles or swash plates. The second problem arises from the cabinetry that stands in for the optional lower helm station in the saloon—it ain't foolin' nobody. Maritimo should replace it with a proper locker that would more completely mask the alternative usage.

Eilliot and I concluded our day by winching aboard an optional 12-foot Avon RIB via an optional Steelhead WD1000 crane with a control box on a long electrical cord. Once we'd accomplished this with less fanfare than it takes to polish a ship's bell, I changed my mind about the efficacy of keeping dinghies strapped in cradles on foredecks. Yeah, I know—there are issues, like what happens if the dink breaks loose in big seas and smashes a windshield panel? But for cruisers with steering stations aloft and near-coastal travel plans, the virtues of the setup are undeniable. Why encumber your swim platform with a tender if you don't have to? And why haul the thing all the way up to the boat deck when the foredeck will do?

"Cruise-friendly," I opined as Elliot and I secured the last of the Avon's tie-downs. And indeed, the phrase seems to work pretty well for the Maritimo 48, not least of all thanks to an enclosed flying bridge that is part steering station, part gathering place, and part grand and lofty observatory.

For more information on Maritimo USA, including contact information, click here.

The big question I had concerning this ZF handheld engine/thruster control just prior to docking the Maritimo 48 was how sensitive and responsive the knobs (for engines) and toggles (for thrusters) were going to be. With plenty of torque in the basement and a comparatively deep 2:1 gear ratio, the 48 tends to react rather quickly to a seemingly instantaneous bump of a shift lever. Leave an engine in gear too long, and you get more movement than you want.

So while we were still 50 or 60 feet off the dock, I attempted to subtly bump the starboard engine into gear using the knob on the side of the remote. Click went the knob as I rotated it forward, spinning the starboard prop ahead a few powerful revolutions; the 48 moved slightly and controllably. Click click went the knob as I rotated it back to neutral and then aft, spinning the starboard prop astern a few powerful revolutions—and again, the 48 moved slightly and controllably.

Hmm. I drew the boat's centerline parallel with the dock using the Side-Power bow thruster, then started to walk her to starboard using occasional bumps from the mains, first astern on the port engine, then ahead on the starboard while bringing the bow along with the thruster. The time-honored technique worked slicker than a wet plank. Had I been alone, I could have tied the 48 up quite easily while simultaneously keeping her pressed against the dock.—B.P.

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

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