Sunseeker Manhattan 70By Capt. Grant Rafter
The border between a boat you’re comfortable handling yourself and one that requires a captain is a delicate one. The Manhattan 70 sits right on the cusp, filling a gap between the Manhattan 60 and the 86 Yacht. As the largest of the Manhattans, the 70 bridges the void by incorporating accommodation elements from the 86 while attempting to keep the at-sea agility of a boat that’s ten feet shorter.
The interior requirements for this boat are derived from the 86 and were determined well before the design phase began: She had to have four staterooms and one crew cabin, and her interior had to exhibit an open feeling while having eight percent less volume in which to do it. And so the design team set to work, tweaking the layout to make the accommodations fit the parameters.
The most obvious departure from the 86 was to set the berths in both the VIP and the master at an angle, instead of aligned fore and aft, effectively creating more carpeted floor area in both. Windows in the master also increase the feeling of spaciousness, with four stainless steel ports—two of which open—built into each side of the hull. Mirrors are a trick that builders often enlist to create the effect of more room and are available on the 70. But the owner of my test boat decided that his quarters felt voluminous enough, and instead went with the standard knit fabric wall covering, giving the stateroom a warmer tone.
In the guest cabin to starboard, Sunseeker again addressed the interior requirements by readjusting the berths. Two twins—wider than those in the 86—push together on a wooden track to form a double. The builder did this two smart ways: First, it constructed the track from timber instead of stainless steel, so it’s not only virtually invisible among the brown and beige dcor but it also doesn’t feel strange underfoot. The second was to extend the cabinetry inboard, so even when the berths are pushed together, you can still access the stowage space. The guest cabin also has one more hidden feature: a Pullman berth that drops down from the transverse bulwark. This quick-release design, which includes beefy stainless steel hinges, means owners have a third place to sleep guests that only takes 30 seconds to deploy or to put away.
Teardrop-shape side windows, inspired by those on the 86, also help bring a megayacht ambiance to the vessel. The resulting profusion of light, increased by the lack of structural bulkheads, lets the space breathe. Aiding this is the layout, including a large C-shape settee in the sitting area. The only partition is an optional one on the starboard side between the galley and the helm station. Although it provides more cupboard space—a feature the owner’s wife requested—it eliminates sightlines aft from the helm. While this may not be an issue for long nighttime passages where radar is the predominate source of information on other vessels, daytrips steered from here could be challenging. If you need to make a turn or see who is approaching, you’ll have to open the door to starboard and stick your head out. The black-and-white security cameras aboard my boat were too grainy to effectively monitor other vessels; for that you’d need higher-resolution equipment with full-color capability.
But the point may be moot as I suspect that most wheel time will be taken from the upper helm, and that’s exactly where I went to evaluate the 70’s maneuverability.
Biscayne Bay offered superb protection from the offshore waves that had been building over the past week, whooped up by a steady 15-mph easterly wind. Inshore, the smooth sea began to ripple as the 70 accelerated. It took about two seconds for the boat to respond to the flattened MAN electronic controls and about five more before the turbos kicked in. Once they did, she accelerated briskly and without hesitation to a top speed of 41 mph, about the level of performance that we’ve come to expect from this builder.
Sunseeker also achieved exactly what it had set out to do as far as high-speed handling is concerned: she leaned into hard turns and reacted quickly to wheel adjustments, which on a 70-foot boat was impressive. Steering is a quick four turns lock-to-lock and at her cruise speed of 36 mph, turned us end for end in about four boat lengths. At slow speeds she was just as predictable, spinning on her axis at a controlled and even pace and stopping the rotation within a few seconds of the inverse controls being applied. One slight disappointment was the underpowered bow thruster. At only 10 hp, it could barely move the boat on its own, and would be overmatched in a strong blow or current. Fortunately, the owner had opted for the stern thruster as well, and in tandem, they supplied enough juice to let me put her where I wanted. (Still, I’d recommend a more powerful bow thruster.)
So could an owner handle this boat on his or her own? Well, as I said earlier, the 70 is right on the line. Unfortunately, the overhang obscures the flying-bridge’s aft sightlines, although taller folks can see down to the starboard quarter through the stairwell while manipulating the controls (I, at 5'10", could not and had to lean over the side). Fortunately an optional remote is available, and short-handed owners should be able to dock her with ease this way.
Regardless, it is the yacht-style features and smart options inspired by the 86 that do more to define this vessel than anything else. She’s like a mini-megayacht, and in that regard, displays one notable megayacht characteristic: silence. With the throttles wide open, her top sound-level reading at the helm was a mere 79 db-A. (65 db-A is the level of normal conversation.) With 169 gph combusting in the 1,550-hp MANs, that’s a considerable feat. Down in the master it was 72 db-A, and in the VIP it was an equally low 71. Such quiet is accomplished through a multitude of features, not the least of which are three-inch thick sound-damping insulation in the engine room, Halyard exhaust silencers, and Phoenix engine mounts.
Customization is another megayacht feature found aboard, and my test boat had plenty of it, a great deal of which was located in the ER. A hearty aluminum ladder bends out over the twin Dometic chillers. With two air handlers in the saloon and one in each of the four cabins, the zone-controlled air conditioning can pump out up to 92,000-Btus of coolness. Another upgrade that I couldn’t miss was not so much the larger 27-kW Kohler genset to port (a 21-kW is standard) as the 19-kW “nighttime use” model to starboard. An optional Aquamatic watermaker was located behind the secondary genset, and although it’s a bit difficult to access, the 630-gpd reverse-osmosis unit should be generally trouble free. (The 10-hp stern thruster hydraulics are also lodged there.) One option I’m surprised the owner didn’t go for is a fuel purifier in the fuel-transfer line between the self-leveling tanks to ensure clean fuel while coasting around the Bahamas or places with less reliable sources of clean diesel.
Aft of the engine room is the crew cabin, which truly secures the 70’s place in the big-boat arena. For a boat this size, it’s well appointed, with its own head and stand-up shower. My boat had the optional three-berth layout, which I felt was a little tight; the standard single queen (shown in the deckplans) should make whoever is operating the boat plenty happy. A full-width tinted picture window in the transom doesn’t hurt either. One thing I would have preferred to see is a secondary means of egress in case of emergencies; currently, the only way in or out is the door to starboard.
The 70 is a megayacht in just about any way you can imagine except size. But she compensates for this one point with smart engineering and a design that gives you the illusion that you’re on a boat that’s much larger than she actually is. She’s a pleasure to run, and for an adept owner, that possibility is definitely not out of the question. I mean really, why pay someone else to have all the fun?
This article originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.