For as long as Florida Keys native Franco D'Ascanio can remember, being on the water has been part of his family's life.
"At a very early age we started fishing, diving, and spearfishing," says D'Ascanio, adding that boating is the family's favorite way to spend time together. And the proof is in the pictures. My e-mail inbox overflowed as he sent me an infinite array of images of their on-the-water adventures, which included everything from cruising to the Dry Tortugas to spearfishing for snapper and grouper to running the flats.
Throughout these experiences the D'Ascanios have owned all manner of boat (Franco has partnered on several boats with his brother Amedeo) including a 16-foot Hewes, 23 Century, 282 Scout, 31 Chris-Craft, and a 46 Wellcraft. Realizing how much time the family—especially the ever-expanding next generation of water-loving D'Ascanios—spends at sea and given their desire to cruise and fish farther and farther, the brothers got to thinking that it was time to make a major jump in boat size. After all, the family business was doing well (they own a Florida Keys-based custom-homebuilding company called D'Asign Source), and the challenge of deciding what size boat would fit their needs and then working out the details could be a fun experience. Right? Well, being custom home builders, that's how the D'Ascanios looked at it. So the decision was eventually made that a semicustom 87-footer (from Taiwan-based Symbol through its U.S. dealer Lucid Marine) would suit the needs of the family if the builder could outfit the vessel the way they wanted.
"Our needs are very different, it seems, than most," D'Ascanio tells me. "Sportfish yachts don't have enough covered outdoor seating or interior area, and most cockpit motoryachts have minimal cockpits and aren't set up properly for serious fishing, spearfishing, and diving." He adds that standard motoryachts also didn't offer good access to the water or facilities they needed.
Being naturally creative types, the brothers say they have spent thousands of hours on the design of their vessel named Andiamo, which roughly translates from Italian into "Let's Go." D'Ascanio says that their hours spent poring over the details were in addition to the many invested by the builder. "This is such a major step from a 46-footer, that we have had to educate ourselves in a hurry," he says, adding that in addition to being hands-on for most of the project, the family has already taken one trip to Taiwan. There are at least one or two more yard visits planned before the project is complete early next year.
"In the end, we believe we will get very close to our ideal boat," D'Ascanio says with confidence. He adds that while this was the way to get the boat they wanted, being boatless for a year has been a little tough on this seafaring family.
But unlike straight production builds, when you're dealing with every facet of a boat's design and construction, an investment in time and meticulous attention to detail are what it takes to separate your vessel from an off-the-rack model. The D'Ascanios went so far as to retain the vessel's designer, naval architect Jack Sarin, to handle balancing their desires and wants with the practicality of actually getting this major-league motoryacht built.
Some of the family's must-haves included accommodating twin custom livewells, large refrigerated fishboxes, a custom dive platform, stowage for 24 fishing rods and 12 spear guns, a dive compressor, nine scuba tanks, a tackle center, a Crestron automated entertainment system with nine flat-screen TVs (Franco used to own a custom audio company), a 30-inch propane grill, a gourmet galley (Amedeo is a chef, too), and an enclosed skylounge in lieu of a lower helm.
"Basically, the relationship with Sarin started when we found out that Jack designed the overall Symbol hulls and superstructures," D'Ascanio tells me, adding, "Since we are in the design business, we value professional design and engineering so we hired Jack from the onset." Over the last year, Andiamo has evolved from a semicustom to a nearly custom project, which has increased the naval architect's involvement. He even made his own visit to the plant.
So with the boat nearing completion and a launch date on the not-too-far horizon, I ask D'Ascanio if the family would consider another venture of this magnitude and what advice he'd give to those looking to make a leap like this? He responds, "I doubt we'd find a production boat that would suit our needs, so we would most likely go semicustom and/or custom again." He adds that those interested in taking on a task like this should make sure to get as much of the design and specifications of the boat done far in advance. And if you don't have the ability to visit the yard like they did, be sure to hire a "great surveyor."
Speaking with this owner, the excitement of building Andiamo flows fast and free, even more so now that she's in the home stretch. This family's dreamboat should be delivered stateside by early 2009. After that, outfitting and commissioning should take another three months. If all goes according to plan, the D'Ascanios should be out enjoying some great spearfishing, diving, and postcard sunsets in the Dry Tortugas by early spring. That's the plan, at least. And it sounds like a damn good one.
For more information on Symbol Yachts, including contact information, click here.
This article originally appeared in the December 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.