I was delighted. The guy who’d been driving the Cheoy Lee 68-foot Sport Motoryacht while I recorded radar-gun and other data during the sea trial pulled the Twin Disc electronic engine controls into neutral, centered the wheel, and hopped down from the Tracy helm chair. As he slid back the hatch over the stairway leading from the flying bridge down to the lower helm station and the rest of the interior, he offered a brief explanation for his departure. He was going below to make some coffee, he said. We’d departed Fort Lauderdale at such an ungainly hour, he’d missed his morning ration.
“She’s all yours,
So here’s what I did. First, I settled comfortably into the helm chair. Then, I gave the Furuno NavNet plotter glowing on the dashboard a quick glance, clicked our two 1,400-hp Caterpillar 3412Es into forward idle, and aimed the Cheoy Lee’s big bow straight into the four- to six-footers that were rolling down from the north. Then finally, after scanning ahead for crossing vessels and tossing glances over both shoulders to make sure there were no overtaking ones, I firewalled the throttles, slowly but surely. Would the favorable impressions I’d already formed of the boat’s performance stand up to undistracted, solitary scrutiny?
The first six-footer encountered at full speed answered the question with a vengeance. Our test boat sundered the darn thing with the hungry efficiency of a bull shark hitting a mackerel. Great glops of spray, cupped by the bow’s dramatic flare, shot aft like low-flying rocket exhaust, leaving the entire superstructure bone-dry. The ride was limousine-smooth, too, thanks to an entry that’s both fine and deep, forward sections that are sharp, and a longitudinal center of gravity situated well aft, in large part due to a remote-coupled V-drive configuration that consigns engine weight to the back of the bus.
I piled a couple of turns onto the hydraulically actuated, power-assisted steering wheel and swung the bow through a tight, rousing U-shape turn, eventually steadying up on a southwesterly course, with wind and waves abaft the beam. Head seas weren’t the 68’s real forte, I was discovering. Tight turns and following seas were what truly showcased her talents.
Let’s talk about the turns first. Although the 68 possesses a substantial, lobsterboat-like keel, she banks smoothly and comfortably into turns, even tight ones, showing no tendency to lean precariously outboard. This latter condition is a disconcerting one for most people, including me, and results from the unhappy combination of top-heaviness with a keel that has so much broadside surface area that inboard pressure during turns tips the vessel outboard. The 68 avoids these pitfalls via two simple measures, according to the folks at Tom Fexas Yacht Design, the firm that designed the 68. First, Core-Cell coring was employed throughout the entire superstructure to cut weight aloft and obviate top-heaviness. And second, the surface area of the keel was reduced “just enough
Now about following seas: With her transom squarely to weather, the 68 tracked down-sea with wholehearted conviction—her nose seemed glued to the tall stacks at Port Everglades. Moreover, she evinced only the slightest tendency to yaw, a rare occurrence in large, modern, flat-transomed vessels, which typically slue back and forth in following seas to shed the momentum of on-rushing waves. I suspected a deep, lengthy keel was at the bottom of the phenomenon, as well as LCG (longitudinal center of gravity) balanced with mathematical precision, and the Fexas folks confirmed these impressions when I telephoned after the test.
The skipper and I drank hot, black coffee all the way back to Lauderdale. To repay him for his hospitality, I suggested I do deckhand duty as we eased through our marina preparing to tie alongside a pier, starboard-side-to. Cheoy Lee bills the 68 as a large, comfortable motoryacht that can be handled by two people and, based on the short but sweet docking experience that ensued, I’d say the company’s absolutely right. With the skipper at the lower helm and the pantograph-type door on the starboard side thrown open to offer fast access to the wide side decks, the two of us berthed the boat in short order. All I had to do was debark through the doorway in the cockpit bulwarks, and he passed the lines over to me on the dock.
We began touring the interior immediately. While the 68’s large, roomy layout is conventional—with a big, open saloon, sizable U-shape galley, and dedicated (albeit dinette-equipped) wheelhouse on the main deck, and three spacious staterooms as well as an engine room below—a couple of features stood out. There was the cherry woodwork, for example—much of it consists of veneers molded over lightweight Nomex honeycomb coring. Besides helping to cut weight, it looks great. Solid wood or veneer? I found it hard to tell for the most part. Then there were the structural details the skipper pointed out. Engineered to save weight as well as add strength and resiliency, they included fully cored fiberglass bulkheads, stringers, transversals, and soles throughout. “And not only is the hull resin-infused,
I was impressed with the 68’s engine room. It was huge, with headroom well over six feet, easy all-round access to the guardrail-protected mains, aluminum diamond plate underfoot, and perforated-aluminum paneling from one end to the other. Lighting overhead was generous, and I was happy to find a watertight door in the forward bulkhead that opened into the shower stall at the rear of the master stateroom—it serves as both an escape hatch and seagoing access during bad weather when opening the main entrance on the swim platform would be unsafe. One detail I didn’t like was Cheoy Lee’s use of just one engine-driven emergency bilge pump—while one pump’s good, two are better, especially when the pump-equipped engine decides to quit.
After the skipper and I finished up, we returned to the flying bridge to swap a sea story or two, a fringe benefit in my line of work. We lounged in the comfy chairs at the steering console with our feet crossed on the dash. A faint breeze blew. The shade offered by the standard hardtop lengthened. Eventually, I formed an overall opinion.
Cheoy Lee’s 68-foot Sport Motorytacht is the sort of big, relatively fast boat that can be easily cruised and handled by two experienced people.
And if one of them gets just a tad rowdy at the helm, what the heck! The other can still make coffee.
Cheoy Lee Shipyards
Maxwell rope/chain windlass; 32-kW Northern Lights generator; 13.5-hp American Bowthruster; 4/freshwater-flush Headhunter MSDs; GE range, oven, ventilation hood, and refrigerator/freezer; Avonite countertops; Kenmore stacked washer/dryer; 100-amp shore-power service w/Glendinning Cablemaster; 97,000-Btu Aqua-Air A/C; 2/engine-driven crash pumps; 60-amp Sentry battery charger; triplex Racor fuel-water separators for mains and genset; fuel-management system w/Fill-Rite meter; Groco sea strainers; engine-driven emergency bilge pump; PYI dripless seals for prop shafts and rudder stocks; 1,500-lb. Nautical Structures electro-hydraulic davit
2/Furuno NavNets w/repeaters; 2/Standard Quest VHFs; Furuno RD-30 radar w/repeater; integral pilothouse/bridge stairwell w/ stowage under; teak overlay on aft deck; Twin Disc electronic engine controls w/remote controls; Naiad stabilizers; Jennair BBQ grill on flying bridge; soft goods (drapes, valance boards, Roman shades, headboards); his and her head in master; Bennett trim tabs
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/1,400-hp Caterpillar 3412E diesel inboards
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF 1950V/2.45:1
- Props: 38"x48" 4-blade Nibral
- Price as Tested: $2,370,000
This article originally appeared in the February 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.