Ferretti Has a (Small) Problem
There’s one little issue with the Ferretti 550: Owners may never want to upgrade.
The Italian-made cars buzzing along Italy’s Autostrada freeway system don’t seem to be getting any larger, a testament as much to the price of fuel there (recently €1.45 per liter, which comes out to roughly $6.20 per gallon) as to the modern sensibility of cars being purely for transportation.
Contrast that with the boats built in Italia (most of those that we see here in the U.S., anyway) and you’ll notice a distinct trend upward in size. The focus has been on more space, more luxurious appointments, more everything. Because why build a boat that won’t do everything that her owner wants? Boaters know what they’re after, after all. But on a recent trip to Italy, I had the opportunity to test the new Ferretti 550, and see the upward trend move in reverse. Ferretti Yachts hasn’t been very active in the 50- to 60-foot range since around 2010. But that’s just where the company headed when it chose to roll out the next model in its line of motoryachts. Recent development picked up with the 960 and has reached down through the 80- to 90-foot range with a new 850 in the works. Then there’s the new 700, which lands smack dab between the 750 and the 650—so Ferretti has the large motoryacht market covered. What next, then? How about something to draw in boaters at the lower end of the pipeline, to get them thinking about Ferretti earlier in their yacht ownership careers?
If the 550 is any indication, Ferretti has now got a real handle on the owner-operator size range. The company has taken the lessons from some of those larger builds and worked them into a smaller footprint. But the designers have also built an astonishing level of features into this boat, giving up very little in the way of what a yachtsman would expect.
This boat is sleek when you see her in person. Ferretti kept her flying bridge on the small side and set it far aft, with an overhang shading the cockpit, barely a bump in the overall profile. It’s nice to have, and even better that it’s handled so subtly. Another noticeable element is a gentle downward curve in the sheer that works wonders for improving the view from inside the saloon.
Her look matches to a T the way she runs, with excellent throttle response and solid cornering. She swept through turns smoothly and tracked well, though our sea conditions, with a 10-knot breeze and 2- to 3-footers, were hardly daunting on the beautiful day when I tested the boat out of Cesenatica, on the coast of the Adriatic east of Forlì, where the company builds many of its models in a state-of-the-art facility. Sightlines from the lower helm take a bit of getting used to, due to a low-seeming brow at the top of the windshield. She topped out for us, with eight people on board, at just under 30 knots, but one must keep in mind: This is a luxury motoryacht, without question.
What Ferretti has done is place a lot of amenities in a hull that measures 45 feet, 4 inches at the waterline. The specimen we were on was hull no. 12, and offered three staterooms and two heads. The finish on this boat in every space is something you must see firsthand, and run your fingertips over the horizontal grain of the striped walnut veneers.
Italian builders, Ferretti among them, are introducing model after model in a quest to update product lines and sell their way out of an economic malaise. Inventive designs and efficient build practices may just help them do it.
I love to see conventional drive diesels and rudders. Pods are great for some applications, but I think more options (and the competition they spark) are better for all boaters.
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Italy in early June, go. Just go. The jasmine is in bloom, perfuming the air, the evenings have a coolness—bring a light jacket out at night, in case you’re seated on the terrace—and you can feelsummer coming, but it’s still that moment of delicious anticipation. And be sure to see the boats.
The master was located amidships, flanked by large hullside windows with opening ports built into them. The space had good headroom at 76½ inches and felt open and roomy, largely thanks to a desk placed immediately to the right as you enter the room that improves the lines of sight, and a two-person dinette placed to starboard, and with the berth slightly offset to port. Generous hanging lockers await your wardrobe on either side, and there’s a roomy head with a beautifully tiled shower.
The forward VIP also has a desk and huge amounts of hanging locker space, as well as stowage beneath the berth. An owner can also opt for no desk and less locker space here in favor of an en suite, bringing the total heads on board to three, though you’ll also sacrifice a dedicated laundry locker with shelves for linens. The guest double was located to port and had good headroom as well, with a pair of twin berths, a large window with two opening ports, and a hanging locker.
Thanks to the two-head layout, the two guest staterooms on the boat I tested shared a head off the centerline passageway. Optimizing the footprint, the head has a standing shower enclosed in a clear, cylindrical, sliding plexiglas partition. It’s a smart way to use the space without giving in to a wet head.
I’ve been on a variety of motoryachts in the 50- to 60-foot range, and I can say that there are two ways to look at this size segment. The first is that the boat is just a big version of a smaller boat: Size everything up and you won’t believe the space on board. It’s like someone drew a 45-footer and then just changed the scale. The other way is to shrink a big boat in the same manner. Both approaches are fairly obvious when you see them, and neither is particularly effective to my mind, since the way a person perceives space doesn’t change in such a linear fashion. Every part of this boat, on the other hand, feels designed from the ground up, exclusively for this particular footprint.
The main deck is broken into four spaces, to my mind. Inside you have the bridgedeck, where a U-shaped settee to starboard faces a pop-up flatscreen to port. A pair of seats flank that TV, primarily for use at anchor, since the forward doubles as the helm seat, and can be power-adjusted to the ideal position.
One thing I noticed right away is that the aforementioned brow structure that overhangs the steeply raked, two-panel windshield is low. I’m of average height, and when I stood at the helm it felt like someone had grabbed the bill of my cap and yanked it down over my eyes. These are the sacrifices one must make for that sleek profile, and to be truthful, what seemed initially offputting ended up being a nonfactor once I drove the boat and got accustomed to it. There’s plenty of glass, and, when I focused on where I should be looking, the perceived obstruction vanished.
The portside helm just works. With three Simrad NSS evo2 displays—a pair of 12s flanking a 9-inch screen in the middle—all onboard data will be presented as the skipper prefers, with ease. Autopilot control and secondary displays were on the flat of the helm, which may require some helmsmen to lean forward to look at them squarely. The boat’s electrical panel is down low to the helmsman’s left, along the port side.
Aft and down a step is the galley, where a covered sink and four-burner Siemens electric cooktop and oven inspire your inner chef in a U-shaped countertop arrangement that opens aft. Refrigeration and freezers are concealed opposite in a credenza, and an owner can spec the setup to his liking, be it more fridge or freezer space. A three-panel, sliding glass and stainless steel door opens this area wide to the cockpit, where an aft settee with table awaits alfresco dining. To port of the settee is a hatch to an aft locker with standing headroom. It can be fitted out as crew’s quarters, but our test boat used it as a yawning stowage pit.
A generous H & B electrohydraulic swim platform (optional) lowers bathers or a tender into the water, and it’s a really cool setup. Because the transom is raked, the platform slides down into the water at an angle, and Ferretti built steps all the way down. So as the platform drops, the steps are revealed to continue all the way to the down position.
A ladder leads aloft to the flying bridge, a sleek affair with a U-shaped settee, complete with squat backrests (full height would affect the boat’s profile), and a sunpad stretching forward from the helm seat behind a low venturi windscreen. A console conceals a wet bar to starboard. There’s an available hardtop, but our test boat was not so equipped.
And finally, there’s the foredeck, where Ferretti has really outstripped the possibilities on a 55-footer. A settee and folding, stowable table set just forward of the base of the windshield meld with a spacious sunpad—it’s a really remarkable use of the area, and one that compares positively to that of any boat I’ve seen up to 75 feet.
In fact, the entire boat is built like she’s bigger than her dimensions indicate. This is most apparent in the engine room, where the 715-horsepower Cummins diesels have 21 inches between them, and 29 inches of space above them in a stoop-height engine room. But compared to some I’ve seen, it’s downright airy in there, which means access to components is simplified. A pair of alloy tanks are situated outboard of the engines.
I guess the only question left to ask is quite simply, “Why go bigger?” After all, this motoryacht seems to have everything one could ask for. At least until the next (smaller) problem arises, and the Ferretti 450 appears on the horizon.
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Noteworthy Options: En suite VIP head; crew’s quarters; H&B electrohydraulic swim platform; gyro stabilizer; bimini top. Prices available upon request.
Generator: 7-kW Cummins Onan, Warranty: 5 years on hull; 1 year on parts made by Ferretti; manufacturer warranties on components
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 79°F; humidity: 70%; seas: 1-2'; wind: 10 knots
Load During Boat Test
334 gal. fuel, 500 gal. water, 8 persons, 200 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/715-hp Cummins QSM11s
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF 325-1A, 2.417:1 gear ratio
This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.