Photography by Scott Pearson
Asked and Answered
The midsize NISI 1700 feels much larger than her dimensions, and may be just the boat for today’s global world.
When I met the owner of the NISI 1700 Never On Sunday at the dock on a sunny day on the New Hampshire seacoast, I could tell by the combination of his warm grin and tidily knotted necktie that this was a gentleman accustomed to getting what he wants, but in a good way. He seemed to be that guy who asks the question where everyone benefits. Meet Craig Benson, entrepreneur, former governor of New Hampshire, and pleased-as-punch owner of NISI’s latest launch.
In our brief chat before the sea trial, Benson, who also owns a Hinckley 40, was downright ebullient about his new boat. He likes to cruise part of the year in the Northeast where lobster pot buoys mean the NISI’s Ultrajet jet drives, linked to a pair of Caterpillar C18 ACERT diesels, make sense. “And I like to go fast,” he says. “Never On Sunday is fast.” And as you’ll see, Benson asked and NISI delivered in a few other ways as well.
If there was ever a yacht built for these global times, the NISI 1700 may just be it. Measuring less than 60 feet long, this boat offers a striking profile that melds a salty feel with European cool, was assembled by Chinese craftsmen from plans by American firm Setzer Yacht Design, and is powered by those British Ultrajet jet drives matched to Caterpillar diesels.
When we first arrived at the boat, we climbed the steps from the swim platform to the teak-decked cockpit and greeted a megayacht world created in miniature. In the shaded cockpit, an inlaid table awaits alfresco meals with diners seated on a broad settee across the transom. Steps to the flying bridge beckon, while a hatch inlaid with a teak compass rose seals engine-room access. Entering the saloon through gleaming stainless steel-framed glass pocket doors that disappear on demand we found an inviting L-shaped settee to starboard facing built-in cabinets to port. A concealed sink and two-burner cooktop mean this is the galley, working in tandem with a covered electric grill in the cockpit.
The helm station is forward in the saloon and to starboard, and features Treben electric helm and companion seats (that flip to bolsters). The helm dash is equipped with a pair of Simrad multifunction displays, flanked by controls for Humphree interceptors and a Side-Power bow thruster. We liked that half-orb of a compass prominently plunked inline with the wheel, while the Ultrajet joystick and engine controls were right at hand. Lines of sight were excellent, but I mention it almost as an afterthought—I didn’t feel like I was even inside, looking out. This was mostly thanks to a huge vertical windscreen that surrounds the helm and melds into the saloon windows (See “Better Boat: The DNA of a Growing Family” on page 62). A curvy chaise longue is built in to port and may mean your companion can be comfortable but don’t be surprised if they don’t stay awake too long.
But the performance of this yacht is anything but a snooze. With well over 2,200 horsepower spinning out of those two big Caterpillar diesels, this boat fairly moves across the water, touching 37 knots on our test with a full crew and gear for a summer cruise onboard (she had just returned from a weeklong Down East voyage when we met her for our sea trial). She gets on plane quickly and cruises at 30 to 33 knots.
The hull responded smoothly to the helm, and ran nearly flat through turns at a fast cruise. A few months after my sea trial, by the way, I got word that our 1700 had gained some speed. “Since I think you were there we went up with our team and tweaked it to get quite a bit more speed out of the boat,” says Ward Setzer, founder and president of Setzer Yacht Architects, who designed the NISI. “I don’t think it needed a lot more, but we were able to do that and I think that made the owner even happier.” I was intrigued: To my mind you don’t just add speed.
“It was all weight distribution, so the original design waterline in all the testing that we did via computer was based on presenting the hullform to the waves and the water at a certain running angle,” Setzer explains. “We went out with a series of sea trials with water bags and we filled the water bags to different capacities on the bow until we tried it in all different conditions, overweighting it, underweighting it, et cetera, until we got the burst of speed, and the kind of loading on the engines that everybody wanted to see.” Turns out the chain specified for the anchor rode was lighter than what the design had called for. Using a heavier chain added the weight in the bow, which helped the boat run on its waterline properly.
That running surface and hull design presented their own set of design challenges. On the accommodations deck, an amidships master makes the most of this hull’s slab-sided design and stretches over the full beam. The berth is situated on an angle to make it accessible from both sides and free up floor space, but the remarkable effect is to have such an airy room in less than 60 feet of hull. The glass-walled master head is to port, or to the right as you enter, and its see-through design takes advantage of the huge hullside windows. There’s a a separate head compartment (with solid walls), and a huge shower with curtains to ensure privacy for the modest.
“Knowing from the get-go she was a high-speed boat with a plumb bow, to put accommodations in the bow and have full standing headroom and yet have a very shallow-draft hullform underwater it starts to stack up, kind of like a box,” Setzer says. “I think it worked out OK in the end.”
A lower vestibule has pantry lockers and counterspace, as well as a fridge. Forward from there is a guest stateroom in the bow that also offers excellent floor space and a hanging locker. It shares a head with the other guest stateroom, a single to port.
The NISI 1700 is built using copious amounts of carbon fiber to ensure lightweight, rigid construction. The metallic-blue hull fairly gleams in the summer sun, and a large polished-stainless steel anchor plate protects the plumb bow from damage. An interesting flying bridge is compact and yet had plenty of room for a helm with chair and a couple of companions on a lounge to port—it fit the boat’s profile and design brief to me, as did a striking art deco radar arch that holds the Simrad broadband radome, Intellian satellite-TV dome, and VHF antennas.
“It’s kind of an industrial design exercise,” Setzer says. “Everything up there is kind of product-design oriented. It would have been easy to let the flybridge creep further forward out onto the superstructure, but we really wanted to keep it truck-bed-like and as small as we could get away with so the mast and the other elements could look and feel like sculpture.”
The interior finish looked impeccable to me, and when I got into the engine room I saw the rigging and finish of this space was up to snuff as well. Groco strainers, Parker-Racor fuel-water separators, an easily accessible Cummins Onan genset, all served to reinforce my confidence that service would not be an issue. The engine room was absolutely enormous, with a huge open space above the jet drives—large enough for me to note to Capt. Mike Cusumano. Then I saw a Lehr outboard stowed on a bracket. This boat was missing the available tender garage—it wasn’t included in the specification, so she ships an inflatable tender. That’s something for future buyers to consider carefully.
In so many ways, the NISI 1700 answers every question asked of her design brief, combining the feeling of being close to the water with a hull that can deliver you to far-distant destinations in short order, and with plush, sophisticated accommodations in a tidy, compact package. Enjoy that megayacht feel all weekend long, and be refreshed back in the office on Monday morning.
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Noteworthy Options: Metallic hull paint, Hydraulic swim platform, ABT TRAC fin stabilizers. Option pricing available upon request.
The DNA of a Growing Family
The profile of the NISI 1700 Never On Sunday struck me, and so did her feel. She was reminiscent of previous NISI models, but also had her own look—like siblings do. Ward Setzer, the boat’s designer, confessed this was very much part of the design concept. “The NISI program since we first started with them years ago has been all about seeing the ocean, feeling that you are boating,” he says. “The idea behind the big hullside windows was the same as it was for the saloon: to create as much experience of seamless indoor-outdoor living and seeing the sea as possible. It’s something that we’ll continue to do with everything we’ve drawn for them.” NISI and Setzer have so far produced three models. “So far they’ve built the 2400 [78 feet, above right], the 2600 [84 feet], the 1700 [59 feet] that you saw and [they’re building] two of the 50-foot cats [above left],” Setzer says. “The 108-footer [top] is the one we’re working on right now in much deeper development.” But if you look at the lines of the renderings and pictures shown here, you’ll see that all the profiles (even the cat’s), while not identical, definitely feel related. The DNA of good design works in any size.
Generator: 11.5-kW Cummins Onan
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 72°F; humidity: 66%; seas: 1-2’
Load During Boat Test
410 gal. fuel, 160 gal. water, 4 persons, 500 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/1,136-hp CAT C18 ACERT diesels
- Transmission/Ratio: Ultrajet
This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.