The Other America
The Schaefer 640 raises the bar by drawing on the great boating culture of Brazil.
Quick! What comes to mind when you hear the word Brazil?
For me, it’s been thong bikinis, the samba, thong bikinis, Carnival, The Girl from Ipanema, thong bikinis and, being of a certain age, bossa nova.
What I didn’t think about were yachts, although Brazil’s coastline is longer than that of the U.S. East and West Coasts combined. I was wrong. Brazil has yachts. Great yachts. And the Schaefer 640 is a fine example.
I fell in love just stepping into a salon that is bright with big windows, but coolly serene with pale woods and nubby fabrics. It is just how I picture an elegant penthouse high above the Copacabana. The 640 is made for lazy days in the sun, starting with the galley aft, which is perfectly placed between the forward entertaining area and the lower helm and the cockpit.
Food and drink is clearly important aboard this yacht, with no fewer than three places to grill a steak or make a caipirinha cocktail: the galley, of course, the flybridge with mini-galley console and—ta-da!—a hidden transom galley with a grill so any smoke drifts away from guests. And if, like me, you occasionally turn a hamburger into a hockey puck, it can be slipped overboard from there.
The salon entertaining area is inviting, with a nearly 11-foot U-shaped dinette to port, an equally large couch to starboard that includes a lounge feature, and an impresive 6 feet 8 inches of headroom (!). The windows, which appear Cleopatra-eyed from the exterior, provide a panoramic view for guests, even when they’re seated at the folding table.
The galley is spacious, with a two-level center island perfect for buffets. Triple sliding doors open the galley to the cockpit for easy serving, and your family chef is going to appreciate the Viking fridge and microwave, plus a four-burner cooktop. Schaefer started out building sailboats, so they turned otherwise lost counter space into a top-loading fridge for extra cold stowage.
The cockpit is another entertainment area on the main deck, with a transom settee wrapping around a lovely Brazilian teak table. Even better, there’s ample space on the teak deck for director’s chairs at dinner. Note: That teak deck isn’t just a veneer, but solid pieces that can be sanded or holystoned for decades. When needed (remember, Brazil is bisected by the Equator), a hidden cockpit sunshade extends from the bridgedeck to protect the cockpit.
Gallery: Schaefer 640
That transom galley is just one part of a thoughtful swim platform that can be lowered hydraulically to handle a three-seat PWC. Our test boat also had a retractable passerelle that made boarding easy from faraway piers.
At the pointy end of the 640 is yet another entertaining area with a comfy forward-facing couch well shaded from the sun by a bimini top that folds out of sight. Protected by double stainless steel rails and high bulwarks, the foredeck is perfect for that sundowner at anchor.
The main deck is the play area, but where do you go when your eyelids grow heavy? The owner gets a full-beam master suite that is far more spacious than you’d expect in a 64-footer. It’s the usual layout with a generous island queen berth (a king is available), a loveseat to starboard, and a vanity/desk to port. What makes the Schaefer 640 unusual is the exceptional amount of floor space, which may not seem like much until you’re trying to pull on your pants or you want to stroll with grace to the side of the bed. Then it’s important.
This suite has a private head that, again, gets points for space to move around in and a shower for real-SIZED people. I like the bureaus, which have roller drawers with Lucite fronts so you can see the socks you’re hunting for. Another score: A stacked washer and dryer hide out of sight in the passageway until needed.
All the way forward is the VIP cabin, which, when you first see it, seems like it features a normal pair of berths in the bow. But couples can smoothly swing the two separate berths together to form a nice double. Here, as in the master, there’s plenty of floor space. The VIP is also en suite and the head has a shower tube and vessel sink.
Between the two cabins is a guest cabin. It, too, appears to have a pair of singles. However, a filler cushion creates a spacious berth. This cabin uses the dayhead across the passageway, so it also has what’s essentially a private head.
The flybridge offers yet another entertainment area. To access it, Schaefer has created wide and gentle teak steps that even Aunt Edna can manage. Once there, you’ll find, well, you’ll find whatever you want. I should mention at this point that Schaefer calls their 640 (and other yachts) “semi-custom,” but it seems that, when the Brazilians say it, the accent is on “custom.” You can move the main deck galley from port to starboard, forward to aft. You can have three or four staterooms. And the bridge can be whatever you want.
In the case of our test 640, the helm was to starboard and a large dinette to port, with what appears to be an acre of sunpad just forward, surrounded by the darkened Venturi windscreen topped by another stainless steel rail. Just aft of the stairwell (protected by a hatch) is a console that hides the upper grill, ice maker and fridge, and sink. This leaves space for deck chairs or, on our test yacht, a most elegant chaise longue. Other layouts move the dinette aft to accommodate companion seating opposite the helm. Whatever you choose, much of it will be shaded by the standard hardtop with swept-back supports.
Enough of the fluffy stuff: Skippers want to know about the workings and I’ll say right here that the 640 has one of the largest engine rooms I’ve ever seen on this size yacht. You can walk around between the engines—OK, stooped over a bit—but even the space outboard of the engines is exceptional. That’s due in part to the compact twin Volvo Penta IPS 950 pod drives. (IPS 1200s are also available.) Your service techs will love the access not only to the engines, but also to the Onan 21.5-kilowatt genset. And get this: The builder left space for a Seakeeper gyro stabilizer and pre-wired it as well. Buy the boat, use it, and you can add the Seakeeper at any time without tearing things up. In the meantime, all that space can be used for cases of wine (or Cachaça 51 Brazilian rum), spares, suitcases, and all the other stuff that clutters up a yacht.
Our test 640 also had a crew’s quarters tucked just outboard of the engine room, which can generously be called cozy. It’s perhaps best used for bad children or a mother-in-law.
On the water, the Schaefer 640 is just as delightful as at rest. With the twin 725-horsepower Volvo Penta IPS 950s, we topped out just over 31 knots, which is most presentable for a 60,000-pound 64-footer. In the Schaefer literature, they list the top speed as 30 knots, which I find to be a refreshing understatement in a world of embellished speeds.
We had the usual Gulf Stream slop off Ft. Lauderdale in between squalls, and the 640 handled it with aplomb (and no spray on deck, even flat out). It spoke volumes about the hull, and my hosts from Schaefer pointed out that the deadrise is 17 degrees, which proved
itself slicing through the seas. Many builders put “n/a” in the deadrise specs, not wanting to mention their flattish hulls of 12 degrees or less, but it’s clear that Schaefer builds hulls to handle those Atlantic seas that started building somewhere around Ireland.
You can see from the performance numbers that the 640 is stone quiet and, even with the hammer down in lumpy seas, there wasn’t a squeak or rattle.
You can tell I loved the Schaefer 640. Even if Schaefer isn’t a name you recognize, check out the 640 because you’ll soon be hearing that name. A lot!
Now, I think I need to find a fedora and a white linen jacket.
Schaefer 640 - Final Boat Test Numbers:
Speeds are two-way averages measured with Raymarine GPS. GPH taken via Volvo display. Range is based on 90% of advertised fuel capacity. 65 dB(A) is the level of normal conversation.
DISPL.: 61,949 lb. (dry)
FUEL: 634 gal.
WATER: 192 gal.
TEST POWER: 2/725-hp Volvo Penta IPS 950
OPTIONAL POWER: 2/900-hp Volvo Penta IPS 1200; 2/900-hp Volvo Penta D-13 V-drives
TRANSMISSION: Volvo IPS Penta A 1.70:1 gear ratio
PROPELLERS: Volvo IPS-2 P-series Nibral dual propellers
GENERATOR: Onan, 21.5-kW
WARRANTY: 10-Year Structural
NOTEWORTHY OPTIONS: Teak decks, cockpit controls, Raymarine electronics, underwater lights, passerelle, hydraulic swim platform, bow thruster.
VIDEO: Our first look at the Schaefer 640 at the 2017 Palm Beach Boat Show:
I was talking to a Brazilian friend at the Ocean Reef Vintage Weekend, and he bragged he was buying a Schaefer Yacht. I said I didn’t know Schaefer. He looked at me as though I’d grown horns. “You don’t know Schaefer? Really?” He was incredulous.
I now know that Schaefer is the largest boatbuilder in South America, with three plants in Brazil building yachts from 30 to 83 feet, and a workforce of more than 700 employees. Schaefer, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2017, has built more than 70 of the 640s, a number to daunt builders around the world. Schaefer has delivered more than 3,000 yachts.
Each yacht features a full resin-infused hull with Divinycell coring (no wood is used in the hulls). Schaefer creates its own molds, using the largest 5-axis computer-controlled router in South America, capable of carving molds up to 85 feet long from a single block.
Literally everything on the yacht (aside from obvious equipment) is done in-house; that includes joinerwork, upholstery, and welded metal.
For the U.S. market, Schaefer imports U.S. systems for ease of maintenance, and offers full support services throughout North America.
Schaefer Yachts. That’s a name I’ll remember when I next see my Brazilian friend.
Schaefer Yachts, 954-926-5250; schaeferyachts.us