Beating The Heat
The Sessa C54 is an elegant and nimble boat that’ll keep you cool, literally and figuratively.
The Miami heat is unbeatable in June. And I’m not talking about LeBron James and company, as they clearly are capable of faltering in the summertime. I’m talking about the actual temperature in The Magic City in that first, blistering month of summer. As I meandered through the streets of Miami Beach in a rental car with spotty air conditioning, trying to find the house where my Sessa C54 test boat was docked, the irony did not escape me that shortly after the Dallas Mavericks had stomped out the Heat in the NBA finals, the Miami heat was so thoroughly kicking my butt.
When I finally did find the house, it was a welcome sight for a few reasons. First off, with modern architecture and a white exterior, it resembled a giant refrigerator, big enough to live in, which seemed like a great idea at the moment. And second, when I was let in the front door, a cold blast of air smacked me in the face, which also was nice. And last, a panoramic window out back gave me my first glimpse of the very cool- looking sport cruiser that I was to pilot around Biscayne Bay that afternoon—not to mention the rep for Fastboats Marine Group, the sole Sessa U.S. distributor, standing on the foredeck of a technicolor speedboat waving his arms and pointing at the Sessa.
The “coolness factor” of my test boat’s exterior was in no small part due to her optional silver and gray hull paint, which shimmered almost magically while the rest of the landscape baked. When coupled with the boat’s sleek lines and beefy overall feel, that color scheme made the boat look to me like some oversized mechanical seal, ready to whisk me away to ports unknown. In the back of my mind I wondered if she would be as supremely agile as that aquatic animal.
Stepping onboard I immediately made my way across the teak-sole cockpit to the engine room hatch. After lowering myself into the compartment, which housed two Volvo Penta IPS900s, I immediately noted the upgraded 16-kW MASE generator aft and to port. MASEs have unique intercooling and oil-distribution systems, which make them popular among offshore racing enthusiasts as well as the U.S. Coast Guard. I would be remiss however if I didn’t mention that the engine room was a bit cramped and had only about five feet of headroom. Curious about this lack of space, I made my way topside and inspected the hydraulically operated teak-covered swim platform, which is large enough to hold the roughly 12-foot RIB that the owner currently had up on a lift at the dock. As I suspected, there was a storage area forward of the platform that accounts for some of the lost space in the engine room. It’s not big enough to hold a tender, but it is a handy place to store things like snorkeling gear and beach toys.
Working my way back up to the cockpit, I took in the centrally located teak cocktail table, as well as a sunpad that is easily large enough for two. “This is for when you want some sun,” the owner’s captain said. “And this for when you don’t,” he added as he flicked a switch and an optional awning extended to cover the whole cockpit. Meanwhile, the captain went to work unfolding the cocktail table—formerly a place just big enough to hold some drinks—into a full-size dining table, while also transforming the sunpad into seats accommodating that table. Not a bad way to tame a blazing sun.
Moving forward past a grill situated to port, I entered a thankfully well-air-conditioned saloon replete with soft, chocolate-colored leather and glossy woods. A leather and white fabric upholstered settee to starboard sat directly across from a 32-inch Samsung flatscreen that rose up electrically from behind a Vitrifrigo refrigerator. A hook-up for DirecTV and an optional Bose sound system completed the indoor entertainment goodies.
Up two stairs and to port the dining settee is large enough for four but ideal for two. As I sat there testing out the admirably deep and comfortable seats, the captain again flicked a switch and a sunroof opened, flooding the saloon with so much light I literally had to put on my sunglasses. The light extended down to the accommodations deck where it illuminated the airy and stylish amidships galley, which features a chrome sink, a three-burner stove, and a KitchenAid dishwasher, as well as more than enough room to maneuver around while you’re whipping up some lobster fra diavolo for your guests.
Forward of the galley there’s a roomy VIP cabin for a boat of this class, sporting a queen-size bed and a surprising amount of closet space, as well as an en suite head with a separate door leading to the galley. Down several steps from the galley and slightly aft of amidships sits the master, generously endowed with natural light by large windows to either side. This owner had also installed a curious but pleasing option in the shower: LED lights that flicker from green to yellow to purple to blue at intervals. Frivolous? Definitely. Cool? For sure. The one thing I did find slightly disconcerting about the master’s layout is that there are a number of steps within it to accommodate the natural shape of the hull. Although not altogether uncommon for a boat of this type, the layout did feel to me like a stubbed toe or three waiting to happen.
As I made my way back up to the helm I was eager to see if the C54’s performance would mirror her athletic lines. After all, the model represents the fourth generation of pod-driven boats produced by Sessa, so the company has had plenty of time to perfect the technology’s capabilities. It was soon clear that Sessa had done its homework. Gliding across the lake-flat waters of Biscayne Bay at nearly 40 mph, I steered the boat through some graceful S-turns and looping figure eights. When I put her hard-over to starboard, she did a 180 in almost exactly two boat lengths. The particular boat I was on required a decent amount of steering input before she reacted but once the turn began in earnest, look out, because she was about as nimble as that aforementioned seal. And with that big sunroof pushed all the way aft and the wind blowing through your hair out on the bay on a sunny day, well, somebody better dial up Mr. James and let him know that Sessa’s found a foolproof plan to beat the Miami heat too.
Fastboats Sales Company
Volvo Penta electronic steering and controls; Lofrans electric anchor winch; electric sunroof; stainless steel cleats; teak swim platform w/ disappearing cleats; Sony AM/FM/CD w/ remote control in saloon; 32" Samsung saloon TV; LED ambient lighting; microwave; GPS antenna; Raymarine E120W w/ HybridTouch screen; digital TV antenna; 11.2-kW MASE generator; A/C; electric bilge pumps w/ manual/automatic actuation; dishwasher
SidePower SE 120 bow thruster; 16-kW MASE generator; 60,000-Btu A/C; Raymarine E120W w/ HybridTouch screen chartplotter, RD418 radar, and DSM300 digital depthfinder; Bose Audio Lifestyle 18 system in saloon; 26" LCD TVs in master and VIP; washer-dryer; grill in cockpit; electric cockpit awning; anti-fouling paint
Cabins:1 master, 1 VIP, 1 guest, 1 crew
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/700-hp Volvo Penta IPS900s
- Transmission/Ratio: Volvo Penta gears w/ 1.88:1 ratio
- Props: Volvo T4 propset
- Price as Tested: $1,550,000
This article originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.