Uniesse is a brand on the move. Though widely known in Europe, this Italian builder hasn’t achieved the same level of recognition on our shores. But that may be about to change. Adopting a fundamentally different marketing strategy, Uniesse has eliminated its network of broker/dealer representatives in favor of factory-direct sales. This is designed not only to make pricing more competitive by eliminating the dealer mark-up and overhead, but also to provide better communication with customers, ensuring that each yacht is tailored to each owner.
Yet the key issue remains the boats themselves, and on that score the newest Uniesse, the 58, also portends good things. Uniesse’s U.S. sales director Rafael Barca describes it as an evolution of the 55-foot motoryacht, with a roomier deckhouse and a galley-up layout that should generate wide appeal in the American market. Above all, though, the 58 reflects Uniesse’s eye for detail. And nowhere is that clearer than in the galley. My wife is usually in charge of the culinary duties in our family, and I know she would approve of the 58’s galley. It’s an open, airy layout with plenty of natural light, and it’s right in the center of the action, just abaft the port-side helm station and only a step or two from the dinette and saloon seating areas to starboard. The glass counter on the center island makes the compact galley seem much larger while offering a stylish, European flair. Black-granite countertops and stainless steel accents further enhance the contemporary design theme, contrasting nicely with the flawless joinery.
While I liked the proximity of the galley and the lower helm (hungry or thirsty? Just pass me a snack, thanks), I wasn’t that keen on the helm station itself. Steering from the port side takes a bit of getting used to, but that wasn’t the problem; and while the space between the seat and the dash is a bit confined for my 6’2” frame, Barca assured me Uniesse can locate the dashboard farther forward if a customer wishes. And separately adjustable, bench-style helm and companion seats were comfortable and attractive, so what’s the problem? Visibility aft is quite limited; partitions abaft the helm station on the port side and window placement along the starboard side effectively block the view of both stern quarters, allowing sightlines aft only through sliding centerline glass panels. However, sightlines forward were excellent, with wide windows and narrow mullions and a modest running trim that produces little bow rise.
Actually, I found lots of things on the plus side of the ledger during my time aboard the Uniesse 58. One of the coolest was a multipurpose seating area along the port side in the master stateroom. Offering a view through elliptical side ports, fore- and aft-facing seats and a small table could serve as an intimate dinette or card table, a dressing table, or an en suite office space. It struck me as a delightful, decadent hideaway and a feature more likely to be found on an 80-footer.
As I continued my perusal of the interior, Barca pointed out some not-so-obvious features that further exemplify Uniesse’s attention to detail. For example, the 58 is built to CE class-A standards, so all piping is color coded: blue for fresh water, green for hot water, yellow for fuel, etc. All plumbing is drained into sumps to keep the bilge dry, and the entire inside surface of the hull is sanded and painted, making any accumulation of water or other liquids more readily apparent and easier to clean.
Then there’s that joinery. Barca explained that the interior is actually built twice; each piece of furniture is cut, fit, and assembled in the yacht. Then the entire interior is taken apart, so each piece can be lacquered to a deep, perfect finish, after which the components are reassembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle. And there are no exposed fasteners in any moldings or joinery—every screw is meticulously concealed behind finished moldings.
Other features underscore Uniesse’s obsession with detail. All interior doors have gaskets to eliminate rattles and reduce sound, and doorways have concealed hinges that make for a cleaner look. Doors are kept open by magnets, rather than the usual clunky doorstops, and the hardware includes substantial handles and locking mechanisms—good stuff, nothing chintzy.
In the engine room, it’s even more apparent that Uniesse pays attention to even the smallest detail. For example, the cooling-water inlet tubing is wire-reinforced clear plastic, so it’s easy to check if there’s an obstruction in the line, not just at the strainer. And the chilled-water air conditioning lines passing through the engine room are double-insulated to minimize heat transfer. The engine room overhead is lined with fire-retardant acoustic insulation, to reduce sound and heat transfer to the saloon above. And thankfully all filters and dipsticks are located inboard of both engines, because I could barely scrunch my torso into the space between the engines and the outboard fuel tanks.
By contrast, there’s lots of room to stretch out on the flying bridge. Again, there’s a port-side helm, but with plenty of leg and hip room on the double bench helm seat, and acres of sunning and seating area behind. Refreshments are close at hand, thanks to the optional barbecue, ice maker, and wet bar module abaft the starboard-side guest seat.
After considering how comfortable the flying bridge was under the clear, sunny skies, I opted to do the sea trial from the upper helm station. At speed, the hull was responsive to the helm, banking nicely in gradual turns. In tight high-speed turns, however, she remained more upright; a bit disconcerting, but nothing to be alarmed about. Seas were barely a foot or two, hardly noticeable even at speeds of more than 30 knots. The weather was so nice, though, that we had plenty of company offshore and found several obliging sportfishermen turning up wakes three to four feet high. With the throttle wide open, the 58 shredded these with ease; no slamming, no spray, the hull seeming eager for more.
All too quickly, my time at the wheel was over, and we were making our way back to Uniesse’s dock on the New River, where Barca executed one of the slickest tight-quarters maneuvers I’ve seen in quite some time: a 180-degree turn (with help from the standard equipment bow thruster) and sideways slide into an impossibly tight slip with nary a foot to spare.
All told, I found the Uniesse 58 to be a quality product, rich in small details that might be easily overlooked but that will make ownership a rewarding experience. Without minimizing the import of Uniesse’s new marketing strategy, I have to think that Barca has an easy job. The 58 is a yacht that almost sells herself.
Uniesse Marine U.S.A.
9.5-kW Onan diesel genset w/ hushbox; 48,000-Btu Cruisair A/C; Raymarine E80 GPS/plotter at main helm and bridge; autopilot; Sony entertainment system; electro-hydraulic gangway
Upgrade to 17-kW Onan genset; chilled-water A/C system; bow thruster; blue hull color; bimini top; teak swim platform and side decks; Bose home theater system upgrade; Glendinning Cablemaster; saloon ice maker; flying bridge ice maker and barbeque; upgrade to LCD TVs
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/800-hp Caterpillar 3406E diesel inboards
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF/2.04:1
- Props: 31.5x42 4-blade nibral
- Price as Tested: $1,759,282
This article originally appeared in the July 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.