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Uniesse Exuma HTC5

Smooth handling and Italian design elements marry well together in this cruiser.


The Exumas are a sleepy chain of islands in the center of the Bahamas, bounded by white sand beaches and clear turquoise waters. So when I first began speaking with the folks at Uniesse about taking the new Exuma HTC5 on a sea trial, I had visions of crossing the Gulf Stream dancing around in my head. Mother Nature, however, was singing a different tune. With an offshore forecast calling for 25- to 30-knot winds and 10- to 14-foot seas at 8 second intervals, we opted for a more responsible jaunt across Biscayne Bay.

The HTC5’s black hardtop immediately caught my attention as I walked up to the vessel. Dark tinted side windows, a massive single-piece windshield and the dark, custom-painted sat domes and radar gave the boat a sleek, sports car appearance. I also admired the lines on the side of the house which come to a sort of whale-tail shape at the cockpit. And the aft-facing end of the hardtop has two built-in lights at the corners that bring to mind the taillights on the back of a Ferrari. Everywhere I looked a design detail jumped out at me, from the etched logo on the stout custom cleats to the honeycomb pattern on the air intakes for the engine room to the wide stainless scuppers, logo included.

Uniesse has always embraced the virtue of enduring design. Established in 1987 by the Scaburri brothers in Bergamo, Italy, they developed a reputation for building stylish cruising vessels using the latest manufacturing processes available. Their vessels caught the eye of Rafael Barca while on a trip to Europe in the early 1990s, and he struck a deal with the company to import the vessels to the U.S. market. From 1994 to 2007 Uniesse sold 200 boats in the western hemisphere, but when the recession hit, the company fell on hard times and eventually went into receivership. In 2017, Barca and his partner David Schwedel saw an opportunity and purchased Uniesse. They immediately went to work, streamlining their manufacturing facilities in the Tuscany region, and updating the designs to meet the needs of today’s boaters.

In the Exuma line you see their experience as longtime yachtsmen, as well as savvy boatbuilders. The mechanical spaces are pristine with easy access to Racor filters and an electrical panel that is so exceptionally labeled and laid out that it shines as the star of the engine room.

“We want to build quality not quantity,” Barca tells me as he points out his favorite features on the HTC5. “We don’t need to build 100 boats a year. We hope to build 20 to 30 boats a year max. The Exuma is geared to do 10 a year.” And the Exuma line is the smallest yacht in the company’s stable. They plan to go larger, not smaller, with yachts up to 120 feet in the works.

Powered by twin 725-hp Volvo 950 IPS, we slid out of the berth using the joystick control. As we motored out of the canal and into the bay, the full onslaught of the wind hit the boat. White caps littered the protected waters with some legit three-footers bouncing around. It was choppier than my kid’s karate class. The HTC5, however, didn’t seem to mind. The hull is based on the 48-foot, Fred Hudson-designed Uniesse, which was one of the company’s most popular vessels ever built. The HTC5 is 50 feet to the transom and 54 feet, 7 inches overall with a large, hydraulic swim step that can carry a small tender. It’s a modified deep V hull, and she hopped up on plane with little discernible bow rise.

Uniesse Exuma HTC5. galley

Uniesse Exuma HTC5. galley

The boat sliced through the chop with no hard pounding. Uniesse builds its boats with hand-laid fiberglass and vinylester resin to create a “monolithic” hull, meaning everything is glassed together to create one strong structure. There were no creaks, no rattles and no squeaks as we throttled the engines to a 22-knot cruise. You could easily bump that cruise up a few clicks depending on your personal preference. The boat gracefully carved tight turns, and with the wind at our stern we hit 37 knots at wide open, with full fuel tanks. We took a good bit of spray on the windshield and hardtop, but the truly gigantic wipers whisked the water off like a champ.

This builder works directly with each owner to customize the cockpit layout as well as materials and colors used in the interior. This particular vessel had an L-shaped dinette in the cockpit with a hydraulic hi-lo table. When the table is down, you can add a cushion to create a sunpad. (Another large sunpad with adjustable backrest is located on the forward deck.) The cockpit offers a mezzanine entertainment area with sink, refrigerated drawer, flat electric grill top and storage. A hatch in the cockpit sole can be used to access the lazarette and pods, and it has a crawl space into the forward engine room, which is also accessible through another hatch in the salon. And if you need some shade, a telescoping awning runs from the hardtop all the way to the transom.

Stepping inside the salon is like entering a luxurious Miami Beach apartment. Natural light pours in from the windshield, skylights (complete with electric sliding shade), side windows and glass aft bulkhead. A large dinette that converts to a bed is on the port side facing a retractable TV, which is controlled through a mobile app.

Uniesse Exuma HTC5

Uniesse Exuma HTC5

The steering wheel at the helm is nearly a conversation piece with its shined stainless finish and hand-stitched leather. There are two captain’s chairs, which Uniesse actually sets to the height of the owner. Twin 24-inch Garmin screens create a glass helm sans switches thanks to the Garmin OneHelm control system. The leather accents at the helm and light wood finish continue the design theme. Sightlines are simply incredible with clear views in all directions except for the hardtop supports in the corners, which don’t obstruct much.

Stepping down to the galley reveals another living space awash in natural light, most of which comes from the windshield thanks to a large cutaway in front of the helm. The full-sized refrigerator dominates the galley space but will definitely come in handy on extended cruises. Tucked under the stairs is a washer/dryer, again taking this boat far beyond dayboat capabilities. A second sitting area offers another hi-lo dinette that converts to a bed and faces a flatscreen TV mounted on a textured leather fabric that’s backlit with LED lighting.

The master stateroom in the forepeak offers a queen-sized berth and his and her wardrobes. The guest stateroom has two berths. Both staterooms have en suite heads and they share a stand-up shower that’s wrapped in a glass tile material with rounded edges and there is a waterfall-style shower head in the ceiling. Rather than cramming two small showers into the layout, Uniesse created two en suites with the shared, proper shower; it’s a smart use of space.

While this first Exuma HTC5 was built for an owner who likes to cruise, Uniesse plans to offer sportfishing and express-style open layouts with the same hull. Whichever way the boat is configured, you’ll end up with a vessel that’s laden with smart design elements yet knocks down the chop with ease.

Uniesse Exuma HTC5 Test Report


Uniesse Exuma HTC5 Specifications:

LOA: 54’7”
Beam: 15’2”
Draft: 3’10”
Displ.: 34,000 lbs. (light)
Fuel: 700 gal.
Water: 159 gal.
Power: 2/600-hp Cummins QSC 8.3; 2/725-hp Volvo IPS 950
Cruise Speed: 22 knots
Top Speed: 37 knots
Base Price: $2.2 million

Uniesse Exuma HTC5 Walk-Through