A test of the Navetta 48 and a tour of the factory shows a group of journalists from around the world the one thing we all have in common.
We tear through mile after mile of well-manicured farmland and fields. We’re more than 70 miles from the sea as we pass a mountain of hay. That’s the last straw. I pull out my phone to check our location on Google Maps. Amazingly, it says we’re still headed in the right direction—and only a few miles from the Absolute Yachts factory in Podenzano, Italy.
My colleague, Elena, and I join a contingent of 30-plus editors from around the world who have descended upon the sprawling corporate park in the middle of farm country to meet the newest member of the Absolute family, the Navetta 48. A litany of accents, cultures and customs are blended together as we take our seats in elementary school-sized desks for an obligatory press conference. I’ll give you the SparkNotes: In the last seven years the builder with 250 employees has launched 19 completely new yachts, five restyled models and many more refreshed models. That ambitious new build schedule is something they hope to maintain and even ramp up in the next couple years.
It’s always interesting to get a yard tour from a major yacht manufacturer. (When purchasing a yacht of this caliber, I strongly recommend making the investment to see the yard where the boat you’re considering is built. You’ll gain invaluable insight and—hopefully—peace of mind.) We’re handed nametags and lanyards as we depart for the recently expanded, 624,000 square foot facility. They swing back and forth around our necks as we walk from one building to another. Underneath our names is the flag of our country of origin. With the men’s World Cup in full swing at the time, it was nice to see the U.S. represented at the Absolute facility, if not on the soccer field (we didn’t qualify). I didn’t have long to hum the national anthem; our schedule was tight and there was a lot to see. I noted that the company offers staff bicycles, so the technical team can quickly get from building to building—it’s that massive.
Every year Absolute, like most companies, comes out with a marketing slogan for their model line. This year’s is simple and self-explanatory: Space and Light. That brief is delivered in spades on the Navetta 48, but the slogan could just as easily be referring to Absolute’s facility. It is the brightest, most welcoming yard I’ve visited.
Gallery: Absolute Navetta 48
There’s something different about this factory that I can’t put my finger on at first. I realize it’s not a difference you can see, but rather one you can—or can’t—smell. The company invested millions in a ventilation system that removes any trace of that epoxy/sawdust odor you usually expect on yacht facility tours.
The build process for their yachts reflects the company’s forward-thinking ethos. They utilize what they call an ISS (Integrated Structural System), which is essentially a structural grid built into the fiberglass hull that interestingly enough is hand-laid, not infused. “We dispute that infusion is more efficient. For us, hand-laid is the better choice,” said Cesare Mastroianni, president of Absolute Americas. The entire bulkhead system on the boat is assembled and glassed into a grid, resulting in a boat that’s exceptionally strong, and because of that, exceptionally quiet.
The topside is then secured and the boat is ready to go. Well, almost. The final step in the build process is an Olympic-sized pool—here I go humming the national anthem again. Taking a bath during our tour was a 52 Fly. Each model will end up in the pool for two to four days where everything from the engines to the air conditioners are tested. Overall, I was told more than 1,000 inspections are made during the test pool phase.
Now for the painful part. Absolute then takes this stunning yacht and re-splits her in two. The hull and bulkheads get loaded onto one truck and the topsides onto another as they make their journey to the seaside facility where they’re joined for a final time. It sounds like a messy job but in Absolute fashion they have it down to a smooth science. Still, it’s a big job for 250 people, which is why they’ve enlisted the help of robots—yes, robots—to handle some of the heavy lifting.
“Next we’re going to head over to the warehouse,” said Mastroianni through a microphone that was relayed into our headsets. I excepted this to be one of the more mundane aspects of the yard, but boy was I wrong. A large machine, from a company called Mahros, uses suction to lift a variety of sheets of wood, from marine plywood to cored bulkheads, into the air and runs it through a CNC machine. At night, when the human employees head home for the day, the robot is busy working away and assembling various bulkhead kits for the employees to put together in the morning like a giant jigsaw puzzle. But unlike a puzzle there’s no guesswork required. The robot helps with that too, by labeling each piece with a barcode that tells the workers exactly where they should go.
There are a number of other human-controlled robots around the facility that lift and move heavy objects, as well as a 3D printer that sculpts miniature models. The combination of time-honored craftsmanship and industry-leading robotics was a sight to behold. The press corps spoke French, German, Russian, Italian and Chinese, but watching the expressions on their faces revealed a universal reaction. We were impressed.
Early the next morning the cohort of journalists—some exhausted from celebrating the World Cup semi-finals—loaded onto coach buses bound for the seaside village of Varazze. It was a long, meandering ride to the sea, but it was worth it. The enclave of the harbor is lined by cafés, shops and all sorts of restaurants. If it wasn’t so early in the morning, it seemed like the kind of place where celebrities would go to be seen.
Our celebrity needed no introduction. The Navetta 48 easily accommodated a crew of 10, though I’ll admit, the number of people speaking different languages made for an interesting test. I had to sidestep an Italian journalist who was measuring every aspect of the yacht like a professionally trained tailor. He moved with ease as he measured the depth, width and length of the sink, giving a quick nod of approval before moving on to the drawers.
A Chinese journalist was hanging on to a beefy cockpit handrail with white knuckles. Seasickness happens, but I’ve never seen it before leaving the dock. An Eastern European journalist seemed as if he wouldn’t be satisfied unless he got to test his physical prowess on every door, switch and control he could get his hands on.
The melee seemed to calm down as the seas kicked up. The 48 found her way to open water and nice 3- to 6-foot rollers. Taking the helm, I brought the boat onto plane at a surprisingly modest 11 knots; this proven semi-displacement hull of the Navetta line was ready to shine. She tracked like an arrow and hit a respectable 27 knots thanks to a pair of Volvo Penta IPS600s. Really, what sets this boat apart is how comfortable and sturdy she feels through the rpm range. Running fast is always fun, but when you’re trying to keep tabs on the other guests aboard, bringing her down to 12 knots and staying on plane was a pleasant option. I reluctantly handed the helm over to my Eastern European compatriot and took to touring the rest of the boat before he decided to show us how tough he was again, this time by pushing the pins all the way down.
The star of the accommodations was the forward master with a cantilevered king berth and a pair of windows that allow light to pour in. Space and light—I think they’ve hit the mark on this year’s slogan. Windows in the side-by-side VIP and guest stateroom were generous too. The single crew quarter aft, not so much. Americans will likely only use it for storage. One thing I really liked in the salon was the AC vents hidden in the ceiling. “Air is never blasting on your skin. The boat is evenly cooled throughout,” said Mastroianni. That’s a cool detail. I enjoyed visiting Absolute’s high-tech factory and getting to spend time aboard its newest model. But if I’m honest, what I found most interesting was how all the journalists interacted during the event. Here was a group with countless differences: age, language, culture, religion—indeed, we were a strange sight and garnered stares everywhere we went. Then something remarkable happened. Those differences seemed to melt away under the Mediterranean sun and what we had in common rose to the surface: a love for boats and being on the water. Despite language barriers, the group finally settled in, and through hand gestures and expressions, communicated universal truths about the boat we were there to test.
I couldn’t help but wonder what the world would be like if we could talk through our differences on a boat ride.
Absolute Navetta 48 Layout Diagrams
Test Conditions: Temperature: 70°F
Load: full tank fuel, 10 people on board.
Absolute Navetta 48 — Final Boat Test Numbers:
Speeds are a two-way average recorded by a Raymarine multifunction display. GPH taken via Volvo Penta engine display. Sound levels measured at the helm. 65 dB(A) is the level of normal conversation. Range is based on 90% of advertised fuel capacity.
Absolute Navetta 48 Specifications:
Fuel: 475 gal.
Water: 140 gal.
Standard Power: 2/Volvo Penta IPS 600 - D6 - 435
Cruising Speed: 20 knots
Maximum Speed: 27 knots