Six decades of boatbuilding experience and a wanderlust for far-flung harbors defines the Taiwanese builder’s flagship.
Tony Fleming cut his teeth as a technical engineer for American Marine, then in its infancy as a company, helping to both launch their series of trawler yachts and getting their Singapore facility up and running. Coupling his firsthand experience with his own designs for an all-new pilothouse, he founded Fleming Yachts in 1985. Today, it’s still located at the same Tung Hwa yard in Taiwan where the fledgling company got its start. The eponymous builder’s yachts are distributed by a global network of sales and service providers, continuing the vision of its founder, who has more than 60 years of boatbuilding experience beneath his keel.
The Fleming 78 Classic breaks new ground augmenting its well-regarded salty and shippy styling with an appealing low-profile, functional and inviting flybridge, which magnifies the vessel’s comfort, space and utility. Like all Flemings, the yacht takes full advantage of the accommodations and performance of the original 78 launched in 2010, a strong performer in its own right and a hallmark of the builder’s sterling reputation.
Gallery: Fleming 78 Classic
Getting aboard the 78 Classic in Stuart, Florida, with A.J. Longmaid, the director of operations at Burr Yacht Sales South, the first thing I noticed was the convenience and safety of boarding through two inward-opening bulwark gates, one on each side, and the wide gate on the transom platform. It obviates the need for a step box when boarding from a fixed or floating dock, and traversing from a launch is a no-brainer. Toe-stub-free, teak-planked side decks are 23 inches wide and the height of the bulwarks ranges from 30 to 38 inches. There’s no disputing it: The 78 Classic is an oceangoing rig.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the safety features. The polished deck hardware including 22, 14-inch stainless steel cleats, 12 hawse pipes, 100 yards of stainless steel railing, a pair of stern windlasses and twin anchor windlasses clearly show the 78 was built by people who have faced strong seas. Walking anywhere on deck, you are never more than an arm’s length away from something solid and secure.
Open the salon doors and be ready to be impressed by book-matched teak joinery. According to Longmaid, Fleming averages 15 new boats a year. This pace, honed by many of its shipwrights and craftsmen that have been with the company since its inception, not only allows much of the interior to be built in place (instead of modular units assembled on the shop floor) but also creates a remarkable flow of virtually seamless grain and texture throughout the yacht. The salon layout, while not breaking any new design ground, has a comfortable L-shaped lounge and chairs that combine to create comfortable social areas.
Five steps up on centerline is the all-weather pilothouse, outfitted with a Stidd helm seat and a Furuno arm rest autopilot control, an L-shaped teak settee to port and a day head to starboard. A raised dash accommodates navigation and communication electronics—with more instrumentation in the eyebrow—all installed by Burr Yacht Sales. Boning color touch screen instrumentation monitors the corral below (twin MAN 1,550-hp diesels), as well as fluid levels, myriad ship and hydraulic systems and security status via closed circuit cameras throughout the yacht. Drawers and shelving provide convenient storage for charts, manuals and other gear. The DC electrical distribution panel is to port; the AC system panel is starboard. Port and starboard doors lead out to the Portuguese bridge with gates accessing the foredeck.
A staircase to starboard leads below to a lobby area and the lower accommodations of three staterooms, each with a large, en suite head. Aboard our test boat, there was access to the full-beam master from the salon. Two crew cabins and a head and shower are aft, abaft the engine room with a private entrance from the port side deck.
Bonus Gallery: The Details
Every item and detail aboard this yacht mirrors the builder’s commitment to safe, comfortable long-range cruising. The alternative flybridge deck arrangement propels this philosophy to yet another level. The extended deck with its practical and secure molded nonslip sole enables the CT 2500 Steelhead Marine crane to launch the tender to port, starboard or aft—a tremendous convenience wherever the yacht is docked or anchored. The extra bridge length also provides better protection from sun and weather for enjoying the California aft deck below.
Consider the performance. During our test run on the North Fork of the St. Lucie River, we were able to cruise at a top end of about 23 knots. This was thanks in part to the bulbous bow, which cuts down on resistance, and the added waterline length beneath the swim step, which provides more lift astern. At 2100 rpm, those MANs turned in a solid 20-knot cruise. On the open bridge, safely ensconced behind the windscreen, I recorded 75 dB(A). The loudest racket was the water sliding past the hull.
The hull is solid fiberglass reinforced with an interlocking frame and stringer system. Additional reinforcement is implanted in critical areas including the stem, the chines, the stabilizers, the keel and in forward sections ahead of the yacht’s collision bulkhead. A stainless steel shoe protects the full-length keel, and where the keel joins the hull, its top is sealed. This will isolate any trauma from the hull in the event of a collision. The Sea Torque shaft system utilizes a thrust assembly that transfers power from the propeller to the hull so soft mounts can be used while minimizing vibration.
Mechanically, the 78 Classic has been built with gearheads in mind. For me, taking a trip down to the clean and purposefully laid out engine room was like going to Disneyland. There is 6 feet of headroom between the engines, and the outboard sides have mirrors to see what’s going on at a glance. Sight tubes for fuel levels are easily visible and hydraulic, plumbing and electrical systems, through-hull and raw-water strainers are well marked. There are quick disconnect fittings for oil changing with redundant pumps, stainless steel overhead grab rails and nowhere to bang your head or rip open fingers with poorly or carelessly installed equipment.
Fleming Yachts clearly appeal to experienced yachtsmen. Our test boat was the second Fleming for the owner, who moved up from a 65. A lifelong boater, he started early and worked his way up with center consoles, cruising and racing sloops. He was in search of a boat he could cruise with his family up and down the East Coast, and also serve him while down in Florida during the winter.
“Our first Fleming 65 met those needs very well. When I became convinced that the 78 could be handled as easily, we ordered our 78. The boat has been wonderful,” he told me. “Two people can run it anywhere. Maybe because of my sailing past, I enjoy going long distances not hearing the engines or feeling any vibrations whether I’m in the pilothouse or on the flybridge. What I hadn’t fully appreciated was the extra weight on the way the boat rides in a sea. The longer waterline and hull shape make the boat meaningfully more efficient in the 10- to 12-knot cruising range than the 65, which was also impressive.”
Impressive is an apt word to describe the 78 Classic, since it comes passionately equipped thanks to Tony Fleming and his team of master builders. From its destroyer steering wheels to the active fin stabilizers, it’s hard not to sense this masterful approach when you’re offshore, a lone boat in a massive sea.
Fleming 78 Classic Specifications:
Fuel: 3,000 gal.
Water: 440 gal.
Displ.: 197,800 lbs.
Power: 2/1550-hp MAN V12 1550 CRM
Price: Upon Request