A Brazilian builder, Italian designer, and American distributor collaborate to create the Okean 50.
Introducing an unknown, foreign-built boat brand to the U.S. market takes moxie due to the dominance currently enjoyed by the established American and European builders. But judging by the many double takes the Okean 50 Flybridge Motor Yacht received from people at the 2017 Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show in November—and the fact that the model on display was sold on the third day of the show—this new brand from Brazil might have the “curb appeal” to pull it off.
HMY Yachts, the exclusive distributor for the Okean brand in North America, the Caribbean, and Latin America (north of Panama), displayed the Okean 50 at the show with its side balconies fully extended and its aft sliding glass doors and window wide open. This expanded the boat’s beam by 6 feet to 20 feet 7 inches, creating a huge indoor/outdoor space for entertaining, relaxing, and connecting with the elements. We’ve seen boats that open up like Swiss Army knives before, of course, but at nearly 50 feet in length this is one of the larger models with these features. And a new Okean 80 is currently under construction in Brazil.
The story of how the Okean brand was born illustrates how small the global yachting industry has become. A few years ago, Brazilian boat builder Nercio Fernandez, whose shipyard is located in Guarujá in the state of São Paulo, was introduced by his sister to Italian yacht designer Paolo Ferragni, whose portfolio includes models for Baia and Aguz Marine. The new Okean Motor Yacht series is the result of the international collaboration between Fernandez and Ferragni.
Gallery: Okean 50
While the Okean 50’s design reflects contemporary Italian styling, it’s influenced by an open-air lifestyle that’s favored in Brazil. For example, the galley is located in the main deck’s port aft corner where it’s just as convenient to serve the aft-deck dining area as it is the salon.
“Brazilians love their food; they love to entertain,” Fernandez said. “Brazilians are extremely family-oriented.”
Fernandez is marketing the Okean line in Brazil and Europe but says, “The U.S. is our priority.” That’s where HMY comes in. “A new brand is a new brand, but HMY gave us the ability to be here,” Fernandez added at the Ft. Lauderdale boat show.
HMY brings to the table not only 36 years of experience selling boats to U.S. yachtsmen, but also a full-service network with 10 locations and mobile technicians. Okean’s builder provides the warranty on its boats, but HMY stands behind it. This should help to raise U.S. consumer confidence in the brand.
HMY’s Okean Brand Manager Arthur Grin flew to Brazil last winter to do a full evaluation of an early Okean 50. This included sleeping and showering on board. Convinced of its comfort and construction quality (the boat is laid up utilizing carbon fiber and closed-cell PVC core via resin-infusion), he reported his favorable findings to HMY, which officially committed to Okean in February 2017. “When we decided all things lined up—we liked the design; we liked the fit and finish—we decided to go for it,” Grin said.
Then, the Americanization of the Okean line began. “We made a lot of changes,” Grin said. For example, “all the components and appliances are American [or are available in the U.S.].” He added that the family run shipyard has been very easy to work with. “The brand is new, but the [shipyard] has been building boats for a long time in Brazil. There are around 60 people, some of whom have 30 years of experience,” he explained. “I love the people. They are fair; they listen to me and I listen to them.”
Ferragni designed a semi-displacement hull for the Okean 50 that delivers what the manufacturer calls “Duo Mode” performance—excellent fuel efficiency, especially in full-displacement mode, combined with a speed of up to 25 knots. My sea trial of the boat on the ICW south of Ft. Lauderdale proved that it has a smooth and stable ride even with the optional Seakeeper switched off.
Running the Okean 50 north and south along the waterway, I recorded a cruising speed (on plane) of 19.5 knots at 3000 rpm. Its Volvo IPS600 pod drive system allowed the boat to manuver in and out of its slip with fingertip control.
Since it was raining during our sea trial, we operated the Okean 50 from the lower helm station, which makes for a very pleasurable driving experience. Thanks to the boat’s wraparound windshield, large windows, and sliding glass doors, the driver has 360-degree visibility around the boat. Companions can sit nearby on the L-shaped salon settee. The carbon-fiber helm station features a “glass cockpit” with two monitors that incorporate both the Garmin navigation suite and ship management system. C-Zone digital switching with iPad control is standard.
Interestingly, the boat’s electrical panel is flush-mounted on top of a cabinet to port of the helm. This positioning makes it easy to see and use the panel without having to crouch down or go to some other part of the boat.
Even when the boat is running with its side balconies folded up and locked in place and the glass sliders closed, the main deck feels spacious, open and airy. It is not a one-level deck—the galley is a step below the salon/bridge area—but it’s easy to navigate. The galley is fully equipped with appliances, but they are all mounted at or under counter height so they don’t impede the view. Storage space also is maximized here.
The interior décor throughout the Okean 50 is casual but elegant, with rich wood and leather accents. A spiral staircase leads down to the lower deck, which is comprised of three staterooms and two heads.
This brings me to customization: While the Okean 50 is a production model, Grin says the shipyard will work with customers to personalize their individual boat’s décor and soft goods. The owner who purchased the boat on display at the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show thought it was perfect just the way it was.
“He looked at our competition. He came on board for several hours,” Grin said. “I told him we can order one, [customize] it and so forth. He said, ‘No. I want this one.’”
The boat’s exterior real estate is impressive. In addition to the two large balconies, the main deck has other exterior gathering spots. There’s a huge double sunpad on the foredeck. In the stern, in addition to the aft-deck dining area, is a mini version of a superyacht’s beach club. There’s a grill and sink at the transom, as well as a lazarette with a small settee inside. The position of the engine room housing the Volvo IPS units makes the roomy lazarette possible. “There’s great storage for bikes, paddleboards, etc.,” said Grin.
The flybridge, which is equipped with a full upper helm, offers a large wraparound seating area, fold-out dining table and optional wet bar with sink and refrigerator. The dinghy is carried on the swim platform, which leaves more room for entertaining and sunning aloft. The stairs to the flybridge are wide and angled for ergonomic comfort.
The Okean shipyard has the capacity to build one 50 Flybridge every four months, so the delivery time for a new one will be relatively quick. For those in the market for a larger model, the new Okean 80 Motor Yacht is scheduled to be completed in late summer 2018. That model, which shares the 50-footer’s design DNA, offers more opportunities for customization. Its target top speed is 26 knots.
A new Okean 53 Express Cruiser, which will be more of a day boat, is in construction for a 2019 debut, and there are rumors of another model in development.
“This builder is focused on export. But he knows that if you export to the United States, there’s no room for error,” Grin said. “If you put a boat in the Ft. Lauderdale boat show, you’ve got to get it right.”
Judging by its reception, the Okean 50 hit one out of the park.
Okean 50 Layout Diagrams
Test Conditions: Air temperature: 85°F; seas: calm; wind: 4-8 knots.
Load: 4 persons.
Okean 50 — Final Boat Test Numbers:
Speeds are two-way averages measured w/GPS. GPH taken via Volvo Penta display. Range is based on 90% of advertised fuel capacity.
DISPL.: 42,600 lb.
FUEL: 422 gal.
WATER: 185 gal.
TEST POWER: 2/435-hp Volvo Penta IPS600
OPTIONAL POWER: 2/425-hp Cummins V-Drive QSB6.7
BASE PRICE: $1,144,500
PRICE AS TESTED: $1,394.000