You like to cruise with friends -- lots of friends. It's admirable that you want to share what you have, but on boats shorter than 60', accommodations are often a challenge. If you invite two couples, one ends up sleeping in a cabin with only two single berths. Or your kids want to bring along friends for a weekend, but they're different sexes and can't share a berth.
Azimut's 58 Flybridge solves the dilemma with convertible berths in two of the three staterooms. The aft master quarters has a queen berth, but in each of the forward cabins, the berths slide to form either two single bunks or a large double. Opt for the stern crew quarters ($30,100) and the convertible salon sofa ($6,500) and you have a 58' boat that sleeps up to nine.
You can match those numbers with the Sea Ray 58 Sedan Bridge ($1,839,663 with twin MAN 900s) and with the Sunseeker Manhattan 52 ($1,068,000 powered like my test boat), but neither has the versatility provided by the 58 Flybridge's convertible berths. Both competitive boats measure more than 57'5" down the centerline.
But it's not just the accommodations that make the 58 Flybridge so appealing. There's abundant stowage, outstanding service access, smart flying bridge design, and most important, solid performance. In the decade that I've been testing Azimuts, the company has consistently improved the quality and fit and finish of its boats. The manufacturer has shed the image of being an inexpensive Italian boat.
When I step aboard a new boat the first thing I do is check out the engine compartment. Azimut did away with a lazarette and made a big area that's much easier to move about in. The twin MAN diesels were installed on a rugged-looking welded aluminum frame that bolts down to tapped plates in the molded stringers. Removable hatches provide easy access to strainers for the motors, air conditioning, and genset. The MAN electronic control boxes are on the forward bulkhead, but there needs to be more space between the front of the engines and the boxes. I could barely get my fist in there. Azimut smartly laid out the outboard sections of the compartment with all the climate-controlling accessories such as the air-conditioning system and water heater to starboard and the genset and electrical items to port.
After closing the large engine hatch, I relaxed on the aft lounge in the wide open cockpit. To enter the crew quarters, raise the locking bottom cushion. I was impressed with the number of removable hatches that provide access to the steering system, hydraulic manifolds, battery charger, and everything else near the transom. But I wish the hatches weren't hinged -- it would be easier to perform maintenance if they could be removed.
There are two points of entry for the cockpit: to port is the conventional entryway with a gate, and two steps up to starboard sits an elevated pad on which a gangway would be mounted. Heading forward, I liked the wide feel of the bow. It should be easy to work with the anchor or mooring lines.
After I ascended the stairs to the flying bridge, I found a welcome feature -- a steering wheel that's positioned so that a passenger can actually sit next to the skipper while he's driving. Finally. On so many boats, the wheel is placed dead-center so there might only be room for my five-year-old daughter to sit next to me. On the 58 Flybridge, the wheel is to port so my wife could fit alongside. I also loved the glare-killing tinted ½"-thick acrylic shade over the upper instrument panel. This is a smart alternative to painting the area a darker color to reduce glare because it's easier for Azimut to install the shade and it won't fade in direct sunlight like paint would. The instruments are all well positioned, except for the trim gauge and buttons, which force you to reach around the wheel to access them, and peak through its spokes to see them. A large panel opens to provide a good-sized crawl-in access to the upper helm rigging, which unfortunately wasn't rigged cleanly. Tracing a problem won't be easy.
Driving the boat, however, will be a dream. I ran the boat on a cruddy, wind-blown day, and the 58 Flybridge acquitted itself quite well. The solid-glass-constructed hull took on the waves and felt strong as we busted through them. Its 15.5-degree V-bottom design isn't as sharp as some, but its flatter bottom lets the boat get the most out of the twin 800-bhp engines. I ran 35.7 mph.
The versatility continues on the lounge, which stretches along the entire length of the starboard side of the bridge. There's room for at least four adults, and the backrest is adjustable so you can stretch out facing forward or aft. The wetbar on the backside of the helm seat includes a drop-in cooler, sink, optional cooktop ($3,600), and icemaker.
Although many builders follow the trend of designing the salon/lower helm deck on a single-level sole, Azimut has created two distinct areas: an aft lower salon, and a forward raised section that's home to the galley, dinette, and helm. The driver's station on that raised helm is well laid out, and the bronze and brown colors on the panel eliminate glare. I found the adjustable helm seat comfortable and it provided good sightlines. Also the position of the trim tab buttons and indicators was much better here.
In the salon there's a big lounge that wraps around to port and to starboard is a small pullout sofa that will sleep two. Everyone has a great view of the large flat-screen TV that's part of the entertainment center at the forward edge of the portside lounge. While it's an option in Europe, the TV package comes standard on U.S. boats.
Forward and up a step is the dinette to starboard with a portside galley. It's always good to find a 6'-long countertop that provides plenty area for food prep. The freezer drawer is smart because it allows for a bigger refrigerator in the same space. And after a good meal, you can either slide together the berths in the forward and amidships cabins and get into bed with your significant other or split them to keep your cousin's cooties away from you.
MSRP: Standard power - $2,050,000 Test power - $2,050,000
Contact: 954.618.0440 www.azimutyachts.com