My first visit to Cruisers Yachts was in 2008, on the leading edge of the Great Recession. Few companies were tooling up for new production, but thanks to the good-old Midwestern strong work ethic and deferred gratification, Cruisers Yachts remained tough and moved forward, still designing and aggressively building beautiful and smooth-running cruisers for its customers.
Just three years earlier, Volvo Penta had introduced its pod drive, called IPS 1, along with a new line of D series diesel inboard engines. Though they were targeted to express cruisers under 40 feet, by 2008, Lazzara Yachts had incorporated four of them into one of its new yachts. The IPS 2 came next, but it was targeted to still larger vessels.
Now, eight years later, Volvo Penta introduced the D8-IPS800, the center of its full line of 11 models of IPS drives and designed for the sweet spot of 50 to 60 feet.
This new 54 Cantius was powered with dual Volvo Penta D8-IPS800s. Wait a minute — we went from 1, then 2, and now 800?
Jens Bering, the Volvo Penta applications engineer on my test, explained the new enumerations.
“IPS 1s were the originals,” he said in his Danish accent. “Then we came out with the IPS 2s. These new ones fit right in between, but we didn’t want to call them IPS 1.5s, like a firmware update, so we renumbered the series.”
At 600 hp, this new IPS800 fits nearly in the middle of the IPS 260 to 900 hp range.
With that for background, we climbed aboard the 54 Cantius on a glum, chilly day in Florida that would’ve dampened anyone’s enthusiasm for a cruise. But the salon sparkled with décor so bright, the sun was optional.
We had a narrow window to test, so we breezed past the broad swim platform and dual boarding stairs. Those offered port and starboard boarding choices to the cockpit seating just three steps above. An oak and charcoal sole, an aft lounge, a mezzanine sink to port and another seat to starboard flanked the wide entry to the salon. We stepped past the starboard buffet and couch, past the portside galley that could be opened to the cockpit by sliding open the glass doors, and past the elevated dining table of rich hardwood.
The helm boasted two large multifunction displays, an Italian helm and, naturally, IPS joystick docking and steering controls. The engines were already warming, and we nudged the 54 out of the slip with the joystick.
The first thing we noticed when jogging the stick was that the engines responded quickly. Sure, the D8 has a midposition turbocharger with dual intake ports, but that couldn’t account for the fast revving of these engines.
“They are supercharged too,” Bering says. “We get plenty of response from the turbos for normal cruising, and superchargers enhance the response to joystick controls in close quarters.”
We could hear them wind up when we jogged the stick smartly in any direction, and the big 54-footer responded as quickly as the engines did to a jog on the stick.
Offshore, we could use the joystick for driving as well. That’s an important update to the system, but one that we would find more enjoyable if the stick was located on an armrest instead of in the middle of the dash. That steady resting spot makes all the difference in the operation of the joystick — and it makes cruising with the stick more comfortable too.
At speed, the electronically controlled power steering integrated with IPS systems made skippering the 54 Cantius a dream. Electronic throttle and shift is as smooth as soft-serve ice cream and so pleasant in its consistent resistance, you can almost taste it.
IPS drives penetrate the hull farther forward than strut and shaft inboard systems, so the vessel’s thrust is closer to the center of gravity. In the 54 Cantius’ case, the result is that the boat is elevated to plane in a smooth manner without notable or awkward bow rise. And in turns, it comes around comfortably, even in aggressive turns.
The compact design of the IPS drive system adds valuable space inside the vessel. As an example, check out the size of the aft master stateroom aboard the 54 Cantius. A flat-panel TV, dual bureaus for dressing, and large, cedar-lined hanging lockers were only outdone in attractiveness by the large head with shower.
The forward stateroom proves equally inviting, and even a third stateroom is enticing.
By the time we returned to the dock, the weather had brightened. That’s when you’d want to slide the doors aside, fully opening the salon and galley to the cockpit seating. Exit was easy via the port or starboard steps to the platform or, if the dock is high, you could also step over from the cockpit to the dock.
There are any number of premium yacht builders with a 50-something, but Regal’s 53 is one we’d compare if considering the 54 Cantius for purchase. The Regal 53 can likewise be powered with the Volvo Penta D8 and IPS800s. But don’t rely solely on our word. Contact Cruisers Yachts and schedule a showing — and a sea trial — and see for yourself.