You heard it here first: IPS isn't just for express cruisers. My test of Ovation's 52 proved that tractor drives and flying bridge boats go together like caviar and vodka. Aboard the Ovation 52, which sports the widest beam in its class, a trio of IPS 600s delivered quick planing, 27-mph cruising, and a full throttle speed of 32 mph. Economy never dips below 0.5 mpg. But it never felt precarious, even when I executed turns in which the apex occurred while in the trough. The 52 carves around and leans, then smoothly comes upright when you straighten the wheel.
Luxury aboard is rich, from details such as accent lighting that seems to make the deckhouse glow from within to a cabin layout and decor that proudly boast the hand of a professional interior designer. And although my choppy Atlantic sea trial proved that not everything's biscuits and gravy (the latch securing the forward stateroom's swing-out TV couldn't hold it while running in waves), it also proved what other manufacturers have been optimistically claiming for years: Express cruiser performance can be coupled to the living space of a sedan.
Let's Go Below
I'm often tougher on a boat from a new company than I am on boats from established brands. So I dug right in, pulling open cabinets, tearing up deck hatches, and, flashlight in teeth, worming my way into every nook of the 52's bilge crannies. I liked this boat right away. I wasn't hindered seeking access to installed equipment. Looking more closely, I discovered that Ovation practices a disciplined program of bonding, chafe protection, and robust support of wires and plumbing. Sight tubes, the only truly accurate tank level gauges, and isolation transformers, which inhibit shorepower-induced corrosion per ABYC standards, are just two of the above-the-norm rigging details I found. Another was the dedicated battery rack. This compact two-shelf unit stows the batteries so that service is convenient. This is located in a separate "equipment room" along with the genset. I wasn't happy to find some standing water in several of the stringer bays (the compartments formed by the intersection of bulkheads and longitudinals). These need limber holes for drainage. Ovation said that my tester, Hull Number One, was rushed to make the show circuit and that the holes would be drilled in production. As an aside, every boat more than 50' I've tested in recent months has had some casual water standing in the bilge. True, there's no such thing as a bone-dry bilge, but why add to an already corrosive and mildew-prone environment when the fix is so simple?
As for the engine installations, there are three. Access around and between them is good. If you're thinking higher-horsepower twins might be substituted, Volvo Penta's 9-cylinder IPS 850s, for example, don't work as well. They're heavier than the three IPS 600s and longer. Plus, the third propset provides 33 percent more blade area than twins, so triples carry the boat more efficiently and with a more authoritative feel. You run this sedan, instead of riding it.