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.
The 52's accommodations resemble those of a megayacht. Its flying bridge is an alfresco salon, with 32,000-Btu air-conditioning contained by a hardtop and EZ2CY enclosure, plush seating, and a wetbar. Nestled in the aft corner, with a great view, is one of the coolest tables I've seen. This slab of faux stone tops a 3"-diameter pedestal. Lift a lid to reveal a drink cooler. The top is hinged so getting in and out is easy.
The wide swim platform has accessory cleats at its edge, so you won't have to step over crossed docklines. A clear safety-glass boarding door leads to a cockpit I taped at 85 square feet. This door, however, needs a latch to hold it open, and the bumper installed on its inboard side to prevent the door from hitting the cockpit inwale landed in the hawse hole instead. Ovation says both glitches will be fixed. The hawse holes are lined with chromed stainless to prevent chafing and fitted with massive cleats. They make for a clean, stylish dockline arrangement, breaking up a blah expanse of white fiberglass when viewing the boat in profile. Hit a switch in the cockpit entry and the lazarette opened to reveal the dinghy davit ($23,172) installed on my tester.
Step through the glass slider into the cabin. The decor is multi-textured and multi-layered. Rich in look and feel, it emanates warmth. Tabletops are burled wood and, like all the horizontal surfaces, are matte finished; vertical surfaces offer a gloss sheen. The salon carpet is plush; wide-plank cherry floors the galley sole. Drapes are pleated, blinds are mini. The sofa, chairs, and dinette lounge are upholstered in real cowhide -- the former are light tan and the latter is dark brown. This interesting mix of fabrics goes against the grain of most builders, who often use the same pattern and type for everything to save costs. But the 52 has different schemes throughout -- much as your home's living room probably isn't decorated the same way as your bedroom.
Belowdecks, the three-stateroom, two-head layout includes a full-beam master suite amidships, similar to Carver's 52 Voyager ($1,127,000 with twin 558-bhp Volvo Penta D9 diesel inboards). The headroom aboard the 52 tops 6'. Ovation made this room so high by lowering the sole to the stringer tops and raising the dinette higher than is typical, enhancing the view. It's rare to find a boat feature such as this that doesn't demand a compromise elsewhere, but Ovation's designers pulled it off.
Check out the cool blue light emanating from the edges of the cut-glass shelves -- this accent is found throughout the boat. Stateroom door panels are upholstered in leather, for style and a reduction in sound transmission. Bulkheads are upholstered in padded ostrich to the same effect. The private head is en suite and spa-like.
The forward stateroom, let's call it the VIP, is equally well done and sports private access to the day head. Even the guest stateroom off the passageway to port, with its trim double, is posh. Let's call this one the crew's quarters. After all, boats such as the 52 are all about the high life.
EXTRA POINT: The outboard edges of the steps and the swim platform have a slight ridge, or lip, for added safety.