Some boat captains are watching the proliferation of Volvo Penta's IPS with keen interest -- mixed with a little animosity. Before panic-proof, joystick-simple docking was introduced, their employment was practically guaranteed. That's because many folks who bought a 60', 22-ton cruiser, such as the Tiara 5800 Sovran, didn't want to dock it themselves. In truth, a captain does more than drive. He coordinates maintenance, makes slip reservations, runs the boat to a destination you can fly into, keeps the boat clean, stocks the larder, tunes up the dinghy's outboard, knows where to fish, and so on. But docking is a public demonstration of skill, so some captains are getting nervous about IPS, which lets anyone handle a big boat with aplomb.
Hey, they have a point. I got the pleasure of driving an IPS-equipped 5800 Sovran. Besides delivering a fun feel, low noise levels, high efficiency, and, yes, dead-simple docking, IPS increases accommodation space. For confirmation, glance belowdecks. Then take the wheel and send another captain to the unemployment line.
Bigger, Better, More.
Volvo Penta offers IPS 850, a D11 engine rated at 670 bhp, which would allow for two engines aboard the 5800 Sovran to net the same 1,300 bhp as the triple 435-bhp D6 IPS 600s. But by using the shorter, lighter IPS 600s, Tiara saved 11" and 1,000 pounds per engine. Plus, triple IPS 600s provide a better horsepower-to-weight ratio and leave more space for accommodations than the two IPS 850s do.
I know, I know. I can hear the chorus: "Three motors? That engine room must be more cramped than a tanning bed." Well, take a look: You can easily walk between and around the 5800 Sovran's engines. The 5800 Sovran's serviceability is so good, in fact, that when combined with the IPS Electronic Vessel Control, which displays mechanical problems at the helm in plain text, another primary need for a captain begins to dissolve. (Sorry, buds.) In fact, Tiara encourages owner access. Proof is the huge stowage platform forward. Here's a spot where you could keep a few kayaks, deck chairs, a deflated rib, and enough tools and spares, including props, that your boat can get serviced regardless of your destination. As an aside, IPS propsets aren't so heavy that a man with a snorkel couldn't change them single-handed.
Besides the large engine room, I was impressed by 5800 Sovran's rigging. Two big blowers, though not required on diesel-powered boats, will keep the engine room cooler, which will subsequently keep the cabin cooler. Wiring support and equipment labeling are superlative. However, I'd like to see the bilge pump lowered. Several inches of water stood in my tester's bilge.
Take Your Living Room for a Spin
Take a look inside the salon. Huge windows, a windshield, and twin glass sliding doors provide rivers of light. Yet the 5800 Sovran's tastefully muted fabrics, furnishings, and fixtures make it cozy and welcoming. For example, broad daylight emphasized the grain of the 2¼"-wide, tongue-and-groove teak sole. Draw the curtains and lower the blind, and parchment-shaded directional sconces highlight its color. A pair of movable mahogany club chairs and an L-shaped settee provide the casually formal seating you need when you invite a business associate aboard.
The helm deck is forward and up two steps -- part of the salon, yet distinct. To port is a generous console housing a drawer fridge and the boat's audio equipment. To starboard is a helm station from which cruising along the Inside Passage to Alaska would be a joy. (Surely, a glacier would calve at a blast from the two Kahlenberg air horns.) Teak-topped, with tongue-and-groove footrests and a leather wheel, the helm console is big, beautiful, and artfully arranged. The joystick, tab controls, and ignition switches reside beneath a teak hatch. Tank levels are checked, wipers set to wiping, and sunroof or electric windows slid open via the touchscreen controls Tiara builds in-house. Electrical systems readouts are digital.
Sit in one of two monstrous, electrically adjustable leather helm chairs. The view would be panoramic but for a mullion abaft the helm. No doubt a wiring chase, it impedes visibility aft. The ride has to be experienced. The 5800 Sovran levitates onto plane in an arc so fair, and with such smooth delivery of thrust, that it's like flying in an airliner. Combining an enclosed helm with the underwater exhaust and low vibration of IPS converts the cacophony of diesel power into the sound of bricks dropped on a pillow.
If you're used to big boats, you may be surprised at the alacrity with which the 5800 Sovran responds to input at the wheel. Docking was a cinch in the Shinnecock Canal's notorious current. A second joystick, your cockpit wing station, provides extra flexibility.
All This and Heaven Too
Head to the lower deck through the galley. The galley's location beneath the windshield makes it an atrium. Down three more steps and you're in the dining area, where six can sit in leather comfort. I'd watch the game on the flat-panel TV here, maybe play cards with a few buds, while the crew viewed the salon's giant jack-in-the-box screen.
Or maybe I'd root for my team from a stateroom. The forward one has 7' of headroom and access to the day head with its tile floor, book-matched cabinetry, and stall shower. The master stateroom, the only carpeted area aboard my test boat, features a king berth, easy chair, and fixed hull window. You'll luxuriate in the master head, whether admiring the 4" tile, sitting on the slatted teak shower seat, or looking at the image smiling back at you from the tripanel vanity mirror.
Shopping? Check out Sea Ray's 55 Sundancer ($1.56 million with twin MAN 800 diesel inboards) and Cruisers Yachts' 520 Sports Coupe ($1.27 million powered like my test boat).
EXTRA POINT: Solenoid-controlled battery switches are turned on via remote switches near the helm.