Novatec 55: Big Love

Novatec's 55 Cockpit Motor Yacht is a true liveaboard.

The new 55 Cockpit Motor Yacht from Novatec is one of the quicker boats in its class, topping out at 29.6 mph at 2400 rpm and netting a brisk 26.8 mph cruise at 2100. It compares well with Bayliner's 5788 ($926,995 with twin 602-bhp MAN diesel inboards), which posted 29.2 mph at WOT and cruised at 26.2 mph. Most other competitive models claim slower speeds, such as Ocean Alexander's 548 ($1,093,561 with twin 660-hp CATs), which reportedly hits 25.3 mph wide open and cruises at 23 mph. Since the 548 displaces five more tons than either the Novatec or the Bayliner, I'm not surprised.

But top-end performance confuses many boat buyers. Yes, speed is important, but not because an extra 3 mph might help you beat out a storm. Rather, speed is important because it may indicate a much more fundamental priority: midrange acceleration. If a boat is responsive and powerful at midrange, you can handle it in big seas with confidence. It was during this phase of the test, while I used BOATING Magazine's computer-driven radar gun and software from Stalker, that the 55 CMY's speed shined as a useful attribute. ****

HOME, HOME ON THE MIDRANGE. Push the throttles forward from 16 mph and you'll make 25 mph in just 7.11 seconds, which is 1.4 seconds (or 16 percent) faster than the Bayliner. That's the kind of response you need to stay ahead of things running downsea or through the inlets.

Now throttle back. When you reach 1640 rpm (16 mph), hand off the helm, walk aft, and check out your wake. See that V-shaped whitewater wash just aft of the transom? That's your chine wash - and you're still on plane! Unless conditions are extraordinarily rough, you won't have to drop into displacement mode and slug it out when running upsea. Credit the 55 CMY's ability to carry its full beam aft to the transom for creating the lift that makes this possible. The 10-degree chine reversal keeps the optional windshield ($9,500) dry. My advice about the windshield? Although I wish it were standard, buy it. A windshield sure beats canvas on a rainy day. Running in a crosswind, we took some spray aft, but the aft deck's standard Strataglass enclosure and wing doors didn't let in a drop. You'll be able to tell your guests to keep their seats.

Steering? From hardover, the Novatec's helm feels a bit heavy, which is no surprise when you consider that it features oversize rudders and hydraulic, rather than power, steering. If you're a buyer who feels electricity and water don't mix, you'll applaud this choice. A hydraulic steering system isn't vulnerable to electrical glitches. Which means that onboard the 55 CMY, you're the pump. Using 1/2"-diameter lines instead of the more common 1/4" size, this system produces reliable turns, lock-to-lock, through 95 percent of the wheel's rotation. And thanks to the 55 CMY's big rudders, big props, and CAT engines, which can be placed in slow-speed mode at the touch of a button (reducing idle in gear from 675 to 550 rpm), you won't need to use the wheel much around the dock. There's plenty of torque available. Just back and steer with the shifters. To get this much control, turning yourself into a human pump is a fair price to pay in my book.

THE HIGHS: Kiss your home office goodbye: There's one onboard! The systems aboard this ship are so inventive they should have named it The MacGuyver-Craft.****

THE LOWS: Access to the engine room is clumsy unless you have $35K to spare. Wires and cables need chafe protection where they enter the helm.

LIVING WITH IT. Innovations abound aboard the 55 CMY. Do you enjoy drifting off to the gentle slap of wavelets caressing your hull? On many competitive boats, the air condi tioning's discharge stream is released about a foot above the waterline, drowning out the sounds of silence you crave. The discharge from the 55 CMY's a/c system is plumbed into the exhaust and quietly exits the hull directly into the water, leaving no thing behind but a soothing lullaby. The a/c is durable, too. A pool pump with a bronze impeller replaces the more common nitrite impeller pump. Your service rep may as well audition for the part of the Maytag repairman on TV.

With a clear plastic rain guard installed at the exit end of each deck gutter, rain and dew drip into the water instead of down the hullsides. Bye-bye, black streaks. Have you ever wondered how much fuel your boat is carrying? Sight gauges are installed aboard all three tanks, which are coated with epoxy to fight corrosion. Also, both motors draw fuel from wing tanks and return fuel to the aft tank. Why? This allows hot, unburned fuel to cool without raising the temperature of the supply tanks. It increases efficiency and power. The dripless shaft and rudder seals are plumbed to a continuous loop of water from both engines. If one engine shuts down, you won't burn out a seal. See those clear-coated seacocks? No more green patina. There's even a paper towel rack mounted in the engine room.

But no boat is perfect. Access into the engine room through flip-up passageway steps is tight. If you don't like it, Novatec says it will stretch the boat 2', making it a 57, and design a passage into the engine room from the cockpit - for only $35,000 more. Gee thanks, guys. Finally, there was no chafe protection around the hole through which cables and wiring were routed to the helm station. There should be.

LOA ...........54'11" ****

Beam ...........16'4"

Draft ...........3'11" ****

Displacement (lbs., approx.)...........55,000 ****

Transom deadrise...14°

Bridge clearance...20'0" ****

Minimum cockpit depth ...........2'10"

Max. cabin headroom...6'10" ****

Fuel capacity (gal.) ......750 ****

Water capacity (gal.) ...220 ****

Price (w/standard power) ...........$745,803 ****

Price (w/test power) ...........$773,800 ****

STANDARD POWER:Twin 535-bhp Cummins diesel inboards.

OPTIONAL POWER: Twin Caterpillar or Cummins diesel inboards to 1,600 bhp total.

TEST BOAT POWER: Twin 660-bhp Caterpillar 3196E diesel inboards with 729 cid., 5.1" bore x 5.9" stroke, swinging four-bladed 33" x 32" props through 1.98:1 reductions.

STANDARD EQUIPMENT (major items): Glendenning cablemaster w/65' 50-amp shorepower cord; 4-unit 60,000-Btu a/c system; 6 batteries; 50-amp, 12v battery charger; 30-amp, 24v battery charger; oil change system; dual Racor fuel filters; fuel cooling system; tank sight gauges; 20-gal. water heater; dripless shaft and rudder seals; windlass, anchor, and chain rode; 4-station intercom; 3 TVs; wetbar w/icemaker and refrigerator; radar arch; aft cabin companionway; depthsounder; VHF; compass; full-size washer and dryer; dishwasher; microwave; 3-burner cooktop; 18-cu.ft. GE refrigerator; high-gloss interior finish.

LIVING ON IT. Fortunately, your shirt collar won't need any chafe protection while cruising. The 55 CMY is a true liveaboard. Its interior is finished in Canadian cherry and accented by burled, walnut-topped tables with teak inlays. The salon's quite roomy, largely due to the maximum beam being carried aft, and is soled in teak and holly, with settees large enough to make reading several chapters of Tom Clancy comfy a clip.

Need to stretch your legs? The master stateroom, aft and below, is tremendous. Want proof? There's a king-size berth at its center. The berth is cantilevered, with stowage below, and all around are drawers, illuminated hanging lockers, and countertops constructed of the same teak, cherry, and walnut medley.

The owner's head features a full-size shower and tub, plus more walnut, more fiddles, and more inlayed wood. But it's not Old World dark and stodgy. Bright tile and chrome highlight the head, and a nice mix of white curtains, linen, and a headliner provide the same lift for the stateroom. Windows and ports are plentiful. A door granting access to the cockpit provides more light.

The forward berth, though smaller, is similarly appointed and would pass as the master aboard many boats. It has a queen berth and private access to the head in the passageway. This features a separate shower stall and the easiest-to-get-at Y-valve I've seen in a long time. (Why do most builders bury them?) All doors are solid wood and feature magnetic catches that kept caught during our raucous boat test. Opposite the head is the guest stateroom or office - your choice. I prefer the office, with its built-in computer desk and cabinets. From here you can conduct business, write your memoirs, or...come to think of it, given the long range of the 55 CMY, I could write a lot of boat tests in that room. ****

LAST WORD. Fast in its class, this traditionally styled cockpit motor yacht is heavily constructed and requires only a minimum of maintenance.