Uniesse 48: Blue Velvet

Dress for success.

It takes a brave builder to cover a boat's hull with a dark gel coat. Closely inspect any new boat with a dark hull and you'll spot every tiny flaw, every little imperfection. Despite this, and despite the gel coat's $23,000 cost, you must opt for the dark blue hull on the new Uniesse 48 Fly. After all, it's not a Uniesse without it.

Yes, Uniesse is a brave boatbuilder but not a foolhardy one. For that much money, you expect perfection. The truth is that the dark blue hull on the 48 Fly not only looks perfect but is also practical. Most boatbuilders apply a gel coat 25mm to 30mm thick, but Uniesse applies three separate layers of blue gel coat until it's 100mm thick. This triple-thick coat ensures that the color retains its richness even in the strongest sun. It's also easy to repair when scratched because the nick doesn't penetrate into the heart of the fiberglass.

Why am I going on and on about the 48 Fly's gel coat? Because it's indicative of Uniesse's attention to detail in the design and construction of its boats.

Want more evidence? In the engine room, every hose is secured with double stainless-steel clamps that have rubber boots on the ends. Marble countertops are finished to resist rings, and the wood flooring belowdecks has a micro-balloon treatment to improve traction. At the helm, the dash folds open on a piano hinge, allowing easy access to the wiring for the electronics.

Liveaboards will like the office setup provided in the portside stateroom-at no extra cost. The large L-shaped desk wraps around to port, there's ample stowage in four drawers, and an overhead foldout panel is spectacular.

THE HIGHS: Triple-thick blue gel coat is flawless. Outstanding engine room space. Through-bolted motor mounts. Folding instrument panel at lower helm is brilliant.** **

THE LOWS: Foldout-spring locker hatch supports are outdated. No dedicated chain box in anchor locker. Trim tab hoses should be sealed from the inboard side of the transom.

CLASSIC SPORTS. Usually boats from the land of Ferrari and Lamborghini are sleek and stylish, with swept-back, curvy deck lines that often compromise engine room space or lower helm visibility. The 48 Fly, however, has a more classic American appearance with clean lines and plenty of salon windows to let in ample daylight. Two other similarly designed boats are Fairline's new Phantom 50 ($895,950 with twin 615-bhp Volvo Penta 615 D-12s) and Sea Ray's 480 Sedan Bridge ($785,219 with twin 660-bph Caterpillar 3196TAs). Neither is available with a colored hull, and placing an office arrangement in the stateroom instead of berths would require a custom upgrade.

In the 48 Fly's engine compartment, horseshoe-style motor mounts cap the stringers and through-bolt to them. Many installations use a tapped steel or aluminum plate molded into the stringer, but on our test boat's motor mounts, you could use a wrench on the backing nut to tighten it, a setup I prefer.

Ease of movement in the engine compartment meant that I could crawl around the outsides of the motors to get to the fuel tanks and lines. All the onboard systems were easy to follow-the wires and cables were neatly run in plastic channeling throughout the compartment perimeter.

The seacocks for the raw-water intakes were abaft the motors with the strainers forward. Fuel/water separators and the fuel shutoffs are mounted on molded plastic panels bolted to the forward bulkhead, making replacement easy. Aft, the batteries are in plastic boxes with notched lids. Overhead, the salon sole sections mount on aluminum L-angle tabs so they can be removed if an engine has to come out.

The 48 Fly has two hatches that let you access the engine compartment, one in the salon and another in the aft cockpit. Both open with pneumatic shock-absorbing struts.

While in the lazarette, I had an easy time getting to the main circuit breakers for the water pumps, air conditioner, and other accessories. Even with the Kohler genset and Glendinning shorepower cord retractor in this area, there was still plenty of extra stowage. But all that free space also let me see that, unfortunately, the trim tab hoses weren't sealed from the inboard side of the transom to resist water penetration.

In the aft cockpit, the fuel shutoffs and battery switches are in lockers to port and starboard. The transom shower comes in handy after a dip, and the optional crane ($24,995) makes reloading the tender onto the platform davits easier.

You can move forward easily on side walkways, too. The anchor locker hatch opened on an annoying foldout spring instead of a gas strut, and there was no dedicated locker for the chain.

HIGH AND DRY. Conditions on test day featured waves peaking at six feet and a strong west wind blowing across our bow. We comfortably ran 38.5 mph, and the boat maneuvered confidently.

The hull has convex sections that boost buoyancy, which, together with 13 ½ "-wide chines that were turned down five degrees, gave the 48 Fly plenty of lift and made it fairly efficient. The 10"-deep keel helped the boat track straight and maintained lateral stability.

A lamination of the solid-glass bottom and balsa-cored hullsides give the boat a solid feel underway. The fiberglass stringers and transverses are formed in a grid and bonded in place to give the boat a strong backbone.

Even in rough conditions, we never got the foredeck or the flying bridge wet-the Venturi-style windscreen deflected breeze and spray. At the upper helm, the combination of VDO analog instruments and the Cummins multifunction digital monitors provided a wealth of information. A companion can join the driver on the two-person helm seat that has stowage in the base. There's also a huge locker in the flying bridge helm console that provides access to the rigging.

Across from the upper helm to port, a U-shaped lounge wraps around an adjustable table. A wetbar abaft the helm seat has a grill, sink, and hinged lid that's finished on both sides, but again I was disappointed by a foldout-spring support.

The lower helm seat is a one-person model that adjusts in virtually every direction. The aforementioned folding dash panel makes it easy to modify your electronics package, and it provides access to the backup throttles for the Mathers controls. The entire area forward of the lower helm was finished in tan upholstery to kill glare, but I would like to see the flat lower section of the dash raised at an angle to provide drivers a better view of the instruments.

GALLEY HO. Passengers can keep the skipper company in the four-to-five-person lounge to starboard of the lower helm. Aft, in the salon, the lounge and entertainment center have everything you need for a relaxing evening in port. To port of the helm, a set of stairs leads to the well-equipped galley. I like that the refrigerator is at the top of the stairs so you can reach it from the salon or galley. I expected to find the usual three-burner stove and microwave/convection oven, but a second refrigerator plus a three-drawer freezer set apart this boat from other cruisers in this size range.

Stairs to starboard lead to the belowdecks area, but with only 5'4" of headroom next to the helm, it's easy to bump your noggin on the way down. The master stateroom features a firm queen-size berth with stowage drawers in the base, a large hanging locker with a safe, and a small TV/VCR combo unit in an entertainment center.

The master head has plenty of room to move about, and the commode and sink are separated from the shower and bidet by a folding acrylic door. Across from the office, the kids can crash in a stateroom with twin berths to starboard. The crew's head also includes a standup shower and electric MSD.

LAST WORD. An instant classic.

LOA.............51'8" ** **

Beam...........15'4" ****

Draft............4'5" ****

Displacement (lbs.,approx.)..44,000 ****

Transom deadrise........12º ****

Bridge clearance.......15'3" ****

Minimum cockpit depth...........2'1" ****

Max. cabin headroom.......6'3" ****

Fuel capacity(gal.)........600 ****

Water capacity (gal.)........160 ****

Price (w/standard power)......$869,493 ****

Price (w/test power)........$894,493

STANDARD POWER: Twin 600-bhp MAN in-line-6 diesel inboards.

OPTIONAL POWER: Twin diesel inboards to 1,270 bhp total.

TEST BOAT POWER: Twin 635-bhp Cummins QSM 11 in-line-6 diesel inboards with 661 cid, 4.92" bore x 5.79" stroke, swinging 28" x 32" four-bladed Nibral props through 1.96:1 reductions.

STANDARD EQUIPMENT (major items): Anchor and chain; 1,200w windlass; windshield wipers; ss portals; shorepower; hot/cold deck and transom showers; ss boarding ladder; Plexiglas flying bridge windscreen; 2 compasses; hydraulic steering; log/speedometer/ depthfinder; full engine instrumentation; warning lights; AM/FM/cassette stereo w/4 speakers; trim tabs w/controls; bilge water alarm; galley w/ss sinks, ceramic cooktop, refrigerator, microwave/convection oven; master stateroom w/ queen-size berth, two portals, reading lamps; guest stateroom w/twin berths, stowage; VIP stateroom w/queen berth or office layout; owner's head w/electric commode and bidet, shower, vanity; guest head w/electric commode, shower; fuel/water separators; 3 bilge pumps; pressurized freshwater system; hydraulic gangway; emergency tiller.