Boats

Renovatio: The Passport 615

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Passport Yachts has been building semi-custom voyaging sailboats for three decades. For the last 20 years these boats have been produced in a modern facility in China. Thom Wagner has been the force behind the company from the beginning, and he still is the man to see when you are ready to buy one. His latest project is the Passport Vista 615 Twin Cockpit, designed by Bill Dixon. It is the biggest model in the Passport line and was created to be the ultimate world cruiser.

I sailed hull No. 1, Renovatio, which belongs to a couple who plan to sail around the world with their small child. When I asked Wagner about the limitations of cruising in a boat with a draft of 7ft 11in and an 84ft-tall mast, he said Renovatio’s owners had requested both features and added that there is an optional 6ft 6in keel and a shorter rig for those who want to spend time sailing in more coastal settings. Ease of handling has also been a primary focus for Renovatio’s owners, and Wagner’s observation confirmed that premise: “It’s a lot like a big dinghy and is as easy to sail as any boat I’ve helmed—even some mid-sized 40-footers.”

Construction

All Passport hulls are built of solid glass to eliminate any chance of core saturation should the boat be holed. An uncored structure is also easier to repair, which is important on any boat sailing around the world. This boat’s layup schedule includes Kevlar reinforcement in critical areas and vinylester resin throughout to eliminate osmotic blistering. The watertight compartment forward has dual bilge pumps and also provides a large stowage space for fenders and lines—at least until there’s a collision. An extensive grid of stringers and bulkheads, all of them fused to the hull, provide further reinforcement.

“Everything has a primary bond,” Wagner said, “even the little bulkheads that form lockers. That’s why, when you’re out sailing, everything is so quiet.”

There are no solar panels aboard but the wind generator, from Eclectic Marine, puts out so much current in high winds that a heat dump diverts the excess to the immersion heater in the hot-water tank. There’s a watermaker, a dive compressor and a large multimedia installation that includes four TVs, surround-sound and a computer system containing 1,500 movies plus music. There’s also an Iridium satellite communications system. There’s no satellite TV, but with all those movies on board, who needs it? The boat is like a giant iPod.

According to Wagner, the electronic navigation package is not excessive because, “The owner is big on electronics and knows his way around it.” Even so, I was glad to see there is still a full inventory of paper charts stowed in a custom locker under the companionway steps.

I suspect that Passport keeps a few full-time nitpickers on the factory floor in China just to be sure every detail is right. It’s always pleasant to peek into a compartment under the cabin sole of a Passport and see the neat, well-labeled plumbing and wiring runs. One surprise on this boat is the dry exhaust system, which services both the main engine and the generator. It’s quiet, has low back-pressure and is supposed to be maintenance-free.

The engine room is a delight for those of us who have had to twist around in dark, cramped machinery spaces trying to reach those hidden bolts you now find on any number of contemporary production models. If I were the owner of this boat, I’d set aside a few minutes each day to sit at the entrance to this engine room and just gaze at the beautiful machinery. I might even fondle a valve or two from time to time.

On Deck

The triple-spreader rig is equipped with in-mast furling. The foretriangle has a self-tacking blade jib along with a 120 percent genoa mounted on its own stay. Electric winches make the combination versatile and sturdy. Of course, anything is possible on a boat this size, and the second 615 will have a carbon-fiber mast, rod rigging, a fully battened mainsail and a Code O headsail. Owner No. 2 is obviously more performance-oriented and doesn’t mind working harder to sail fast.

A twin-cockpit layout is practical on a boat this size and gives the feel of being aboard a larger yacht. The forward cockpit is a pleasant place to lounge in. I predict the owners and their guests will spend many enjoyable hours here. The steering station immediately aft is partially separated from it to keep steering and line-handling activity from intruding. The aft deck is a perfect spot to place the 11ft RIB dinghy (with a crane to launch it) and will become another nice platform for relaxing at anchor.

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