Over the years, the systems side of boats has improved steadily. This year's crop of new boats has raised the bar a little higher, with evidence of a great deal of thought. For example, the Catalina 445 has molded-in cable channels, above-the-waterline gravity draining holding tanks and a central drain location for winterizing the boat. Designer Gerry Douglas has put the battery charger under the galley sink in such a way that its convective heat will keep this musty area smelling sweet. These kinds of details are born out of a lifetime of designing, and thinking about, boats.
The Hunter 39, which is a boat built for a very competitive and cost-sensitive segment of the marketplace, nevertheless has an oil change pump and lightning grounding. The Island Packet Estero, like all its sister ships, has a wonderfully accessible fuel filter station. We really liked the drawer-style fridge and freezer on the Sunsail 384, although the drawer slides need to be beefed up (this is in the works). The Tayana 64 had the finest bow platform and ground tackle-handling facilities in the show. And, as we have come to expect, the Oyster 655 had superb, albeit conservative and conventional, systems installations.
The galleys on cruising boats continue to improve, with excellent stoves and refrigeration. This is particularly noticeable on the European boats. In the past, these tended to have minimal galleys, reflecting the European habit of eating out, but the latest incarnations are increasingly friendly to liveaboard cruisers.
Even more encouraging than the high standards are the first signs that some of the exciting new technologies that have been emerging over the past few years are finally beginning to make it onto mainstream boats. There were far more LED lights than last year, especially for navigation lights, with the overhead (area) lighting on the Tayana 64 entirely LED (although, ironically the reading lights, which are easier to execute as LEDs, were halogens). The Shannon HPS has a full complement of thin plate pure lead (TPPL) Odyssey batteries. We saw a couple of synchronizing inverters, although we don't believe anyone is fully exploiting the potential of this technology. On a number of boats there was partial to full implementation of the NMEA 2000 "plug and play" navigational network. Next year we hope to see some full-blown distributed power systems, which will represent a radical break with the past.
But, although there were many well-executed items on most of the boats, the award for "best systems" goes to the Passport 615. The overhead (area) lighting is all high-efficiency, dimmable, cold-cathode fluorescent with LED courtesy lighting; the navigational network is NMEA 2000; and the machinery room, which includes the main engine, the generator and a mass of ancillary equipment, is a work of art and a service technician's dream. For more information, visit wagnerstevens.com
LOA: 61ft 5in
LWL: 53 ft.
Beam: 17ft 6in
Draft: 7ft 11in
Displacement: 67,776 lbs.
Design: Dixon Yacht Designs
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