The Oyster 655 is the latest model in Oyster’s new g5 series of Kevlar/carbon deck-saloon cruisers. The hull lines were created and drawn by naval architect Rob Humphreys and Oyster’s own experienced in-house design team, with engineering assistance from the composite engineering company High Modulus. As a result, the 655’s single-skin hull has an E-glass/carbon/Kevlar composite laminate that produces superior hull strength, increased stiffness, and reduced weight. Further reinforcement comes from bonding a matrix of polyurethane-foam stringers and floor timbers to the inside of the hull above and below the waterline.
The subsequent weight reduction, when combined with a long waterline and sweeping underwater sections, results in a modern and easily driven hull form. The standard configuration for the yacht features a high-performance bulb keel with a low center of gravity, which produces good sailing performance with a moderate draft. There’s an optional shoal-draft keel for those who like to get a little closer to the beach.
Oyster’s new g5 styling is streamlined in profile, and the new molded toerail—earlier designs featured vertical bulwarks—can be left bare or capped with teak. This configuration creates more space belowdecks without impinging on the stylish deck contour.
The dual helm stations—now standard on all Oysters over 56 feet—are separated from the main cockpit so guests can relax underway and not be disturbed. Lectern-style consoles at both helms are large enough to hold a chartplotter/radar display and a plethora of other instruments.
Deck gear is arranged so that a couple can manage the 566 quite easily, and, assuming that the sheet winches and furlers are powered, the boat can be singlehanded without much difficulty. Headsail-sheet leads and the mainsheet winch and furling controls are within reach of the helmsman; adjustments to the Navtec outhaul and vang can be made from either console.
Many of Oyster’s well-proven features are built in—including handy rope bins in the cockpit seats that keep the decks tidy and hazard-free. A solid-teak table in the guest cockpit provides comfortable dining space for at least eight, and there’s room inside the table for a fridge and an icemaker. This owner has moved the belowdeck unit up to the cockpit to make room below for a dishwasher. It’s installed next to the second fridge and deep freeze.
The dual helm stations also provide an unobstructed passageway from the cockpit to the transom, where steps lead down to the teak-planked swimming platform and deck shower. The large aft deck has plenty of room for drying off and lounging, and two L-shaped teak rail seats provide a sweeping view of the whole deck. A large lazaret directly underneath the afterdeck, holds a dive compressor, tanks, and all the other paraphernalia needed for successful long-term cruising.
Rondal flush hatches, custom fold-down cleats, and recessed headsail tracks create an environment where moving around the decks barefoot is not a toe-stubbing experience. The yacht’s wide side decks sweep enticingly up to the foredeck.
Anchoring gear is always robust on an Oyster because the builders know that the yachts frequently lie at anchor for long periods and in all conditions. On this yacht a 105-pound CQR is stowed in a massive bow roller and is tethered to some 300 feet of 1/2-inch chain that’s controlled by a powerful Lewmar electric windlass.
Rig and Sails
Oyster has always held that a robust masthead-cutter rig is the most versatile setup for its yachts and their designed mission. Standing rigging on this yacht is discontinuous rod, and a hydraulic jack under the mast—another g5 feature—makes tuning the section an easy matter. Because most of the tensioning takes place using the mast jack and shims, the size of the rigging terminals can be smaller.
The standard section is a triple-spreader aluminum mast and boom from Hall Spars; a carbon spar is an option. A full-batten mainsail, single-line slab reefing, and lazyjacks are also standard. Both headsails are furled with manual Harken furlers as standard, but this owner decided to install optional Reckmann hydraulic furlers driven by a Lewmar Commander hydraulic power unit. Push-button controls are conveniently located on each side of the cockpit coaming. Lewmar three-speed electric primary winches (77CEST) control the headsails, while two-speed manual winches (65CST) handle the reaching and running sails.
After spending many years as an independent loft supplying sails to Oyster owners around the world, the Dolphin Sails team now is part of the Oyster Group. Their long institutional memory gives them the ability to know the shapes that work best on these yachts. That’s a good thing to know because getting any cutter rig to sail well can sometimes be a tricky business. And that proves out in this case, because the headsail design matches both sails well when working to windward close-hauled.
The raised saloon’s large windows flood the space with natural light. And for moments when the sun is not welcome, there are blinds on both the side and forward windows. At anchor, the forward windows can be opened to allow breeze to run through the space. The main saloon’s layout is quite expansive, with each functional area subtly delineated by changes in the sole level. A large table, set against the curved settee to starboard, seats six comfortably. But this is always one area where owners like to do something personal. In this case an upper section has been built onto the table so that, when it is folded over, it becomes almost twice the size of the standard version. This feature allows the settee on the port side to become part of the seating plan, and the result is a huge dining area for special occasions.
All interior woodwork and joinery are of superb quality. Oyster offers a wide selection of veneers to choose from, including cherry and maple, and this owner selected American white oak. It’s a choice that makes all the spaces bright and pleasing to the eye.
The cabin soles are a checkerboard-pattern teak veneer, and, with the usual Oyster attention to detail, every board in the sole is dampened and screwed down along the edge to stop annoying squeaks. Take two steps down to port from the main saloon and you’re in the long, U-shaped galley. Another owner modification on this yacht is an oversized sink—there are two—so that hot pans can be quickly dumped into it, if necessary, when under way.
A large top-loading freezer and a single front-opening fridge nestle under the granite-style countertop, and at the end of the counter, a drawer-style dishwasher fills a space that’s normally used for storage. Since the second fridge is up in the cockpit, the space it would normally occupy has a deep-drawer storage area that makes the total galley storage space essentially unchanged. Meals for eight or more can be prepared on a Force 10 stove with a full-size oven and overhead air filter. Among the other conveniences in this well-thought-out galley is a microwave.
Two steps down on the starboard side puts you in the navigation area, where the dominant feature is a full sized chart table and a desktop next to it that can hold either a laptop or a keyboard. Plenty of surrounding console space has been provided for large displays, and there’s a deep bookshelf above the table area that can hold cruising guides, shop and maintenance manuals, and the like.
This owner has also installed a Digital Yacht A/V computer under the desktop. In addition to running the communications, the unit provides music in all areas along with DVD capacity for the saloon and cabin flat-screens. The electronic charting system by C-Map runs on Raymarine’s E120 series chartplotter/radar; the repeater on deck is located at the starboard helm station.
Four cabins provide accommodations for eight; the master stateroom is aft, and a spacious guest cabin is just forward of the main saloon to starboard. There are also two twin-bunk cabins. The master stateroom has a raised queen-size berth on centerline, excellent headroom, and more than enough stowage space to accommodate long periods spent aboard. There’s also an access ladder and hatch to the afterdeck, and a large, comfortable settee provides space to relax, read a book, or watch a DVD on the 32-inch bulkhead-mounted flat-screen. A leecloth can quickly convert the settee into a seaberth when the yacht is making an offshore passage.
The guest cabin forward of the main saloon has a spacious berth, plenty of room for dressing, and lots of storage space in cedar-lined lockers. Here again, a luxurious entertainment system is centered around a flat-screen display on the bulkhead at the foot of the berth. The other two cabins have twin berths, and the one opposite the guest cabin also has ensuite head facilities. The other cabin is smaller and is positioned between the main saloon and the owner’s cabin. The engine is accessed through full-height twin doors located in the after corridor, with the genset nestled in forward of the engine next to the batteries. It’s reached by lifting boards in the cabin sole.
Although it’s always nice to be aboard an Oyster in port, there’s nothing like being aboard one under sail. We left the builder’s commissioning yard on the Orwell River, on the southeast coast of England, and ran down the river to open water. It was a sunny day early this spring, so there was a question about how much wind would fill in as the day progressed. But powering the yacht downriver let me appreciate the exceptional engine soundproofing Oyster builds into all their yachts. They also like to over-engine, which, in this case, enables the 185-horsepower (actually a depowered 225-horsepower) Perkins-Sabre diesel to move the yacht at a steady 8.2 knots at just 1,500 rpm. If it is pushed, the yacht will make over 10 knots. A four-blade Brunton folding propeller does the work and does it well, even at low revs. With plenty of water flowing over the rudder, the yacht has excellent steering control, even in tight maneuvering situations.
Once we reached the open water, a sea breeze started to fill as we hoisted the sails, helped not a little by those powered furlers and winches. Soon we were driving to windward at a respectable 7 knots plus. On the wind, the yacht has a nicely balanced helm, and there is positive feedback to the wheel. Not surprisingly, as the wind filled in further it was necessary to slide the mainsheet traveler down the track a touch to minimize weather helm. The view from both helm stations is excellent, and the yacht’s long waterline and V’d bow sections give her a solid and comfortable motion through the water.
When we came off the wind onto a beam reach, the speedo surged past the 8-knot mark in a true wind of just 12 knots. On this point of sail I could have left the helm and gone below to make tea, even with no autopilot assisting. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the yacht, with an apparent-wind angle of about 40 degrees, could happily cross half an ocean with little more than the odd tweak on the wheel. Because the spinnaker had yet to arrive, off-the-wind testing was limited to the all-white sails. But the yacht’s big Yankee isn’t that far short of genoa proportions, and with the staysail rolled up and secured, the speedo still managed a relaxing 5.2 knots on a very broad reach in 10 knots of true wind. The spreader sweep angle of just 10 degrees allows the boom to go out a very long way without fear of mainsail chafe or an accidental gybe.
In sum, this Oyster, like its newer sisters, has been designed to be easy to handle even as it is relaxing and fun to sail. The deck layout has been carefully planned, and the powerful deck gear that has been installed provides the necessary muscle to sail it shorthanded. And when you’re talking about a 65-footer that displaces almost 85,000 pounds, the achievement deserves to be mentioned.
One interesting subset to the easy handling came up when we were going into the yacht’s berth at the marina. Using the bow thruster in concert with the propeller and rudder, we did a quick 180-degree turn in the river and then neatly backed into a berth that was just a foot or two longer than the hull. It was a nice way to end an enjoyable day spent aboard a very handsome yacht.
Builder: Oyster Marine Ltd
Fox’s Marina, Wherstead, Ipswich
Suffolk, England IP2 8SA
U.S. sales office: Oyster Marine USA
One Washington Street
Newport, RI 02840
Draft (deep/shoal) 9’7”/6’11”
Displacement 85,800 lbs
Ballast (deep/shoal)29,810 lbs/32,340 lbs
Sail area (100% foretriangle)2,137 sq ft
Auxiliary 187-hp Perkins/Sabre diesel
Auxiliary generator Onan 9.5-kW 220V
Sail area-displacement ratio17.5
Duncan Kent is a certified RYA Yachtmaster with over 50,000 sea miles under his belt. Based in England, he’s been reviewing yachts of all sizes for over 15 years.