You'd expect to see Sunseeker's Portofino 53 along the Riviera, carrying a boatload of guests who might pause to swim or dine ashore before zipping back to the home marina before the discos open. After all, she is a big, sleek express cruiser, clearly aimed at a market segment that wants a good turn of speed, look-at-me styling and enough amenities for a weekend aboard, all wrapped in a luxuriously finished package.
From an American standpoint, however, this boat fits neatly into a growing niche of yachtsmen who want to sprint in comfort to Block Island or Catalina or the Keys for the day, but who have no interest either in inviting several couples for the weekend, or even living aboard for extended stays.
Given the Med-style mandate that this is to be a big and luxurious day boat with occasional overnight abilities, the Portofino 53 fits the bill. The cockpit, which takes up more than half the yacht, is tres chic, from the windscreen, so swept back as to be almost horizontal, to the wide swim platform, which makes boarding easy.
Our test boat, an early production model that we chased to Barcelona, Spain, had the optional teak-plank cockpit sole, which is such an obvious choice it should be standard. Gaily striped cushions cover the large sunpad aft, as well as the wraparound U-shape settee to port. A cockpit table folds neatly into a dedicated stowage area, but the table is plastic, which seems a bit tacky compared with the exquisite saloon table below.
To starboard is a wet bar that should have a standard refrigerator/icemaker, but only an ice chest is provided-an odd frugality on a yacht as sumptuously finished as this one.
Forward, the helm is tucked behind the protection of the windscreen, which is framed in husky stainless steel all the way aft to the radar arch. The doublewide helm seat has a flip-up bolster for standing behind the glossy wood-rim wheel. The two-level walnut-burl dashboard has the engine monitors at the top, and there is room for electronics to be installed in the lower fascia. In essence, the entire helm is what you might get if Rolls-Royce ever built a boat.
Opposite the helm is a triple-wide companion seat with an acrylic chart cover on the dashboard, as well as a grab rail for security. The entire cockpit can be covered with a beautifully engineered pair of bimini tops, which use the radar arch as a base. The forward-top supports slide easily on stainless-steel rails, while the after bimini hinges out of the arch itself. Guests can easily choose between sun and shade. A hardtop version of the Portofino 53 is due in mid-2004.
Wide teak steps lead comfortably to the saloon, which is a cool cavern lined, in this case, with glossy American cherry, though several veneers and finishes are available. The saloon is arranged as a media room with a curved couch to starboard facing a large Sharp Aquos flat-screen television on the port bulkhead. The fan-shape Hi-Lo table is a superb piece of joinery, with ray-like inlays buried under layers of glossy finish. To add to the seating for meals, a mini-hassock is tucked under the table, though I'd guess that owners would add folding chairs for more comfort.
The Portofino 53 is clearly intended for casual entertaining rather than serious dining, since the galley has the amenities of much smaller boats. The two-burner cooktop, under-counter mini-fridge, and microwave are better suited for hors d'oeuvres than five-course meals. Felt-lined drawers and lockers are beautifully fitted to hold the six place settings of Sunseeker-engraved flatware, crockery, champagne flutes and highball glasses.
The master stateroom is forward, with a raised double berth, nightstands on the tapering hull sides, under-berth stowage and a cedar-lined hanging locker. Another Sharp Aquos flat-screen TV and a DVD player are bolted to the bulkhead.
The en suite master head is trendy, with a blown-glass basin and avant-garde faucet, both set in an easily cleaned molded-fiberglass compartment. The circular shower, however, is smaller than a phone booth, and by the time you get past the clutter of the hose, nozzle on a vertical slider, protruding temperature control and soap dish, there's not much room to move. Drop the soap, and you'll have to call for outside assistance.
The two after cabins, with doors on each side of the companionway, are equal in size and have a pair of single berths, with the port cabin arranged with fore-and-aft singles while the starboard cabin gets crisscrossed Pullman berths; the lower doubles as a settee. The cabins share the day head to port, which has the stylish glass sink and the unfortunate circular shower.
Other notable features of the Portofino 53 include a transom garage to house the RIB tender, with access when the sunpad and stern door hinge upward hydraulically. In addition to a good-size tender with outboard, there is stowage for deck gear and fenders.
Forward, beautifully welded stainless-steel rails surround the deck, and the anchor gear is carried on a stainless-steel bow plate with roller. The low-profile Maxwell anchor windlass has foredeck and helm controls, and a good-size hatch is provided for access to the rode locker.
Standard power on the Portofino 53 is a pair of 700 hp Caterpillar C12 diesels, while 715 hp Volvo D12s are optional. The owner has a choice of 10kW gensets. Engineroom access is via a vertical ladder from a hatch below the cockpit table, and with big diesels tucked under the deck, headroom and access are understandably limited. Seven batteries handle the domestic, engine and genset circuits, with an alternator split-charging system. An electric bowthruster is standard.
The new C12 Cats are a good choice for this boat, since the new diesel is a lighter design. With turbocharged and aftercooled aspiration for low fuel consumption at lower speeds, the C12 has plenty of torque when the full 700 hp is called upon. Depending on the engine choices, top speeds of 34 knots are the norm, with cruising speeds of 25 knots and a range of up to 300 miles.
Construction throughout the Portofino 53 is to Sunseeker's usual high standards, with a handlaid hull, balsa coring in the topsides and deck, longitudinal top hat section stringers tabbed into the transverse bulkheads and floors, and isophthalic polyester skin-coat resin. With half-tunnels for the direct-drive prop shafts, the draft for this 42,500-pound yacht is kept to just 4 feet.
More than just a pretty face, the Sunseeker Portofino 53 easily surpasses her mission as a stylish, fast and luxurious sport yacht. Without doubt, she will find acceptance on North American waters as quickly as on the Mediterranean.