Westport Shipyard's new 98-foot motoryacht could be a bellwether of sorts. Over the last 20 years, Westport has proven an ability to sense shifts in the American market and clearly understand what makes American yachtsmen tick. With this in mind, the 98's distinct American flavor and her no-hassle, turnkey packaging may very well be an indication of where the market is headed.
Building a custom yacht from scratch can be one of the most rewarding ventures in yachting. It can also be time consuming, and the outcome can be unpredictable. To resolve this conundrum, many yacht builders employ a series approach to yacht construction in which much of a yacht's basic design is predetermined. While the scope of such programs has grown over the years, the process is really nothing new. With that said, Westport has completed the circle by building a modern series yacht to a fixed standard that is packaged with virtually everything a knowledgeable owner would require. The net result: no worries.
If there is a mainstream client in the American large yacht market, Westport has him in its sights. There will always be those who favor yachts that challenge the eye, however, it is my view that most American yachtsmen steer a course that is a few points to starboard. Think of it in terms of residential architecture: Classically inspired homes are hands down more popular than avant-garde human dwellings.
Just as the classically inspired house is a home, the 98 looks the way a modern yacht should. She was not inspired by a mud hut, pyramid or geodesic form. She was sculpted by designer Greg Marshall, whose modern eye clearly has a respect for the past. Her silhouette has familiar proportions but a softer, more rakish look than what came before. Her full-beam deckhouse is a compromise to tradition that creates more interior space. This seems reasonable; however, it means the crew will have to pass through public areas when moving about the yacht. The afterdeck is arranged with a seating area, a wet bar and stairs (port and starboard) that lead to the integral platform.
Stairs on the afterdeck lead above to a boat deck which can accommodate a 15-foot tender, a few water toys and a crane. A 100-gallon gasoline tender fueling station is incorporated in the transom platform. The flying bridge is several steps above the boat deck and has a curved seating area, a full-service bar and grill. The helm is on centerline and steps away from stairs that lead below to the spacious pilothouse. Wing stations (port and starboard) are provided for maneuvering in tight quarters.
Her interior public spaces and accommodations follow a proven theme. Her satin-finished cherry joinery is accented with madroña burl, high quality soft goods, Corian surfaces and German hardware.
The main deck is laid out with a saloon and formal dining area about the raised pilothouse. An informal country kitchen-style galley/seating area is forward of the entry foyer amidships. A staircase in the saloon leads to a belowdecks foyer. The master suite has a king berth and his/hers heads with an adjoining whirlpool bath. Two guest staterooms have private heads with stall showers. A separate staircase, forward, leads below to a VIP stateroom with a queen island berth and a private head with a stall shower. Crew accommodations for three are abaft the machinery space.
When Westport entered the yacht market in the early 1980s it already had more than 20 years' experience building commercials vessels. More important, it was one of the first yards to build large (more than 80 feet) fiberglass hulls. Building molded fiberglass hulls and superstructures is a particularly efficient approach to series construction as long as the investment in tooling pays off. For Westport it has; the yard has built more than 45 of these 80-footers.
The 98 benefits from this experience. Her hull is built in a split female mold with a combination of stitched and woven reinforcement and polyester resin. Her bottom and topsides are cored with Airex, which is vacuum-bagged in place. A network of foam-cored fiberglass longitudinal stringers and foam-cored web frames and bulkheads provide support. Fuel tanks are aluminum, which seems odd for a yard with Westport's composite experience, however, this conservative approach is certainly proven.
Like the hull, the superstructure is built in female tooling. A variety of foam coring is used to stiffen the deckhouse and exterior decks. Once the hull and superstructure are completed, they are mechanically fastened and bonded together. The gelcoated exterior surfaces are then prepped and finished with Awlgrip. While Westport's method of construction may not be ultra high-tech or exotic, it is in my view "smart-tech and appropriate for the application. Most important, Westport has mastered its process, and fit and finish are first-class.
The 98's hard chined, semi-displacement hull was designed by Jack Sarin. Deeper forward sections moderate aft to an efficient lifting surface that terminates in a deadrise of approximately 11 degrees at the transom. Shallow propeller pockets trim her draft to 5 feet, 9 inches, which is about the maximum you would want for cruising the East Coast and the Bahamas. Westport's data indicates a maximum speed of 21 knots at half load. She has a range of about 2,000 nautical miles at 10 knots.
The machinery space is accessible from the transom platform. A second access from the main deck is useful in foul weather. The pair of 1,480 hp MTU 12V2000s are easy to move about. A 40 hp, 16-inch bow thruster and Naiad stabilizers are part of a very complete standard mechanical package.
The 98 is one of the most complete offerings in the large yacht market. Considering this, and that her contemporary American design will remain appealing long after more trendy designs become dated, she seems a sensible investment for those interested in a high-quality yacht.