Gusty winds blew, making Biscayne Bay look more like washboard than aquatic playground. Ahead of me and approaching fast, at about 30 knots, the daymarks delineating the narrow channel through Featherbed Bank, dividing Biscayne Bay at a point about halfway between Miami and Key Largo. Aft, etched on the horizon made deep blue by the recent passage of a southward sweeping cold front, the skyline of Miami and arch of Rickenbacker swiftly receding into the distance. All in all, an excellent afternoon for a test of the Cayman 58HT, one of the best-looking, express hardtops to debut in the U.S. recently.
Decision time. Do I cross the bank, shoot out into the Atlantic at Broad Creek and head for Key West, or spin around and head into the 15- to 20-mph breeze and lumpy chop, back to Miami? Alas, it was the latter, but the duty wasn't all that bad. Copious amounts of afternoon sun poured in through an electrically operated overhead hatch that was nearly as wide as the curvaceous hardtop and about half as long. Broad expanses of tempered glass on three sides kept the nippy breezes at bay. Protected from the elements, it was a pleasure to take on the rawer stuff.
After checking the depths on the big chart plotter directly ahead of me, double-checking the depth-sounder reading and scanning nearby waters for other traffic, I carved a luxurious turn to port and took a bearing on the causeway. The turn threw just a bit of spray on the windshield as the boat came beam-to the gusty winds, but it wasn't even enough to need clearing and cleaning with the large windshield wipers.
Now the benefits of the sharply raked stem and deep-V hull shape came into play as the yacht sliced through the chop with a minimum of bow motion. The moderate banking angle we experienced through the turn indicated to me that there were substantial strakes aft to bear down and minimize roll, which in turn confirmed my surmise that the bottom shape terminated in an 18-degree transom deadrise. The forward extension of these same strakes beneath a modest bow flare blew spray well away from the boat going upwind and downwind, so we enjoyed a very dry ride despite the less-than-perfect conditions. Tracking was straight and true, with no tendency to pull to one side or the other.
Visibility from the comfortable double-helm bench was outstanding, with only small changes of position required to see around the pillars that support the hardtop. Stacked instrument panels arrayed before the wood-rimmed steering wheel separated the large multi-function display from the engine instrumentation. This yacht had the optional Caterpillar electronic engine displays, which fit nicely where individual instruments would normally cluster, and they were easy to operate as well as view in the bright sunlight.
Completely protected by the hardtop, the bridge deck included a U-shaped couch large enough to accommodate four to six guests for a meal. Directly behind the helm bench, the outdoor food preparation area was well-equipped to prepare an afternoon's repast; when dining was done, the counter table disappeared beneath a beautifully finished wooden top. Entertaining aboard the Cayman 58 would channel anyone's inner Emeril.
The bridge deck, aft cockpit and water sports platform displayed artistry of another kind-all covered in hand-laid teak, beautiful to look at and finished to a level that made walking barefoot on them an exquisite pleasure. Even the walkway on the hydraulic passerelle (which doubles as a lift for an optional dinghy that stores on a cradle on the aft platform) had the same fine slip-resistant teak. Two walkways lead to the aft platform, flanking a large bench seat that faces storage and access to the engine room and the crew's quarters. The electric winches (one of which is standard) and bollard-style cleats recessed in the transom corners help take the strain out of tying up a 44,000-pound yacht stern-to. There's peace of mind in quality and functionality coming together like this.
Built in Italy by Luigi Prosperi, his son Paolo and the craftsman of Cantieri Navali del Tirreno, the Cayman 58 is equipped specifically for the American market. Yet the representative accompanying me-Jack Zaks, from Alliance Yacht Sales in Pompano Beach, Florida, the exclusive distributor of Cayman Yachts in the Americas-didn't say much about the interior before I turned the helm over to him and went below. I suspect he wanted me to discover for myself the joy of being surrounded by the highest artistic level of Italian joinerwork. Quarter-sawn panels formed slightly cambered locker fronts, while bulkheads were faced with an intensely harmonious herringbone pattern. Built-in furniture, carefully fit and finished, greeted my eye at every point; in the galley was another hidden installation of sink and range. A plush leather couch and superb glass-topped table proved that elegance can be as comfortable as it is beautiful.
Accommodations for six are provided by twin guest cabins aft and a master stateroom forward, each with an en suite head compartment finished with marble countertops and cylindrical shower stalls. Leather bolsters on both sides of the queen-size island berth in the master couch safety in luxury.
There's nothing quite as beautiful as an express cruiser powering off to some distant destination, and when that cruiser is topped off with a well-designed hardtop, the gains in functionality and looks become sensationally seductive. For Italian flair and American sensibility, the Cayman 58HT is a fine example of design done well, making it well worth your inspection.
Contact: Alliance Yacht Sales, (954) 941-5000; www.ayacht.net.