I am a sucker for classic yachts. Buying one is like adopting a child. You need to shower it with love and affection for its entire life, or you have no business having it.
However, the recent surge of retro designs means owning a classic may no longer require an open checkbook and your own service yard. The Turkish-built Vicem 64, a cold-molded express cruiser, is a good example. She is well designed, expertly finished and reasonably priced. Just as important, she has that texture, that beauty, that nostalgic feel that curls my toes.
During my initial sea trial, 20 people piled on board. Thanks to the approximately 142-square-foot teak cockpit, there was plenty of room amid the dining table, three L-shape settees, deck chairs and teak wet bar with grill. The cockpit flowed seamlessly through two wide teak doors into the saloon and helm. The design means guests can use both spaces without feeling isolated from one another, and that in foul weather, the saloon can be shut to absorb a good-size gathering.
I told Wayne Helms of Monaco Marine, Vicem's U.S. importer, that if this were my boat, I would want the bottom portion of the doors to be glass, just as the top is, to allow a view from the saloon while reading the Sunday paper.
"We've never built two alike, he said. "You can give me a napkin today and I can give you CAD drawings from the factory tomorrow.
The handcrafted interior highlights the yard's skill. The warm mahogany, leather settees and chrome hardware create a solid, timeless atmosphere. In the saloon, there are no harsh right angles, only rich wood flowing and curving to accentuate the seamless space from the cockpit to the stem. Try as I might, I could not find a blemish or ill-fitted corner here, or anywhere else on the boat. The overhead throughout is a classic white tongue and groove with mahogany battens.
With the saloon doors open, the line of sight aft from the starboard helm is unobstructed. The centerline transom door opens to give the helmsman a good view of the swim platform while backing down. The helm console is a handsome piece of furniture that absorbs all the necessary electronics and gauges. Everything is easy to read and accessible from the double helm seat.
The galley and dinette are separated from the saloon. This makes a third area (in addition to the saloon and cockpit) designed for stealing away with a good book and finding privacy during a cruise. Our test boat's galley had a dishwasher, two refrigerators, a freezer, a polished stainless-steel sink, a microwave and a four-burner electric stove. There was enough space for two people, even with the refrigerator door open. No more waiting weary-eyed in the morning to get coffee before heading to the L-shape settee forward. On our test boat, it was opposite an optional 15-inch flat-screen TV. A grab rail down the centerline in this lower area, as well as in the saloon, would be a worthwhile addition. I would also specify an opening hatch above the dinette to bring in more light and a fresh breeze.
Though a lot of space is devoted to the lower saloon and galley, the three staterooms and two heads are nicely sized. The master has an island berth flanked by lockers, a leather-wrapped settee and a vanity. The 15-inch flat-screen TV is easy to watch from the berth. The master head has a Corian countertop and a natural teak sole, providing good nonslip.
Forward, the port stateroom has a double berth with a filler at the head and a hanging locker. There is enough space for two people to get changed and walk around. This stateroom shares a head with the third cabin, a twin-berth arrangement.
Each Vicem is cold molded, the construction method preferred by a host of high-end custom sportfish yards. Similar to high-tech and cored boats, cold-molded yachts have strong, light hulls, but the lack of expensive molds helps builders keep costs down. The Vicem's hull sides and bottom are laminated with Khaya mahogany. The hull is then sheathed with E-glass and epoxy before Awlgrip is applied. Even in the hot Florida sun, our test boat's navy blue hull was fair and unblemished. The dry bilge further revealed the builder's attention to detail.
Our test boat had twin 820 hp MAN diesels, but owners can upgrade to 1,050 hp ($37,000), 1,200 hp ($56,000) or 1,300 hp ($68,000) models. I'm usually a fan of higher horsepower packages, which can help resale value on production boats, but that's a non-issue on a semi-custom boat such as the Vicem. The 820 hp MANs gave our test boat's light, relatively narrow hull an efficient and peppy ride. We reached a top speed of 29 knots. Owners can expect a cruise in the low- to mid-20-knot range with the 820s.
We experienced a slight vibration due to a line around the prop during my Florida sea trial, but based on my earlier sea trial on the Chesapeake in a little chop, I can attest to her velvety smooth ride. The deep forefoot enters the sea with grace, and the running strakes cast water aside. She was responsive, dry and, don't forget, damn good-looking. My only visual gripe is the arrangement of the side opening ports. The two forward ports are stacked and quickly end the 64's lean, graceful lines. Again, though, Vicem is amenable to owner-suggested changes.
Considering the base price of $1,175,000, such subjective concerns become almost irrelevant. Compared with similar boats on price point alone, the 64 is a clear winner. Add the comprehensive equipment list, great ride and exquisite workmanship, and few yachts compare.
Well, unless you adopt a classic and go into the yacht yard business.