It was quite uncanny lying in bed just outside Cannes Harbor, the covers tucked up to my chin, knowing that a swell was rolling in steadily somewhere underneath me. Why uncanny? Because I'd seen the swell with my own eyes before turning in, yet could hardly feel a thing. Thanks to the Custom Line 97's anti-roll gyro (ARG), there was barely any motion in the hull and we were lying in peace while all around us things looked very uncomfortable for other people in their yachts.
The ARG is just one of the many features that make this latest Custom Line 97 ride so easily when you're lying down or stand out from the crowd when you're upright. Here in one showcase hull you have all the latest electronic wizardry to meet every possible control and entertainment requirement. And yet, thankfully, for old-fashioned people like me who can't help wondering what would happen if the electronics decided not to cooperate, there is still manual control available.
The CL97 represents motoryachting at its Ferretti best, which is to say there is an aristocratic disdain at following transient design trends. "No, thanks, please, Custom Line seems to be saying: "We'll be satisfied with a successful and honest statement of classic design in a modern form.
Classic is often an overused and ill-defined adjective, so I will say here that safety and security count for me as much as the color and grain of the wood paneling. So those manual controls are more than a sop to the old-fashioned salts among us, nor are they the only safety features of note on the 97. In fact, because this yacht is also fully MCA compliant you can be confident that you have the resources to cope with any emergency. Of course, the best assurance of safety is to not have any problems to begin with, which is where the very high standard of engineering on board the 97 comes in-and ensures that your yachting is a very pleasurable experience as well.
With the foregoing established, we can now turn to the outward beauty of this yacht. What is clear at the outset is that the emphasis on safety and security has hardly cramped the style of this yacht. And, yes, I fell in love with the beautiful oak paneling that is used throughout the guest accommodation. The wood's strong horizontal grain, emphasized by thin contrasting strips of darker walnut, is as much a part of the featured design as anything. The walnut is also used on the working surfaces; combined with tan fabric deckhead panels and suede fabric settees, it imparts a sleek and inspiring mood.
The layout follows convention with the combined lounge and dining deck saloon, then a vestibule on the starboard side that leads into the master stateroom forward at main deck level. Down below there are four staterooms, two twins and two doubles, each with its own en suite bathroom. It adds up to a wonderful calm interior where you can luxuriate in one of the marble bathrooms or relax in front of the drop-down 42-inch plasma TV in the lounge.
The master suite is a haven of rest and deserves special mention. It has the same finish as the rest of the guest accommodation, but the black leather bed is special and the walk-in closet is very generously sized. In the bathroom, marble has been replaced by a beautiful onyx and there is under-floor heating to give a warm glow and heated mirrors to prevent mist from forming. There also are iPod docking stations found throughout the accommodation so you can take your personal music with you wherever you go. Details like these help make this yacht special.
For dining there are several options. The beautiful galley is designed to supply gourmet meals to the eight-seat glass interior dining table or the matching teak table in the cockpit. On the flying bridge there is a large barbecue grill and fully equipped bar close by the teak table. You sense that at sea this is going to be the favored area with its convertible sunbed that covers a hot tub below. A fixed Bimini here provides shade, but it has a large glass insert with roller blinds so you have options to control the sun exposure.
I did not get a chance to pad barefoot on the heated bathroom floors during my prolonged sea trail on this fine yacht, choosing instead to test the sunbeds and the service. Stretched out in the warm Mediterranean listening to the gentle sound of the seas going by, I could begin to appreciate why the rich and famous would gravitate toward a yacht of this style. To be served drinks and snacks in such a setting was just the icing on the cake, leading to a New Year's resolution to do more sea trials on larger yachts in warm climates.
Exploring those powdery beaches and old-fashioned coastal towns requires auxiliary transport, of course, and the CL97 is no slouch in this department. For tenders, the 97 boasts a full-width garage aft capable of storing a 15-footer; on the foredeck there is further tender stowage under the sunbed. This forward one can hold a small 10-foot tender or a PWC.
The 97's comfort and style are brilliant, but what, you ask, of the technical side? Starting at the top, there are port and starboard control stations on the flying bridge for docking, with joysticks fitted as a steering option. The whole of the port helm seat lifts under hydraulic power to give a better view over the windscreen or just to catch the wind in your hair.
Down below at the main helm you are faced with no less than seven screens that can present all the navigation information in duplicate. There are the usual video monitoring displays and Ferretti's own Naviop system for monitoring and controlling all the onboard auxiliary systems. Communications are catered to by everything from satnav to an integrated cellphone system. With 11 antennas on the arch mast, the electronic complication is considerable. My one worry is that you could spend so much time looking at the displays that you might not have time for the real world outside.
But that's what captains are for, I suppose. The best ones won't be locked into an electronic cocoon-they will leave that for the guests watching TV down in the saloon, or on the foredeck listening to their iPods-which can play into the 97's sound system via jacks from several locations.
In the engineroom are two 2,030 hp MTU diesels from the 2000 series plus two generators for the electrical power. This yacht is very self-contained with water makers and full air-conditioning and every aspect of the domestic and performance requirements has been carefully considered. Even so, that ARG system is very much the star of the show and on a run from Cannes to Monte Carlo with a very uncomfortable swell disturbing the equilibrium, the ARG kept us on the straight and level with no risk of spilling the drinks. There was also the benefit that, for the first time, I was able to write the report on a sea trial while actually at sea on the yacht. The latter pleasure will cost you about $200,000, well worth it in my view.
I have to confess to a love affair with this yacht, but maybe the test location and the beautiful weather had something to do with this. On a serious note, the considerable experience of the Ferretti Group shows in the development of both the engineering and style and while the speed is a stately 25 knots, the Custom Line 97 maintains this with considerable comfort and dignity, making this quite a special yacht. Contact: MarineMax; www.marinemax.com