When I first heard that Ocean Yachts, best known for its line of New Jersey-built sportfishermen, was building a cruising boat on its fishboat hull, I scratched my head and had a cynical pause. I thought perhaps the builder was unwilling to make the investment in new tooling, which is frightfully expensive, to bring a cruising boat to the market. Or maybe the yard wanted to expand its product offering beyond sportfishermen quickly, and using an existing hull was the path of least resistance.
Well, after spending some time on the Ocean 57 Odyssey, I was left with only one question: Why has it taken this long for a builder to execute this magical combination? Marrying the proven hull of the 57 Super Sport with a new deck and cockpit mold and spicing up the mix with cruising amenities have created a fast, efficient cruiser ready for family adventures.
A pair of 800 hp Caterpillar 3406 diesels propels the 57 to a top speed of 31 knots. The company's captain was confident in the boat's performance and volunteered to bash through the large rollers forming offshore. Sometimes in the course of this job it's necessary to cry uncle, and we opted to stay inside, though I have little doubt the 57 would have shaken off the seas with grace. Twin 825 hp MTU Series 60 diesels are optional, as are a pair of 1,015 hp Caterpillar C18s. The standard 800 hp Cats seemed a near-perfect match. At 1900 rpm we reached an ideal cruising speed of 25 knots.
Also of note are the low sound readings in the enclosed flying bridge. The sound meter hit only 73 decibels at 1900 rpm, and the captain, mate and I were enjoying normal converstion levels.
I have several fishing buddies who do not care for enclosed flying bridges, since they isolate those aboard from the environment. Maybe that's not a bad point, but again, the 57 is designed for cruising comfort. To me, there is an appeal to arriving at your destination without your hair standing stiffly with salt and your skin fried from the sun. Two Pompanette chairs serve the helm, and a settee, television and small refrigerator are abaft. The helm itself is laid out to accept multiple displays, and the engine gauges are easily viewed. Plus, 360-degree visibility allows the helmsman to really see what is going on. Also, the pilothouse almost serves as a secondary, albeit smaller, saloon. The kids can head up top to watch Finding Nemo while the grownups entertain in the saloon and galley area.
A second control station is abaft the pilothouse, so docking and speaking to your mate should not be an issue. Our test boat was equipped with an L-shape settee in this area, which provided a fine spot to plop down with a book while blazing off to the next port.
Access to the cockpit is via an easily negotiated ladder-and-stair combination. Another settee and table line the after edge. Bring out a few deck chairs and the area is tough to beat. Underneath, a 10-foot Nautica RIB is stowed securely in the garage. One annoyance was the cockpit door leading to the swim platform. The door had no latch to secure it in the open position, so while you're handling lines it might bang around. The same is true for the side cockpit doors.
Borrowing from sportfishermen, engineroom access is from the cockpit. I would consider going with the smaller Cats just for the space they leave in the this area. Servicing the 57 will be absolutely no problem. Space around the engines and generator is plentiful, and the execution of details reveals this builder's experience.
Above, I found myself reluctant to leave the plush saloon. One of the reasons is the large side and aft windows, which bring the outside in. This is especially true for those seated at the dinette, since a low side window flows seamlessly into it. I imagined having breakfast as I gazed across the crystal-blue waters of the Exumas before heading off for a morning snorkel excursion.
A grab rail down the center of the saloon is another indicator that Ocean realizes its customers still want to go to sea. An L-shape settee with stowage underneath takes up the bulk of the saloon. A 27-inch flat-screen television, properly angled to allow for easy viewing, is on the starboard side. The spiral staircase leading to the upper deck does not intrude on the saloon, as it would aboard some other designs.
As for the galley, the word "kitchen seems more appropriate. The doors of the side-by-side GE refrigerator are designed to stay shut while the 57 is under way. A trash compactor, a dishwasher, an electric cooktop and a microwave/convection oven will allow the cook to put together a small feast and clean up afterward. Ocean ensured that no corner is wasted and maximized stowage areas, so packing provisions for a month or two in the islands will be easy.
Six steps down from the galley are three staterooms and three heads. The master is amidships, under the galley area, and includes a queen berth, closet-size hanging locker and vanity. The en suite head is on the starboard side. A DVD player and TV are at the foot of the berth, creating suite-like accommodations.
A day head forward serves the portside guest stateroom. I found the shower in this head a little tight-it will take some fancy maneuvering if anyone of large girth drops the soap.
The portside stateroom has two single berths, a hanging locker of adequate size and enough drawers for two people to live comfortably.
It would be tough to improve the forward stateroom. In fact, if this were my boat, I might have to pack up and move to the bow. Two hanging lockers and drawers flank the island berth. As does the master, this stateroom has a combination DVD player/television. The head is tucked forward in the bow section, and the shower benefits from an overhead hatch.
I feel guilty for having questioned what Ocean was doing when it created the Odyssey series. After spending some time on the 57, it became quite clear that the company has successfully combined the best elements of a fish boat and the amenities of a cruising boat. If you're looking to head out on an odyssey of your own, the 57 should make the shortlist.
Contact: Ocean Yachts Inc., (609) 965-4616; www.oceanyachtsinc.com. For more information, contact: (866) 922-4877