I had wandered through the new Uniesse 53 Motoryacht until I found myself in the master stateroom. It was dark and cool on that hot Florida afternoon, and I pulled the cord to roll up the Roman-style drapes. As the light flooded in, I was suddenly transported to another world.
It was 1954 and I was absorbed by the Saturday matinee, where a buck still covered admission, popcorn, M&M's and a Coke. The movie was the now-classic Walt Disney version of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. American whaler Ned Land, played by chisel-chinned Kirk Douglas, had ventured into the saloon of the Nautilus, Capt. Nemo's submarine. There he had found the immense round, underwater windows that allowed guests to recline on the velvet seats and admire the undersea creatures passing by.
Half a century has passed, and I'm still blown away by that eye-opener of a concept-my first brush with design. And, aboard the Uniesse 53, I found my dejà vu thanks to three large windows just above the waterline in the master suite on each side. Truly a wonderful idea, almost invisible from outside so as not to mar the sleek lines, they transform the suite into a wonderful getaway that makes you wish you could wake in the king berth to a view of a sand beach and palm trees, or perhaps the waterfront of Portofino.
The Uniesse 53 is an unusual yacht, not the least for the amount of living space that has been fitted in without losing the girlishly trim lines. Our test boat had the optional layout with full-beam master suite, VIP stateroom, two-bunked guest cabin and two full heads. That's a lot to shoehorn into a modest 15-foot beam and, like anything clever, it involves some trade-offs.
In the European fashion, the three-panel sliding door from the cockpit opens wide to turn the saloon into an extension of the teak-planked cockpit. Glance around the saloon, past the U-shaped settee with the high-low table, over the creamy leather upholstery, and up to the raised helm level. It's all quite wonderful, but something seems to be missing. After a moment it hits: the galley!
But no, the Italians have simply concealed the galley by tucking it under a counter that stretches the length of the saloon to starboard. Pop up the counter (on gas-assisted lifts) and the prospect of breakfast, lunch and dinner reappears on the event horizon. A three-burner cooktop is aft with a metal heat shield under the fold-up counter (but none on the nearby high-gloss bulkhead, which should be considered). There's plenty of space on the Botticino marble counter, a stainless steel sink at the forward end with folding mini-faucet, a pair of Sub-Zero fridge/freezers under the counter and a microwave in a locker aft. A large but undivided bin handles cookware, five plastic drawers will hold utensils, and shallow overhead cupboards are fitted for glasses and plates. Americans may find the layout a bit Spartan, but Europeans (who like to eat ashore a lot) find this kind of arrangement quite practical; it should suit the casual weekender just fine.
Tap the switch on the aft bulkhead, and you'll see why the Italians like this design: A Sony 20-inch flat-screen TV descends directly over the galley counter from its lair in the overhead cabinets. It's a perfect position for watching from the dinette, and keeps you from ruining a romantic dinner by watching Jeopardy. The interior is finished in high-gloss Tanganyika, a wood that has become a trademark of Uniesse and the joinerwork is superb. A pale and straight-grained wood also known as anigre, it's both rare and beautiful.
The helm level is raised, with a settee opposite the port helm and a clever notch behind the helm seat (more later). The settee is quite comfortable, with low backrests that provide the sort of lumbar support too often missing in cruising yachts.