In an era when clients want instant gratification and are unwilling to wait a year or two for their boat to be completed, there's a growing trend toward building large yachts on speculation. But a yacht created on spec is a double-edged sword for the boatbuilder. Make it too glitzy, and you'll turn off clients. Make it too neutral, and you'll turn off other clients.
This is the razor's edge upon which the builders must dance and, in the case of the Ocean Alexander 98 Pilothouse, they have danced very well indeed. In fact, the owner was so keen to get his hands on his brand-new baby that we practically had to jump the line at the Miami Boat Show last February to get some time on her before he whisked her off to cruise.
As I stepped aboard, I could tell at first glance what had appealed to him-and will probably appeal to many owners. This is a yacht that is at once understated and avant-garde, calming and exciting. The soft goods have been chosen for a muted but light look, and many of the built-in features are edgy-trendy.
For instance, in one guest cabin, the nightstands are round, capped with black marble and standing on chrome pillars. In the master stateroom, they slant up and out from tiny bases, culminating in a raised glass top. In another guest cabin, they are inverted pyramids atop chrome rectangles. Yet all fulfill the purpose of holding your nightly needs: a trashy novel, a glass of something soothing, perhaps a telephone. Fun in their function, they set the Ocean Alexander 98 apart.
Another mark of this Ocean Alexander is the fine woodwork, and there's no better example than the mahogany handrail for the stairs leading down to the guest quarters. It spirals around to match the curving bulkhead, ending up as a flawless corkscrew: pure artistry.
The saloon is pleasantly homey, and interior designer Destry Darr of Destry Darr Designs in Ft. Lauderdale worked with Ocean Alexander's Johnny Chueh to create that welcoming feel. The windows are oversized, and the chrome and frosted glass sconces on each window mullion are a stylish touch.
Certainly the most striking feature of the saloon/dining area is the center island with an immense 50-inch pop-up plasma TV that is the first hint of audio wonders to come. The entire yacht has been fitted with a sophisticated entertainment and electronics package from Cello Technologies, whose marvels range from the surround-sound system in the saloon to the dedicated TV/sound systems in each stateroom to the gangway security cameras, heated so they never freeze.
Perhaps even more important than the array of plasma TVs or the hidden speakers is the carefully engineered wiring infrastructure for the ease of maintenance and-here's a new word for you-upgradeability. Rack-mounted equipment is an idea stolen from sound studios, but the 98 goes one step further with rotating racks that present each component sequentially.
The dining area has a sapele wood table with a radiated pattern to match the interior finish, a pair of buffets to port and starboard and an intricate ceiling treatment that resembles a burlwood flying saucer. Four Kinon colored panels on the forward bulkhead provide an unusual piece of abstract art that also conceals a storage cabinet, while a wine cooler is hidden in a column to port.
Columns, in fact, are one of the defining characteristics of this 98, with columns above the center island, columns on the dining room bulkhead and even column-like window mullions. The columns are a clever touch, since their curves break up the flat bulkheads and soften the saloon and dining area.
The country galley is unusual for the long and curved black granite counter that doubles as a breakfast bar with stools, replacing the central island often found aboard yachts this size. It's a clever design, since it separates the settee forward, provides more than ample counter space, and cuts down on the number of steps the chef has to take around an island.
Owner and guest accommodations are reached via a curving stairwell from the dining area, with the master stateroom aft of the foyer that spans the full 22-foot beam. The king-size berth is on centerline and atop a steeply raked pedestal.
Each side of the master mirrors the other with a built-in bureau and a pair of smallish hanging lockers. Just aft, the his-and-hers bathroom is divided by a shower and notable for the brushed stainless steel bulkhead finish that works well with the marble counter and sole.
Among the trendy features of this Ocean Alexander 98 are the vanity and bath fixtures, with wall-mounted faucets in the master head as well as guest cabins. The skylounge day head has a very stylish glass-topped vanity, and counter-top bowl sinks will make every washup feel like an offering to the gods.
Just forward of the foyer are a pair of guest cabins, each the same size and each with en suite head and shower. Two more guest cabins are forward and down from the galley area, with a double and a V-berth cabin that are probably best for youngsters since they share a day head with shower.
The pilothouse really doubles as a skylounge. On this particular 98 it had been left open for an owner to finish, offering ample room for couches, loose chairs or a built-in settee (for which plans had been drawn). There is a day head to port along with a wet bar; a pop-up TV is hidden in a cabinet to starboard.
The helm is impressive, with no fewer than five 17-inch monitors set in a glossy burled console and attended by three black leather Stidd pedestal chairs. The navionics package is a mix of Furuno radar and GPS along with Simrad tridata and autopilot, Skymate satcom and Icom VHFs.
Cleverly designed flush sliding doors lead from each side of the pilothouse to the Portuguese bridge, giving the skipper a direct view of the entire hull when docking. Maneuvering is further simplified by both bow and stern Keypower thrusters.
Just outside the pilothouse is an alfresco entertainment area with built-in couches, a curving bar with three stools, a console with Fire Magic barbecue, fridge/icemaker and a large spa. Aft, there is room for a 15-foot Novurania 450 RIB plus a Jet Ski, both launched by the Steelhead 3,300-pound crane.
Steps curve down to the lower deck, which is an entertainment area with sun protection from the bridge overhang. In cooler climates, it could be easily enclosed as well. The after deck has its own day head with shower, plus the usual dining table and settee against the transom.
Power for the 98 is a pair of MTU 12V-2000 diesels of 1,500 hp each; a standard Onan 32kW generator, and Outback 12kW inverter supply the electrical side. The twin 50-amp shore power is spike-free, thanks to a C-Power system.
The engineroom is a delight, with ample room to maintain all the systems and a seamanlike approach to wiring, plumbing and installations. The crew quarters are abaft the engineroom, with access from both the after deck and the stern platform. The captain has a double stateroom, while the crew cabin has criss-crossed bunks; both share a head with shower.
Ocean Alexander has kept the construction high-tech, with a carbon-fiber-infused hull and decks that are hand-laid and vacuum-bagged. A longitudinal and lateral fiberglass grid of top-hat stringers is filled with high-density foam for strength and longevity while both the deck and flying bridge are reinforced with aluminum I-beams. The 98 has a reinforced collision bulkhead forward, and the Interlux Interprotect epoxy-based anti-osmosis system is used on the bottom.
Thoughtfully designed and well built, this Ocean Alexander 98 may have been built as a spec boat, but now she's some lucky owner's private delight. This is a yacht he can be proud of and, best of all, take possession of-right now.
Contact: Ocean Alexander, (800) 815-4081; www.oceanalexander.com