Walking your local docks, you would be hard-pressed to find many Spanish-built yachts. Save for the odd Belliure sailboat or occasional Astondoa motoryacht, there are simply very few boats being exported from Spain into North America.
This made me wonder, as I prepared to test the new Menorquin 160: Why would an importer like Gratitude Yachting Center, which is enjoying success selling better-known Island Packets, Moodys and Nauticats, go out on a limb and become the sole U.S. importer of a virtually unknown product?
"The yard sent out a dealer inquiry package to a lot of companies, said Jack Heffner, vice president of Gratitude. "We were the only ones to respond. We just liked what we saw and knew that there was a market for a different type of motoryacht in this country.
Gratitude sold six Menorquins during its first year of importing the brand, and eight during the second. The company is hoping for continued success this year with the 160, which, at 52 feet, 3 inches LOA, fits in the Menorquin line between the 100 (34 feet, 3 inches) and the 180 (59 feet, 6 inches). The 160's profile is inspired by traditional Mediterranean Vela Latina craft, and she will look unusual to those who know only American styling. On the other hand, her amenities, creature comforts and quality of construction are easily recognized. For each Menorquin bound for North American shores, the builder incorporates some ideas from the folks at Gratitude, with equipment and layout changes designed to appeal to this marketplace and optional upgrades over the standard European models that are built into the price of the boat as we tested it.
Equipment-list highlights include reverse-cycle air conditioning, a bow thruster, electric heads and an 8kW generator-all necessary to satisfy U.S. appetites for consumption and comfort. Each U.S.-bound boat also has a flying bridge (a wise move by Gratitude), additional ports and extra wood here and there. Interior woodwork is African teak, a lighter shade of teak with a grain that resembles mahogany and gives the interior, especially the lower portion, a very light atmosphere.
The pilothouse has a plush L-shape settee to port opposite an entertainment center. During the cold, rainy day I drove from the lower station, I appreciated the view afforded by the large teak opening doors aft and side windows. At higher speeds, though, the bow picked up, making it tough to see over the bow. I'm 5 feet, 9 inches tall, and taller skippers may not experience my line of sight problem. The seat with footrest alleviated some of my issues, and in general, the helm had good flat space for a full complement of electronics. I suggest slanting the engine gauges toward the helmsman, placing them closer to the line of sight.
Gratitude specified additional refrigerator/freezer space. A freezer is installed under the helm seat, and a refrigerator is conveniently situated next to the afterdeck doorway so you needn't walk through the saloon in a wet bathing suit to get a drink. These units, combined with the galley units, will be enough to stock well for a lengthy cruise.
I'm a big fan of dedicated interior dining spaces, leaving the settee area for socializing and sprawling. The arrangement is especially nice if you cruise with kids who eat early while you toss back a few snacks and some sangria at the upper settee. The 160's L-shape settee on the lower deck is forward of the galley and has enough room on its inboard side for two foldaway chairs.
The galley includes two refrigerators, a microwave, drawers on sliders and two ports. The electrical panel for ship's service is on the after bulkhead, and wiring runs are tidy. If you want a washer and dryer, Menorquin can install a combo unit under the steps to the wheelhouse. Sitting in this space, surrounded by the exquisite joinery, will certainly increase the desire to cook.
I was pleasantly surprised by the stateroom layout. A twin stateroom is to port, opposite the galley, with a filler piece that creates a double. Each berth's head is tucked under the bottom of the upper settee, providing more space for the forward accommodations. Often, these cabins are better suited for small children, but Menorquin nipped and tucked a bit to provide a nice cabin for two adults.
Also to port is a second guest stateroom with twin upper-and-lower bunks, a sizable hanging locker and an opening port. This stateroom shares a head with the other portside cabin.
The master stateroom in the bow has a layout preferred by a lot of builders (centerline queen berth, good stowage and private head), but leaving the comparison at that would be a disservice to Menorquin. The perfectly blended teak and expert carpentry, combined with a liberal use of wood instead of vinyl and synthetic coverings, give the accommodations a warm, Old World feeling.
Cruising on the Chesapeake, we reached a top speed of 18 knots. That's not bad for a solid fiberglass yacht that weighs a whopping 57,542 pounds. The only diesel option is twin 370 hp Volvos. A higher horsepower package on a semi-displacement hull may gain you a little more speed, but is not the most efficient package for a yacht like the Menorquin. She cruises in the 14-knot range and ran nearly flat-and whisper quiet-around 10 knots.
I did notice that, at higher speeds, a good amount of water comes over the bow. It appeared to be traveling right up the bow stem, then blowing back toward the windshield. Spray rails would help alleviate part of this problem, as long as they wrap around the front portion of the bow stem.
Of course, guests won't have to worry about getting wet on the covered 8-by-11-foot afterdeck. This entertainment area is a nice complement to the large sunpad forward and the flying bridge seating. The 160 also has a huge, easily accessed swim platform that can serve as a seaside deck at anchor.
The Menorquin's profile may be a little different from what you're used to, but if you enjoy pulling into a marina with something unique, this boat deserves a look. Her quality and finish are becoming increasingly rare at such a reasonable price.
Contact: Gratitude Yachting Center, (410) 639-7111; www.menorquin.com.