The wind whistled sadistically around the flying bridge, blowing a consistent 25 knots as we eased our way out of Florida's Port Everglades inlet. Ray Thompson, sales manager for Neptunus Yachts, glanced at me with a smirk, nodding toward the blustery Atlantic just beyond our bow. The wind was gusting toward the 30-knot mark, with accompanying seas of 4 to 6 feet.
But Thompson was so confident in the new Neptunus 62 Flybidge's hull, his smirk turned into a jolly chuckle as we accelerated past a host of boats with crews likely wondering if they really needed to be on the water in such conditions.
There may have not been a better day to test the 62, and Thompson knew it.
"You're going to be impressed", he said. "This is one of our best hulls yet." Having tested the 56 several years ago, I knew he was setting the bar high. With a light touch to her electronic Caterpillar controls, the 62 lifted easily, clawing her way up the incoming swell and tossing aside spray. There was no smoke or wallowing. We hit a top speed of 32 knots, even in the steep seas usually associated with the shoaling of an inlet. Blasting over the swells, we took only the occasional sea over the bridge. This was entirely acceptable for our speed and the sea state.
Most of us would have preferred being tied snugly in our slips, of course, but it's nice to know if you're stuck in the Bahamas with a strong northerly-or better yet, if you're trying to get there-this boat can handle the nasty stuff. Moreover, once you arrive, the semi-custom, Euro-style build will envelop you in creature comforts often found on larger yachts.
Aboard the 62, playing around in these conditions was, well, fun. The response to the wheel was instantaneous, providing me full confidence as I blazed back into the crowded inlet with a squirrelly following sea. Even with steep rollers pushing our stern, the 62 maintained her course and had no hint of bow steering thanks to her sharp entry. The deep-V hull carries 19.5 degrees of deadrise at the transom.
Bear in mind the obvious: The performance numbers we gathered from a two-way average will differ from those you may get in smoother conditions. If an average 28-knot cruise at 2000 rpm can be achieved when things are nasty, it's an easy conclusion that a higher speed is possible. According to Neptunus, you can expect a cruising speed around 30 knots with the 1,000 hp Caterpillar C18s, the same engines aboard our test boat. At a 67 percent load, or 1800 rpm, we sipped 64 gallons per hour and cruised at an average of 23.3 knots, proving the 62 will have the legs needed for a run to Nassau or down the coast of Baja. If you want to be more conservative, Neptunus offers twin 800 hp Caterpillar 3406 diesels. Based on my days on the yacht-building side of the fence, I recommend going with the C18s for their resale value alone-on the brokerage market, bigger is often viewed as better.
The 62's hull is a solid laminate and incorporates three layers of Kevlar. The hull sides, deck and superstructure are constructed with balsa core. I've been to Neptunus' Ontario factory several times and can best describe it as "medium-tech". This is a good thing to be for a company that builds an average of 15 boats, ranging from 56 to 70 feet, per year. What struck me while touring the facilities and speaking with Thompson was the company's willingness to customize each boat to suit the owner's specific requirements. Certainly, a semi-custom builder is not unusual-pick up any copy of Yachting and you'll see pages filled with builders who are just as accommodating. But it would be difficult to find many builders offering similar Euro-style builds with this sort of pizzazz-with a few exceptions, the field of semi-custom boats under 70 feet consists of traditionally styled yachts. Thus, Neptunus is in a unique market.
"You can do anything you want in here", Thompson said, waving his hands through the saloon area. This pertains to interior wood selection, soft goods, countertops and the layout, with which owners have a fairly free hand. On our test boat, the owner requested a cushy leather sofa on the starboard side and a loveseat facing aft. An entertainment center with a flat-screen TV was to port. The stacked side windows provide good light and views. In addition, they create visibility while driving from the lower helm.
The galley is two steps up from the saloon, keeping the cook in the conversation. Unlike many European yachtsmen, I believe cooking and entertaining are part of the cruising experience, so I liked the amount of space allotted to the galley. (Many European designs have smaller galleys.) Highlights include a big double sink, a four-burner electric cooktop, a freezer, two Sub-Zero refrigerators, a convection/microwave oven and a dishwasher. Stowage is abundant and will accommodate enough stores for a hungry family.
Beyond the appliances and stowage, the space is perfectly married to the dinette forward and the helm area, though I would like to see some sort of stool arrangement to accommodate another diner at the foot of the table, allowing more elbowroom on the settee. But the proximity to the galley and the views afforded by the forward and side windows are tough to beat. Plus, if the weather forces you below to pilot the boat, the dinette adjacent to the helmsman provides a good spot to spread out a chart and cruising guides. Neptunus built one 62 without a lower helm, replacing it with a day head just forward of the galley.
The helm is wrapped in a burl dash, and the proper amount of space is allotted for electronics and engine gauges. Furthermore, the engine controls and bowthruster joystick are on a separate panel to the right of the helm, a position that will feel natural to the helmsman.
The 62's electrical panel is centrally located, at the staircase leading to the lower accommodations. I've always been a fan of panels located closer to the entryway, but this thinking may be flawed. The panel is an easy jump from the galley area, and at night you can turn off any breakers you need to on the way to bed. Caterpillar's new 21.5kW generator provides ship's power. "It's nice to have the same generator manufacturer as the engines, Thompson commented. I agree.
The master stateroom is almost on the centerline, forward of the engineroom. The full-beam space has a walkaround berth slightly larger than a full queen. A DVD player, CD player and 20-inch flat-screen TV are standard. An en suite head is forward.
Accommodations also include guest staterooms forward and to starboard. An office layout is offered; this deletes the portside day head serving the starboard guest stateroom and creates a larger landing area on the lower deck-a good example of Neptunus' flexibility. The other option is to turn the large lazarette area into crew quarters.
You can't always pick your weather for sea trials. I've experienced everything from breaking ice in New England trying to get out of a slip to roasting my skin on the Equator in dead-clam seas. So you cherish weather like we experienced during the Neptunus test, because it allows you to really put the boat through her paces. And when the builder hopes for the same type of weather, chances are the boat is a winner.
Contact: Neptunus Yachts, (877) 440-4434;
www.neptunusyachts.com. For more information, contact: (866) 922-4877