When a yacht is instantly recognizable as an offspring of her builder, it shows the builder understands its brand and roots. Today, no matter how crowded a harbor or marina gets, it is easy to pick out the classic look of a Hatteras. Sure, the older motoryachts' timeless lines have become more fluid and up to date, but new launches are still recognizable as part of the same family tree.
For that very reason, the Hatteras 6300—the company's first new motoryacht launch in several years and first raised pilothouse model since the 1970s—has skeptics wondering whether Hatteras founder Willis Slane is rolling over in his grave.
The 6300 is the result of a rapid-fire evolution cycle designed to create a contemporary Hatteras that will be fresh for years to come. To die-hard Hatteras enthusiasts, her profile is a bit shocking at first glance. Some people would go so far as to say Hatteras has forgotten its traditional motoryacht customer base.
Take it from me, the naysayers are wrong. I'm a conservative who was tutored by an old-school Hatteras broker in the mid-1980s, and the 6300 won me over. The builder did exactly what it set out to do—create a modern raised pilothouse built with the quality Hatteras is known for.
"Any time we introduce a new Hatteras, from a styling perspective we try to make it an evolution versus a revolution," said Bryant Phillips, Hatteras' senior vice president of sales and marketing. "We want to offer a motoryacht that will have contemporary appeal five to eight years from now while still incorporating the design elements that allow boaters to recognize it as a Hatteras."
Phillips believes the 6300's design is more evolutionary than revolutionary, and he politely acknowledged a scathing letter he recently received from a traditionalist about the new yacht's look. From his description of the missive, there is no doubt the phrase "treading on sacred ground" was prominent in the feedback.
"Consider Mercedes," Phillips said, drawing an analogy that could not have been more appropriate. "There was somewhat of an uproar when they graduated from a boxy vehicle to the more rounded styling. Some even said they wouldn't sell, but look what's out in our parking lot."
I closed my eyes as I approached the boat dockside, not wanting to be influenced by Phillips or swayed by the contemporary exterior. I wanted to wear the boat from the inside out to see if maybe, just maybe, I could find a soft spot in my boating soul for this, sigh, new Hatteras.
I headed straight for the engineroom and found myself in familiar territory. It is 100 percent Hatteras. The wiring, plumbing and mechanicals are installed in the company's traditional manner, benefiting from nearly five decades of boatbuilding experience. I am slightly taller than 6 feet and can stand straight up between the twin 1,400 hp Caterpillar 3412 diesels, as well as maneuver easily around their fronts and rears. Every detail is the expected quality.
The lazarette is big and can be laid out with optional crew's quarters. Stowing oversized fenders for locks, bikes and more will not be a problem.
The transition from the cockpit to the side decks is easily negotiated. The side decks are wide, which is typical Hatteras. The foredeck has a recessed sunpad on center, which is typical European. A more interesting feature is the foredeck working area. While the foredeck rakes downward toward the bow, this area is flat, offering a more stable footing when handling lines or ground tackle. There are no awkward angles, steps or trip hazards.
High-gloss cherry woodwork warms the interior and would fit in any Hatteras model. The saloon and galley window treatments do not follow the exterior shape of the windows, which are contemporary. The interior's most contemporary areas are the pilothouse side windows, which follow the exterior shape with padded vinyl treatment, and the headliner in the saloon.
Forward quarters are a typical raised pilothouse configuration for this size vessel. The master is amidships under the pilothouse. A queen-berth VIP stateroom is forward with a stall shower. A third stateroom is starboard with upper/lower singles, and a head with stall shower is across the companionway. The layout is similar to that on the Hatteras 48 LRC, built 25 years ago, with the exception of that model's V-berth (which, of course, most builders had retired by President Reagan's second term).
While the configuration is typical, the volume is not. This is a big 63-footer in terms of headroom, floor space and stowage.
"Out of all the Italian-built boats, Ferretti has probably been the most successful in the U.S. market," Phillips said. "However, there are design elements of Italian boats that are not appealing to the American buyer, such as a lack of interior volume, living space. We have addressed those issues with the 6300."
The line of sight from the pilothouse is good. Side windows in the saloon and a sliding glass door between the saloon and cockpit allow a nearly 360-degree line of sight. A single tubular stair to the bridge is directly behind the helm seat, offering no obstacles. The bridge controls are easy to reach sitting or standing, and there is comfortable seating for a friend or two.
The after portion of the bridge, which is also the hardtop overhang of the cockpit, is suspended without any vertical bolsters. Steel beams are glassed into molds as they are joined, providing enough strength to cradle 800 to 900 pounds of dinghy. An 1,100-pound davit is optional with concealed housing.
One of the most disappointing parts of my 6300 visit was not being able to run her in rough seas. If she is anything like the Hatteras models I've run, she is a hell of a sea boat. We were confined to the Neuse River in New Bern, North Carolina.
As we idled down the river, I examined the drawer-style SubZero refrigerator and freezer units in the galley. They led me to reminisce about the scar on my left foot and the mess a broken jar of mayonnaise made after it flew out of an upright version of the same make on another boat. I love to cook, so I can be critical of galleys, but I could find only one flaw: I'm old-fashioned and prefer a standard broiler/baking oven to a microwave/convection combo.
Back in the pilothouse, visibility was excellent through every rpm range. Some boats tend to squat at the stern, eliminating the sight line aft, but the 6300's downward-raking foredeck offers a full line of sight at all times.
At 2150 rpm, the recommended cruising rpm, we hit 28.9 knots. The decibel reading was 80 in the pilothouse and 82 in the saloon, which meant we could listen to the stereo without blaring the system. We did not venture into the ocean, so I will reserve any comments on seakeeping ability.
As we headed back to the Hatteras basin, we met 6300-05 heading for her initial sea trials. I took my first serious look at the exterior, and I can honestly say I saw both sides of the picture.
I saw why some Hatteras fraternity elders are reluctant to embrace this newborn, and I saw the appeal this boat is going to have to a specific niche.
I also felt the Hatteras team's enthusiasm each time they talked about this new family member, and back home, I realized I, too, have a lot of enthusiasm for the 6300.
All the commotion the traditionalists hear coming from Willis Slane's grave isn't him rolling over.
It is likely a rekindled spirit having one hell of a party down there.
Contact: Hatteras Yachts, (252) 633-3101; www.hatterasyachts.com.