It's always interesting to see a powerboat that has been designed by sailors, because they don't have any preconceived notions about how things "have to be. The new Norseman 480 Flybridge Motor Yacht, for instance, carries forward much of the same spirit as the line of Bob Perry-designed Norseman yachts of the 1980s. Built in the Orient to very high standards, intended as fast and luxurious cruising sloops, they still command high prices on the used-boat market.
Continuing the Norseman line was no chance happening, however. Wally Freeman at Golden West Yachts, who imports the Norseman, saw a need for a quality fast trawler with conservatively classic lines and an accessible price tag. It's also safe to say that he guessed there are probably more than a few Norseman sailboat owners who are ready to make the switch to power; if so, then the quality of the new 480 will be familiar to them.
On the 480, for example, there is not one inch of usable space that hasn't been turned into a locker or a drawer or a cranny because, as we all know, there is no such thing as too much stowage on a yacht. In the saloon, there is a handrail cleverly integrated as part of the wood trim in the overhead, and it's perfectly placed so you can move around securely even in the worst of seas-another mark of sailors.
But the 480 also has a simple but thoughtful concept: a yacht that is comfortable for two couples, yet which one couple can easily handle. Thus the Norseman has two staterooms and two en suite heads with showers, with civilized amenities in each. Too many designers try to cram in a contrived third cabin, ostensibly for kids or for crew, but it usually becomes just a storage bin for blankets and duffle bags.
The saloon is an ingenious arrangement that blends a curved dinette, a settee, the galley and the helm into one living area surrounded by large windows framed in stainless steel. Teak is the standard finish (the cherry on our test boat is optional) and the sole is teak and holly.
The helm is amidships, and the back of the helm seating is used for the standard aft-facing 30-inch flat-screen TV. The twin leather helm seats are raised for good visibility and very comfortable, which should be no surprise because they are actually the front seats from a Nissan Pathfinder.
Once again, this is out-of-the-box thinking. The result, a really luxurious helm seat, is fully adjustable (including the back); fitted with headrests and flawlessly finished, it is a pleasant change from the usual doublewide bench seat. (That said, the seats on our test boat, the first 480, will be refined on future 480s because of metal mounting brackets, which seemed a bit industrial, and a lack of armrests.)
The dashboard, a large and showy leather-trimmed console, has more than enough space for electronics and communication gear. Our test boat had the comprehensive Raymarine package, which includes everything you'll need. There was space to spare, but I'd still be tempted to put the dash on a diet in order to devote more flat space to laying out charts.
The big, wood-rimmed wheel is comfortable for sitting or standing, and overhead cabinets can hold additional instruments. I particularly liked the easily read KVH compass directly in the skipper's line of sight. A slick pantograph door to starboard gives easy access to the side and foredecks.