I don't know if it was a consideration in the planning stages, but the forward air-conditioning vents on the bridge of the new 52 Ovation are perfectly positioned to blast cool air at drinks in the dashboard holder, thus keeping them cold longer. If it were intentional, I wouldn't be surprised, because the 52-the first of an entirely new line of boats from Silverton-exudes levels of convenience and attention to detail that rival those of the top yachts in this size range. It has 11 AC outlets and a full bridge enclosure of EZ2CY acrylic. The number one convenience, however, is about the size of a bottle cap. It's the joystick knob with which you can dock the 52 more easily than you can parallel park a car.
When a boat lays against a dock, even when there's plenty of space in front of it, a helmsman when pulling away must not turn out too sharply or the stern quarter will hit the dock. When the current or wind is pinning the boat to the dock, he or she may have to back out using a spring line and a fender while properly positioning the rudder. You can forget about all these maneuvers on the Ovation. To get off the dock you merely push the joystick knob sideways and the boat moves straight out without the need for any motion forward or aft.
It's hard to believe until you try it, and even then exactly what's going on under the boat remains a mystery. Those zany, forward-facing propellers, which identify Volvo's IPS (Inboard Performance System) must be spinning in all sorts of directions. The Ovation employs three 600 IPS packages rated at 435-hp each (one of the first production boats to do so). Ease of maneuvering was surely one of the reasons for choosing the system, but its greatest appeal was the additional 30 inches of interior length made available by its small engineroom footprint. This was space coveted by the designers-who included Donald Blount and Sean Berrie-to create a master stateroom of lavish proportions that is billed as the largest in its class.
Although the Ovation is built in the same Millville, New Jersey, facility that turns out Silvertons, the Ovation is a different breed-one that management hopes will expand into an entirely separate entity. The 52 is the foundation of this enterprise, the object of which is obvious from an examination of the boat's craftsmanship and components. The Ovation 52 is a step above a Silverton.
Rather than targeting a clientele in search of the best value, Ovations will appeal to those in search of the best boat. Future models are not limited to the sedan bridge profile of the 52. The next Ovation may be a motoryacht or a sport yacht. The distinguishing element may be merely the distinctive stacked vents on the arching bridge supports. You can bet that the Ovation logo on the custom Attwood cleats won't be abandoned.
Whatever model comes next, I hope it retains the enlightened approach that accounts for the entire foredeck surface of the 52 being nonskid. Three-position backrests on the foredeck speak to comfort rather than safety, so it's clear right from the bow that the Ovation made pleasure and practicality its priorities. Gas rams hold up the hatches for the Maxwell windlass and chain locker compartments.
I maneuvered the 52 off the dock at Miami's Sea Isle Marina, where the channels on each side of the gas dock are narrow and require a tricky turn to follow the markers into Biscayne Bay. Piece of cake. A little push, a little twist and the joystick enjoins a response that's truly gratifying. Use of the joystick shifts the center engine to neutral, as does use of the silky smooth controls at low rpm. Switching from joystick to controls centers the drive pods. Owners of IPS joystick boats probably become inured to the buzz of being able to control so much with so little, but I found it to be an incredible kick.
Once in Government Cut, I was able to bring the boat up onto plane in only 6 seconds. Characteristic of IPS-powered boats, the 52 has a light, lively feel-more like an outboard than a diesel boat. Also characteristic, it's very quiet, and it will be quieter still on the bridge when a door at the top of the steps is added. This will also allow owners to take full advantage of the twozone helm air-conditioning option on the bridge, where, with a wet bar with optional Gaggenau grill, fridge, icemaker and TV, two side lounges, settee aft and a big oval table, you can entertain as many as 15 guests.
Offshore in a 3-foot sea, I was able to run full throttle in all directions with no pounding or spray. Civilized is the way the 52 handles in reverse, responding to steering changes in much the same way a car does. There's no chance of dumping more fuel into the cylinders than they're ready for, because the IPS computers won't allow it. Just firewall the throttles, and the 52 will accelerate at its own pace.
The 52's engineers certainly got the propulsion system right, and the boat can boast an equally admirable interior beyond the triple sliding glass doors, where a medley of curves and angles, cherry paneling and brass accents provide the ambiance of an art-deco den. Thanks to IPS, the full-width master stateroom has three oval opening ports on starboard and port sides and enough drawers to allow some of them to be replaced by an optional sofa. A Bose stereo system is standard. The head has a big shower and a designer sink that looks like it will splash water, but doesn't.
The VIP stateroom is forward, and a second guest stateroom houses a washer and dryer. Dimmers on the lights are standard throughout. On the saloon level, seating is genuine leather and headliners are Ultrasuede. The raised galley/dinette level offers excellent visibility. The cockpit, which can be enclosed, features an optional hydraulic davit or hydraulic swim platform.
A 52 Ovation would be a significant step up for Silverton owners, but many will be tempted to make the jump. For families who are more concerned with a yacht's technology and the quality of its components than with its price, the 52 is a natural.
Ovation Yachts, (800) 865-8558; www.ovationyachts.com.