A definite chill was in the early morning air, with the Tramontana wind coming down off the mountains to the north. But the Italian sun was shining, not a cloud was in the sky and the day seemed perfect for a boat test-unless, that is, you wanted to test the rough-sea capability of a good-sized Ferretti. Even so, for me this would be a day to savor, as we were to cruise along the Riviera from Cannes to Monte Carlo. This is the playground of the rich, and I took considerable pleasure from being in a motoryacht that might as well have been created for these surroundings.
The 881 is the new flagship of the Ferretti fleet. She comes from what I consider to be the old school of motoryacht design, not a bad thing at all when you are in the land of old school boys like Michelangelo and da Vinci and Giotto.
There are times when I am doing boat tests when I wonder where yacht design is heading. The European motoryacht market seems to be constantly challenging the bounds of convention. It is as though designers and builders can only demonstrate their prowess by ceaseless innovation; you get the feeling that they tend to ignore the tried-and-true solutions-which, when you consider that we are dealing with vessels that go to sea, is not entirely comforting. Still, there are a few builders who believe in refining what they have done before rather than trying to re-invent the wheel. Ferretti is one of this select group. While there are partner yards within the Ferretti Group that go down the road of adventurous design, the Ferretti yard itself remains true to the venerable solutions.
Any way you slice it, on this yacht conventional styling rules. If I had to single out a surprise, it would be that a yacht can be this good while conforming so faithfully. All the classic elements of yacht design are in this 881: There is the profile that shows the pilothouse well forward to create a large saloon, there is the wide beam to create generous internal space, there is the shallow deadrise of the hull for easy planing and good performance. Throughout, there is the highly lacquered cherry interior. Now I have seen all sorts of exotic woods used for yacht interiors but this warm cherry has been the classic for more years than I care to remember.
A long time ago, cherry was often laid on with none too subtle a hand, producing a rather funereal effect. Not so on the 881. Here, the cherry paneling and furniture have a pale finish, and produce a light, soft interior, which matches well with the tan leather and cream-colored, coarse-woven fabric on the walls; thin horizontal wood strips break up the paneling.
This rich simplicity creates what is one of the best and most restful interiors I have come across. Of course, Ferretti has to get its little touch of innovation into the design. This comes in the form of the large side-hull windows, which do much to lighten up the master suite. The bedroom part of the suite is on the port side. Here there is a seat where you can watch the fish go by (for, at speed, this window seems to be almost under water). On the starboard side there is another of these picture windows, but this time it is over the full-size bath; an interior window allows a view right through from the bedroom, via the glass doors of the semi-circular shower cabinet. The whole arrangement takes your breath away, and if I were the owner I think I would leave my captain on the helm and spend my time at sea down here. You might even believe that was a mermaid you saw outside the window!
This master suite is amidships. In addition, there is the usual arrangement of two twins and a double cabin forward. Each of these has an en suite bathroom endowed with cherry wood and marble. These are calm, comfortable cabins-but, let's face it, no match for the style of the master suite. Aft of the master there are the two crew cabins and the access to the engine compartment (which is also reached via the cockpit). The engines are installed on a V-drive system; one result of having these isolated gearboxes is they do tend to generate an uncomfortable whine at speed that can spoil some of the enjoyment of the peaceful accommodation.
The cockpit has space for a gleaming wood table and settee-it's an attractive alfresco dining alternative to the saloon. Another option is up on the flybridge, where there is a barbecue and a bar. Large sun beds and an optional hot tub make this the place to be on sunny days and a large Bimini reaching out from the arch mast will offer shelter when it gets too hot. The reverse-angle windscreen up here, on the other hand, does not offer a lot of shelter from the wind.
And there will be wind when you advance the throttles on the 881. Despite the atmosphere of calm and serenity generated by this yacht, she does not hold back when it comes to performance. The two 2,000 hp MTU diesels power it to a top speed of 32 knots while the cruising speed of 27 knots comes up effortlessly. Apart from the gearbox noise, this cruising speed is a perfect match to the style of yacht: It allows dignified rather than exciting performance.
The wide beam allows plenty of space in the engine compartment, and it is here that you find the secret weapon that contributes much to the smooth performance of this yacht. The 881 has Ferretti's anti-rolling gyro (ARG) fitted as standard. You can certainly feel the benefits of this system: It gives good stability when the boat is traveling at speed, especially at slow speeds when normal fin stabilizers lose their effect. The ARG, on the other hand, continues to work its magic even when the boat is stopped-so you won't spill your gin and tonic even when a swell comes into the anchorage.
This stability takes away any excuse for not cooking sumptuous food and the large galley forward of the dining saloon gives the chef every scope for this. The galley enjoys easy access, with an outside door and a forward door that leads into the pilothouse so that the crew can move around without impinging on the guest areas.
The layout of this yacht is all so logical that you wonder why it has not become the standard for all yachts of this size. Things are not quite so logical, however, at the helm, where a large seat that invites double occupancy really only has working space for one. The only other seating here is a corner settee that looks more like a casual breakfast nook than good seating when underway. At the helm there is now what is becoming the usual three-screen display. Ferretti's own Naviop electronic monitoring and control system is standard and occupies one of the screens. Below this, on the flat section of the dash, there is a hodgepodge of dials and controls that do not seem to have attracted much logic or love in their layout.
Back to the good things in life, there is a garage built into the stern that can accommodate a small tender or a Jet Ski. This is the usual thing, until you find that the large door hinges down to form what is virtually a teak-decked, watersports beach-and then the area seems exceptional.
During my day on board I frequently felt a shiver of recognition at the exceptional made commonplace. The 881 is about pleasure in many shapes and forms, yet the overall impression that remained after a joyful voyage along one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world is of the calm of its ride and the serenity of this design. Yachts should be designed to give pleasure, and this one certainly hits the spot; short of donning a toga and reclining with a bevy of Roman-era courtesans, I don't know how I could have felt any more relaxed.
Contact: Marine Max; www.marinemax.com