After so many years of delivering boats, you'd think this seemingly pedestrian assignment would have lost its luster. But when Eric Cashion, Hatteras's marketing director, asked me if I would like to help take hull number one of the Hatteras 56 Motoryacht from Aon a brand-new boat. Shakedown notwithstanding, this motoryacht New Bern, North Carolina, to the owner's home port of Beaufort, I jumped at the chance.
The 56 is the latest addition to the Hatteras fleet of motoryachts, and she's also the smallest. While the three-hour poke along the ICW would only give an inkling of her capabilities, it's hard to beat a ride is ready for service.
It was sunny and warm when I got the last of our dock lines and fenders properly stowed. Since there was no hurry, the ride would be fairly laid back with plenty of time for me to have a look around. There had been some thunderstorms in the area over the past few days, but today the sky gave no indication of any kind of bad weather. But you know how that goes. We did a final system check and were off. On board with me were Cashion, Hatteras captain Bob Dunst, mate Matt Hooper, Cat mechanic Jim Stubbins from Gregory Poole Marine Power, Brandon Tilghman, also from Hatteras marketing, and photographer Matt Jackson.
Right away I noticed that the 56 is every inch a Hatteras and offers the kind of construction that typifies boats that carry the distinctive H logo. Her hull bottom is solid fiberglass with extra support built into the important areas that bear rudders, struts, and shafts. From the waterline up, it's infused Divinycell coring for the hull sides, her decks, and her superstructure. This not only adds strength and stiffness, but also eliminates unnecessary weight as well. Her Bruce Angel-designed running bottom results in a hull shape that is a slight variation on the same theme of each and every one of Hatteras's sea-proven, horizon-chasing battlewagons including the hot 60 GT, and 68 and 64 Convertibles.
While she's the kind of boat you want under you when sea conditions go south-more on this later-the 56 Motoryacht is chock full of creature comforts and designed with the features of a much bigger boat.
Take her expansive bridge deck, for example. The centerline helm offers a 360-degree line of sight. With the pair of optional large screen Garmin 5215 units-I noted excellent viewing during my time at the wheel, even in bright sunlight-and with well-placed Cat electronic engine-data readouts, skippers have access to all critical system functions. They can sit back and enjoy the ride-and the view-along with their guests.
And as I proved with the six other members of the delivery crew, there is plenty of room for entertaining and hanging out at the helm. Just aft and to port is a comfortable seating area and table. Behind that on the same side is a refrigerator and ice maker. An optional barbecue grill is also available. And fully aft on this deck is a large area that, with the Steelhead model 1000 davit to launch and retrieve, affords plenty of space for a dinghy.
Access to the main deck is through two large hatches: One is aft and to starboard with the other to port of the helm. I liked the fact that both lock down for safety. The former leads to the afterdeck, while the latter gets you right down to the galley and dinette area.
Hatteras supplied her big sister 64 Motoryacht with ample interior space and has built all the same qualities and amenities into the 56. Family and friends can dine comfortably in the portside seating area, with the help of a center serving island and the fully equipped galley to starboard. And while four of us took a break during the trip and sat around the marble-topped table munching on pretzels, chips and salsa, and drinking sodas, it was not too much of a stretch to imagine being served a gourmet meal while on the hook at a favorite anchorage. For after-dinner conversation, or just a nice comfortable place in which to relax, the salon offers facing couches and large windows that round out the main deck's interior space.
The wide stairway leading to the three-stateroom, two-head layout is forward of the galley. It's an easy few steps down to the VIP forepeak, and over-under portside guest quarters. Aft and amidships, the master has distinctive oval portlights that afford plenty of natural light, and provide exciting views of the passing sea and landscape while underway.All staterooms have plenty of locker and drawer space-more than enough for an extended cruise-and with the washer and dryer unit neatly tucked away in a hallway locker, there should be no problem keeping the casual wardrobe fresh and clean while traveling.
You can tell a lot about a boat by spending some time in its engineroom and one look around that of the 56 indicates that a major portion of her design is built around this space.The first thing I noticed is the amount of workable room for getting to and servicing all vital engine checks, including full headroom. There is also access to all systems, pumps, valves, battery switches, and electrical components and wiring.The next indicator is the V-drive configuration that, with either the standard twin 705-horsepower Cummins CMD QSM-11 or, as on this 56, a pair of 1,000-horsepower Cat C18 diesels, has the gearbox facing forward allowing for the engineroom to be positioned as far aft as possible. This frees up additional space for the accommodations.
But no matter how nicely she is laid out, or how much stowage space there is aboard, at her heart, the 56 Motoryacht is Hatteras built.And that means performance as well as durability. By the time we slow-belled the no-wake zone through Adams Creek, we were just shy of Beaufort Inlet."Hey, Cap," I said to Dunst,"How about we take her out where's there's some water?"
With a 25-knot wind right on the nose, and out of the protection of the ICW, the inlet was white-capped and roiling. We put everything away that could hit the decks and made for the open ocean. The seas were running a good five to seven feet with a couple of potentially kidney-shaking, teeth-rattling big ones thrown in just to make things interesting.At 2100 rpm we were maintaining about 21 knots.When we had to, we dropped down to 1860 rpm and poked along at just under 17 knots.
We spent a good half an hour running that water, taking it on the bow as well as handling quartering and following seas. There was no pounding or slapping and, when I went below to have a look around, I found that no locker, drawer, or cabinet had thrown itself open.
And to top off the rough waters, when we approached the slip at the Beaufort Town Dock, with that insistent 25-knot wind, we faced a potentially dicey situation. Given the rather tight conditions with large boats all around, Dunst poked the bow in first and was quickly able to size things up. With a quick maneuver that brought us parallel to the inner basin, we let the wind slide us in while maintaining control with a nudge here and there on the bowthruster and some finesse of the starboard engine with reverse thrust. Then, once we were in the right position, Dunst let the big 35 x 45, 8-bladed wheels bite and applied just enough power to slide right back into the slip. Oh yes, about the weather: That late afternoon wind brought in a hellacious thunderstorm about 45 minutes after we shut down. And while it's nice to know you have a boat that can take unexpected sea conditions, it's also nice to be tied up safely at the dock.
From all indications, the 56 Motoryacht has proven she deserves her position in the fleet. She is built with all the attention to detail the builder is known for, including robust construction, roominess, and the ability to take adverse sea conditions when needed. I'm hoping they call me when hull number two is ready to go.
Hatteras Yachts, (252) 633-3101; www.hatterasyachts.com