Evaluating a new boat is sort of like going on a blind date. Your friend-in this case, a builder or broker-extols the virtues of a new model: how good she looks and the quality of her construction. Sometimes, though, what you find at the end of the dock sends a shiver down your spine. In an effort to cut things short, you spend your time aboard plotting an exit strategy.
I felt confident this would not be the case with the new Symbol 58. Since I was acquainted with her sisters, I knew she came from a gene pool with good roots. In fact, I changed my schedule in order to spend some time with her, knowing I would find a well-designed, soundly constructed, high-quality build. After stepping on board in Ft. Lauderdale, I knew instantly the yard had another success on its hands.
The Jack Sarin-designed 58 nicely fills the slot between Symbol's 54- and 62-foot models. Her styling elements and features are typical of Sarin's other designs, giving the line a cohesive, identifiable look.
The 58's most noticeable profile element is her raised pilothouse, with its raked windshield. The black-painted area breaks up the bulk and carries the eye from the after window to the bridge. The bridge overhang has rounded corners, and their softness lends the 58 a contemporary look. The buyer can choose to have this overhang cover the side decks abaft the pilothouse. This may make the profile a little heavy, but it will reduce direct sunlight into the saloon area and keep away the rain. I would forgo this option in favor of cleaner lines.
This type of option, however, is indicative of how Symbol approaches the building process. The company works closely with a small, knowledgeable network of dealers, as well as with buyers. The 58 has a generous allowance for soft goods and gives the buyer a choice of interior woods, layouts and specifications.
"You name it, and they can pretty much do it", said Whitten Hall, sales and marketing coordinator for Heart Marine, Symbol's Southeast dealer. Hall walked me through the interior of a fresh 58 as he bubbled with enthusiasm for Heart Marine's relationship with Symbol.
On our way from Ft. Lauderdale to West Palm Beach, Hall pointed out the changes Symbol and Heart Marine had made at the owner's request. Some, such as reconfiguring the pilothouse to accommodate two Stidd helm chairs, were significant. Others, such as protecting the electrical panel with a Plexiglas door, were less complicated but no less important. Both dealer and builder welcome the input.
As on any yacht in this range, a lot of customization goes into the arrangement plan. The standard three-stateroom layout on the Symbol 58 is very workable, but the company is happy to accommodate changes. The buyer of our test boat, for instance, wanted a larger shower stall, so Heart's project manager tweaked the accommodations to provide one.
In the master stateroom, there is a walkaround berth flanked by shelves, cedar-lined lockers and a vanity. Fit and finish are first class, with near-flawless joinery and matched woodwork.
The owner opted for a portside guest stateroom in lieu of an optional office. Twin berths are standard, along with a hanging locker and sufficient stowage. If you don't need a large office (the master stateroom's vanity should be fine for a few hours if you need to use a laptop), this option is reasonable. The outboard berth follows the contour of the hull, so it's narrower than the inboard berth. But this is seen primarily at the foot of the berth and is not a big deal.
The forward guest stateroom is tucked into the bow and has an island berth, a clever slideaway TV/DVD system, two hanging lockers and access to the shared guest head.
The raised pilothouse has plenty of space for electronics and a fully equipped galley. In the saloon, a 7-foot, 9-inch L-shape settee is opposite two overstuffed barrel chairs. While seated, you can see out the side windows, which is a real plus. A 42-inch flat-screen television pops up from the forward credenza. I would ask for double sliding doors to the afterdeck, which would open the view a bit. In that case, the settee arrangement would be different; I've seen it aboard other Symbols and it works well.
A staircase leads from the pilothouse area to the flying bridge. The incline of the steps is gradual, so walking between the bridge and galley with your hands full is easy. The bridge is well laid out with enough seating for captain and guests. An optional second helm chair ($2,095) for the bridge is a must-have, in my opinion. This allows a second person to get comfortable and watch the action ahead. For relaxing, an L-shape settee and a straight settee are abaft the helm. On our test boat, the owner ordered a fiberglass bar unit with refrigerator and grill abaft the starboard settee. Thanks to the raised helm area, the line of sight forward is good. Symbol offers a choice of a bimini top or hardtop over the flying bridge area. The yard and dealer work with each buyer in selecting a tender, ensuring the stanchions, davit and cradle are suitable for her size.
Also worth noting are the 58's construction and systems. Below the waterline, the hull is solid fiberglass with three layers of vinylester resin. Above the waterline, high-density, closed-cell, foam-cored sandwich construction provides strength while keeping weight in check. The engineroom is smartly arranged and should allow for fairly easy service. Two 425-gallon fiberglass fuel tanks are outboard of the twin 700 hp Caterpillar C-12 diesels. Lead-lined 2-inch foam and powder-coated, perforated aluminum panels provide good sound insulation. At cruising speed, we recorded a very respectable 76 decibels in the saloon. In the pilothouse, sound levels never exceeded 75 decibels.
You would be wrong in thinking the Symbol 58 is just another pretty face suited for dockside entertaining. A northerly wind churned the water along the eastern coast of Florida for several days, so we had the pleasure of testing her in a fairly confused sea state. Would I go offshore on the 58? You bet. Would I add stabilizers for increased comfort? Yes, though the boat did fairly well without them. (Stabilizers were not yet installed on our test boat.) Sarin's hull is easily driven and tracks well. The angle of the shafts is reduced thanks to deep propeller pockets, which provide an accommodating 4-foot, 2-inch draft. Blazing at 20 knots into a 3- to 4-foot chop, we did take one heavy drenching over the bow. Considering the conditions, though, we weren't surprised.
One of the real attributes of this moderate V-shape hull is the boat's resulting ability to run efficiently at low speeds (for when range is an issue) and your ability to push the throttle if you need to. "We have a 58 coming with the 800 hp Cats", said Hall, referring to the Caterpillar 3406E diesel option. "I'm anxious to see what this is going to do." As for me, I'm just anxious to get a second date.