This was a rare opportunity, one that doesn't often present itself with a large custom yacht. Codecasa's most recent delivery, the 50m motoryacht Invader, is a beautiful vessel with an interesting design. That's enough to whet the appetite of any yachting enthusiast. But Invader had been preceded by a sistership, Andale, about a year earlier, offering a great chance to compare style and arrangement. Then, I found myself in Viareggio, Italy, walking through another sistership under construction in Codecasa's Ugo yard. Work on mechanical and electrical systems was well under way and nearly all the steel and aluminum fabrication was done, but there was not yet any joinery to hide her internals.
It was a perfect chance to analyze Invader using her sisterships, including all the details that remain hidden once a yacht is complete.
Codecasa's Ugo yard is the oldest of three facilities the company operates in Viareggio. With a history dating to 1825, Codecasa remains a family firm. Fulvio Codecasa, assisted by daughters Fulvia and Elena and their husbands, is a master shipbuilder who keeps a close eye on each vessel's construction. The company still builds commercial vessels, but the custom yacht business is clearly dominant.
Craftsmen's pride and skill were evident in the latest yacht's partially completed shell. The steelwork in the high tensile AH36 hull was fair and solid. From the plate forms of the sleek bulbous bow to the fit-up of the framing and stringers, the shipwrights knew their trade and cared about their work. Their talent was echoed in the complicated shapes of the 5083 aluminum that formed the superstructure.
Out of the water, the hull's otherwise-unseen details were in plain view. The bow thruster installation was textbook perfect, with a generous fairing to ease water flow through the tunnel and past the hull. It's much cheaper and easier, of course, to slide a pipe into a hole and weld the hard corners, but you lose a good portion of the thruster's effectiveness that way.
The hull form itself is a study in easy water flow, and Invader's bow wave and wake under way confirm its efficiency. To minimize drag and maximize speed and range, Codecasa built small pockets into the keel's sides that recess the zinc anodes protecting the hull and appendages from galvanic corrosion.
Minimizing resistance is only half the propulsive equation; the remainder lies with the engines, gears and propellers. The Caterpillar 3516B diesels are massive chunks of iron, turbocharged and aftercooled to boost power but operating at only 1800 rpm to provide longevity. At the business end of the propeller shaft, Codecasa's engineers wisely selected five-blade S-class props for Invader. The finely finished and balanced blades required to achieve that ultimate S-class rating increase propeller cost significantly, but such props minimize vibration and deliver the highest percentage of developed power into the water as thrust.
Inside the vessel, electricians were not to be outdone. Every cable run was neat and well-fastened in cable trays that will support the system regardless of the sea's roughness. As mechanics continued outfitting the hull with top-quality equipment, there was no question their piping systems were every bit as impressive as the wiring runs. For the most part, these items will not be seen again until the yacht is refitted years from now, yet they are finished as if they were to be mounted in display cases. It's the right way to do things.
There's no question Invader benefits from the same dedication to quality seen on her sistership. Invader was built to Lloyd's classification and is compliant with the MCA Code for commercial yacht service, but owner Jim Gabbert took no chances. The experienced California yachtsman (he has operated and maintained an 85' Stephens motoryacht for many years) hired Wes Armstrong, who also oversaw Andale's construction, and Don Patton, a well-known Florida surveyor, to keep an eye on things at the yard. Armstrong was so impressed with the yacht and the owner he agreed to stay on as captain. He says he has no regrets.
A hands-on owner, Gabbert was involved in Invader's design and construction. The licensed pilot flew his private 727 to Viareggio frequently to check on construction, and his background as a broadcast executive is obvious in Invader's outfitting. A Linn master sound system serves the entire yacht, and JVC component systems are installed in each stateroom. There's also an Arrakis music system. Normally used by radio stations, it lets guests select one of eight music formats, from classical to country to easy listening.
Laughing about the harvest gold appliances his earlier 1970s vintage yacht carried, Gabbert said he has learned to anticipate change. He insisted Codecasa install nearly a mile of advanced multipurpose communication cable throughout the yacht, though he doesn't yet know exactly what the wiring will be connected to. He only knows it will make upgrading easier.
Invader's accommodations include four guest staterooms belowdecks, two with double beds and two with twin beds plus a Pullman berth. All have private baths and are accessed from a central foyer. Forward of the guest accommodations are the crew cabins, crew mess and service spaces. Four crew cabins have upper and lower berths, and an engineer's cabin has a single berth. Each cabin has its own head, and the engineer's cabin includes a generously sized desk. The captain has a double-berth cabin on the upper deck abaft the pilothouse and an adjacent office with work space.
The full-beam master stateroom is forward on the main deck. It is finished in light, neutral shades accented by darker fabric tones on furnishings and bulkhead panels. Starboard of the berth is a comfortable settee; to port is a large desk. The master bath has a roomy centerline tub anchored by four crystal columns trimmed with gold bases and capitals.
Marble is inlaid with wood elsewhere as well, creating a warm yet sophisticated look and inviting feel. If you look northward from the Codecasa yard, you can almost see the famed Carrara quarries, so it's not surprising the material plays a significant part in local construction.
The remainder of the main deck is devoted to galley, saloon and dining areas, and a large open afterdeck. This arrangement is reversed from that of Andale, as Invader's saloon is at the after end of the deckhouse, and allows additional casual seating. For dining privacy, a panel in the divider between the spaces raises to block the view from astern.
A large, airy lounge is abaft the pilothouse and captain's cabin on the upper deck. The space is divided into several open, yet cozy, seating areas. A corner bar to starboard provides convenient service and is balanced by an attractive game table to port. There's an oval table on the open afterdeck for alfresco dining, and a pair of settees along with two companion seats wrap across the after bulwark. Forward of the pilothouse is a circular lounge and table easily accessed via the side decks and Portuguese bridge.