Seven people were aboard when our test boat's initial burst of energy hit me. This Uniesse 55, designed for express-style owners looking to move up into great living space and a fast, quiet, smooth ride, was busting water at 35 knots, powered by optional 1,050 hp MANs. Even with the dealer, the importer, the new owner, his friend, a hired captain and a crewman meandering the decks, I had my own space to enjoy this finely finished Italian ride.
The boat was not overwhelmed by the crowd, but the crowd was pretty excited about the boat.
Uniesse markets its boats as super-quiet. While I have been on boats with lower decibel levels, they are like apples compared with this juicy orange, which cruises at 30 knots instead of in the more common mid-20 range. Uniesse says that even the stock 800 hp engines deliver a 32- to 34-knot top end. Running the boat from the open flying bridge produced decibel levels in the mid-80s, entirely due to air rushing past the helm. Below, saloon sound levels were quite good, proving Uniesse's solid attention to engineroom soundproofing and the delicate match of drivetrain and running gear.
Her performance has much to do with the placement of props and rudders below the waterline. Rudderposts are attached to the transom flat rather than to a through-hull, a design element reminiscent of older Blackfin sportfishermen. Additionally, the struts are just forward of the transom vertical below the integral swim platform, placing the propellers about as far aft as possible, with the exception of a surface-drive setup.
The 55 will not disappoint owners looking for express-style handling under way or around the dock. A bow thruster offers added in-close maneuverability. Our test boat also had a stern thruster.
She has a sharp V-design entry promoting smooth head sea performance, even in seas larger than typical cruising conditions. She sports a low center of gravity that is evident from her profile, a no-nonsense hull that needs no trickery to deceive the eye. She is straightforward from her spray-deadening, waterline-level chine to her tumblehome transom. Five symmetrical portals allow natural light to flood the cabins, and two windows on each side of the deckhouse illuminate the two-level saloon. A simple air plenum allows the machinery spaces to breathe.
Uniesse employs yacht-like techniques in design and construction of all boats in its 42- to 80-foot line. Hulls are outsourced to companies owned by Uniesse, but are built to its specifications. The finish surface is a water-resistant gelcoat that's available in blue, something not offered by manufacturers with suspicions of imperfection in hull layup. (Dark colors don't hide mistakes.) The stringer system within the handlaid hull is a grid format on which the cabin sole rests. All bulkheads that meet the hull are laminated from both sides. The topsides and deck are cored.
To ensure quality of joinery construction-a bar that is set high when the builder is from Italy-the interior is constructed, then disassembled (except for permanent bulkheads) and removed to climate-controlled paint rooms where coat upon coat of polyurethane varnish is applied. All construction is wood, not wood veneer, over fiberglass to add strength to the structure.
The flying bridge is built for fair-weather operation and fun. Enclosures are available, but this deck is an entertainment area in the style of express cruiser cockpits. There is a double helm seat and half-moon settee, with a sunpad abaft the helm bench. Amenities, including a grill, can be installed. The low, forward-raked windshield is stylish, but it doesn't offer much in the way of protection or windbreak. A molded staircase with teak treads and a crescent handrail leads to the cockpit. Interior passage is via less substantial stainless and wood ladder-like steps.
Taller captains will have obstacles at the 55's lower helm. The interior brow is low, restricting a standing skipper's visibility. I'm not quite 6 feet tall, and I stretch the comfort zone. While seated behind the station, skippers will have everything within reach, including the thruster and engine controls (positioned for the left hand). All flush-mounted electronics are in the line of sight. An elaborate circuit breaker panel is outboard to port of the helm chair; ship's electric service is 24v/220v, and an 18kW generator is standard.
On the main deck, the Uniesse 55 is open from the large after bulkhead door forward to the windshield. A U-shape settee is to starboard, as is a similarly shaped dinette two steps up. An entertainment center is opposite the saloon settee in a beautifully sculpted cabinet. Saloon lighting includes sleek halogen fixtures.
The galley is unique in its placement: to port abaft the helm and three full steps down. This is a tremendous asset when entertaining, keeping guests and family out of the working area. The galley itself is open to the saloon overhead, though the balance of this space continues full-beam under the saloon. A washer/dryer unit, stowage and some domestic water system components are within its confine.
A gray-water tank for laundry day residue holds 63 gallons, and the black-water holding tank has a capacity of 68 gallons. This should suffice for a family of four during a reasonable amount of cruising time.
Standard is a three-stateroom, three-head layout. A master with an island queen is forward, with a split head with shower to port. Two cabins, each with twin berths, are abaft the master on either side of the companionway. Our test boat had an owner-requested two-head layout, allowing the master head to be enlarged. Anyone used to flush doorway entries might need a slight adjustment period. Entering each stateroom requires stepping over door frames and down steps, a minor inconvenience but worthy of note.
Our test boat exemplified Uniesse's willingness to work closely with owners. In addition to the unique layout, our owner required features far different than any standard Uniesse products. Redundant systems, custom compressor placement, two hydraulic thrusters, backup engine controls, twin bilge pumps in each compartment and a complete inverter and battery management system with isolation transformers were all completed to this owner's satisfaction.
The machinery and engine space entrance is through a hatch in the cockpit sole. Fuel tank material is stainless steel, and Racors handle the filtering duties. Even with all the extras on our test boat, the spaces were workable, well labeled and completed with interior-quality finish.
The 55's swim platform is large, and its teak deck will support a tender or Jet Ski. Inside, the platform houses pumps and compressors, including those for the passerelle. The interior section is accessed through a hatch in the crew cabin, entered through a passage in the transom. In owner/operator situations, the crew cabin could be used for stowage or as a workshop.
While our test boat handled quite well, standard models should perform even better without the added weight of this owner's special requirements. Uniesse believes the 55's top end will be closer to 37 knots, not the 35 I recorded.
Circumnavigating the boat will be easy, even for children, thanks to wide side decks and classic railing construction. They certainly came in handy during our crowded test run, during which the owner said he already has his next Uniesse on order.