From the long, long foredeck through the rakish hard-topped bridge to the reverse transom, the Veneti 56 by Navigator Yachts draws on European sport yachts for her styling. She would, at first glance, be completely at home carrying a load of bikinied crumpets to St. Tropez for lunch or anchoring in a rocky cove off the Costa Smeralda.
But the Veneti is, in many ways, a surprise. She is 100 percent American in design and construction and, though she exudes the look of expensive opulence, she is simply opulent. She also offers the living space and sturdy construction her designer, Jule Marshall, distinguished himself for in the trawler market.
Back in the mid-1970s, Marshall created comfortably sturdy and affordable Californian trawlers. A talented designer as well as a skilled boatbuilder, he provided solid American construction amid a flood of trawlers from the Orient. There were twists and turns-he sold the company, bought it back, sold it again-but, in the mid-'80s, he designed the Californian Veneti 44.
In 1988, joined by his sons, Marshall went on to launch Navigator Yachts with a series of successful raised pilothouse motoryachts, but apparently the Veneti concept kept niggling at him. Now we have the Veneti 56, a 30-knot-plus yacht that is, in profile and concept, a successor to the 44 that was well worth the wait.
Her 18-foot beam houses two private, spacious suites. Marshall, as with his other designs, provides the living space of a larger boat. There is room to move about without bumping, the headroom (particularly the 8 feet in the master) is fit for NBA players, and none of the expected amenities are lost in the process.
The cockpit, of course, is the primary reason for the Veneti's existence, and it stretches more than half the length of the yacht from the oversized teak swim platform into the hardtop-protected bridge deck. The transom has port and starboard entries, separated by a wide settee with stowage underneath. Perfect for lounging, fishing or swimming, the lower cockpit has a hidden Miele barbecue, a Norcold refrigerator and a wet bar.
The solid, nicely finished hardtop combines with the absence of an after bulkhead to provide sun and wind protection without claustrophobia. On warm days, the flush-mounted sunroof can be opened for more breeze, or an aft enclosure can be closed to use the separate bridge air conditioning. The enclosure works equally well with the reverse-cycle heating to allow shirt-sleeve operation in cold weather. Whatever the conditions, the frameless side and curved forward windows provide exceptional visibility for the skipper and for guests seated on the bridge settee as well.
Her helm is an Italianate pod with two levels: the Volvo-Penta gauges are arrayed in the skipper's line of sight, while there is room to flush-mount a full array of electronics. The oversized wheel on the Hynautic steering is angled forward and covered with leather, the dash has a faux burl finish, and the helm seat is wide enough for a companion.
Two cushioned seats in the forward corners of the cockpit double as steps to the side decks (those cushions will take a beating). The decks are wide enough for comfortable passage. The welded, doubled stainless-steel bow rail extends from bow to cockpit. It has hefty stanchions and good height, creating the solid feel of an ocean liner. Combine that with the excellent nonslip deck pattern, and you have real security.
Going below would be easier with a lower threshold on the slanted cabin door, while the companionway holds the tidy and Lucite-protected electrical panel within reach of both cockpit and cabin. An L-shape settee is to starboard, and our test boat had a cocktail table. I suspect most buyers will opt for a real dining table, unless they plan to use the bridge settee.
The interior finish is black walnut buried under layers of high-gloss finish. Though you would expect it to turn the cabin into a gloomy cave, it exudes a warmth that glows from the overhead skylights and side ports. The leopard-skin upholstery on the settee is startling, and while this décor is daring, I suspect future Veneti buyers may choose lighter bulkheads (ash? oak? maple?) with more conservative upholstery.
The galley is tucked out of the way to port behind a Corian breakfast counter with twin bar stools, and it has all the usual appliances including a stacked washer/dryer hidden in the forward bulkhead. A clever touch is the 19-inch Panasonic flat-screen television on the after bulkhead that can be swiveled to entertain the chef in the galley or guests sitting on the settee opposite.
A full queen berth on an island fills the forward VIP suite, along with a cedar-lined hanging locker behind a curved door. The day head includes a spacious shower stall, and the door to the VIP suite is thoughtfully placed abaft the head, allowing private use by the VIP guests at night with the door closed.
The open, airy master stateroom is aft, tucked under the raised bridge deck. A queen berth is athwartships beneath a mirrored headboard with built-in nightstands, drawers are in the base of the bed, and the head has Corian counters and a comfortably large shower.
Her carpeted engineroom is surprisingly spacious. With the welded aluminum fuel tanks aft, there is more than enough room to get outboard of the twin 700 hp Volvo-Penta D-12 diesels. A Kohler 15.5kW genset is standard. Though our sound level readings suggest the engineroom is well insulated, I'd prefer it in a sound shield.
The Volvo D-12s are a perfect match for the Veneti, with plenty of torque, a good top end and miserly fuel consumption. The 700 hp version is the most powerful of the four electronic D-12s, which all use a 740 C.I. (12.1-liter) in-line six block. It's a bulletproof engine, with seven main bearings and two vibration dampers, as well as an induction-hardened crankshaft. The aftercooler uses fresh water to minimize corrosion. If you operate in warm conditions, the expansion tank is designed to handle keel cooling, too.
In an era when high-tech seems the norm, the Veneti's construction is reassuringly straightforward and well proven, with solid fiberglass on the bottom and topsides, vinylester resins and an epoxy barrier coat for blister protection.
We took our test boat out on Seattle's Lake Washington and did our speed runs in front of Bill Gates' compound (he didn't come out to wave). Top speed is a smidgen over 30 knots, even toting 21/2 tons of fuel, full water, and four people. Being on a freshwater lake, our boat's speeds were a bit below what I'd expect in more buoyant (hence less drag) salt water. The factory tested our boat and recorded a top speed of 31.3 knots, meaning our "stickier fresh water knocked 1.2 knots off the top end and proportionate chunks down the speed curve, as well.
Shove the throttles to the firewall, and the Veneti comes up quickly onto a plane without needing the trim tabs. You can hear the turbos kick in with a whine at something around 1500 rpm. After that, the speed curve jumps appreciably. What is particularly interesting, however, is how slowly the Veneti can go. We eased the throttle back to almost 1200 rpm before she dropped off plane, a trick that allows efficient running at surprisingly low rpm.
We had to make our own swells to cross, but the Veneti slid across her own wake easily, slicing cleanly through even the biggest swell and throwing the spray out to the side rather than back on the windshield. The transom deadrise is 15 degrees, so she is no deep-V, but there is no pounding of flat bottom panels in the swells. With power-assisted steering, she banks into turns solidly and without cavitation, even at full throttle. All in all, the handling is pleasant and predictable.
The sound level under way is surprisingly low, though the boat needed a good sound gasket around the engineroom hatch, which leaked noise. Nevertheless, we peaked at 88 decibels at the helm and, for much of the lower rpm range, stayed under 80 decibels.
A real departure from the raised pilothouse and sedan bridges that make up the Navigator line, this yacht is going to attract an entirely different clientele. With solid construction and stylish lines, the Veneti 56 is likely to appeal to buyers who might never have considered a Navigator. With a well-equipped list of standard equipment from bow thruster to VacuFlush heads, her $800,000 price is right, too.
Contact: Navigator Yachts, (909) 657-2117;