The Abacos are beautiful - a chain of islands that lie scattered across the turquoise and cobalt waters of little Bahama Bank like a tossed off strand of elegant pearls.
It's not every boat that could stand up to the aesthetic challenge of these islands. But when I met my ride at the dock in Marsh Harbour's Boat Harbour Marina, I was reminded that the Turkish-built Vicem 72 Classic, with her traditional Downeast profile, dark hull, and beautifully finished wood trim, could hold her own against any scenery. But was she just another pretty face?
We'd find out. Joining me on this test trip were Vicem founder Sebastian Hafizoglu; the company's international business development manager, Deniz Ozcakir; Vicem Yachts USA president Michael Landsberg, and Captain Steve Dumont. Rounding out our complement were Landsberg's wife Laurie, photographer Jim Raycroft, and stewardess Sky du Toit, on leave from a megayacht assignment. Steve had thoughtfully enlisted her to add a touch of personal service and make our experience aboard that much more pleasant. The route we'd planned included stops in Hope Town, Man O' War, and Green Turtle before heading over to West End, Grand Bahama. From there, we'd cross the Gulf Stream and deliver the 72 to her berth at the Palm Beach Boat Show.
Steve was timing our departure so we'd arrive in Hope Town at the top of the tide and avoid the skinny water at the harbor entrance. This meant hanging around in Marsh Harbor awhile, so we grabbed lunch dockside at Angler's Restaurant and then took a stroll around town. Just before we pushed off, as we unloaded our gear from the dock carts, Michael and I chatted about the Vicem 72 Classic. I mentioned how pretty she was.
"Seeing the exterior is what first got me interested in the company," he confessed. "What can be more eye-catching than a classic Downeast look?"
It's true that this salty New England style has legions of fans, and if you're amongst them, odds are that Vicem builds a version that's right for you. The 52, 54, and 58 are available in a Classic or Classic Flybridge model; the 67 and 72 are Classic Flybridge models; and the 65 and 85 are available only as Classics.
As we motored away from the dock on our short run to Hope Town, it was a beautiful day, and I, for one, was grateful the 72 has a flying bridge. We all settled in topside, gravitating to one of the bridgedeck's three seating areas. Sebastian and Deniz were on an aftfacing settee, busy discussing business and watching as Marsh Harbour faded away in the distance. The Landsbergs and Jim had made themselves comfortable on the wraparound banquette to starboard-a pair of highly finished wood dining tables were fitted here. Steve was at the starboard helm, his bench seat mirrored by the one to port.
A glance told me that an additional ten people could sit comfortably in this wide-open space. With a large grill and rotisserie unit, a sink, and cabinets to starboard, this deck was made for fun meals at favorite anchorages.
The cockpit area below had wraparound seating, and a highly varnished dining table. Seating for six was no problem-there was actually room for eight-and the teak deck underfoot was an elegant touch. On this 72, we also had an optional hydraulic lift swim platform that was accessed via a transom door to starboard.
Steve timed the harbor entrance perfectly and we skipped over the bottom and slid into our slip at the Hope Town Marina. After a spraydown, we settled into the cockpit area for some delicious wine and Turkish dut pestili, a dried fruit snack with pounded mulberry seeds and nuts. "Back home my family would make this during the summer harvest and have the dried fruit to eat all winter," said Deniz, as Sebastian handed the tasty treat around for everyone to sample.
With sunset about an hour away, we took the dinghy over to Hope Town for a walk around the pastel painted homes and shops. We passed the night away at Harbor's Edge restaurant with plenty of Kalik beer and Bahamian-style ribs, chicken, and fish.
When we came back aboard, I had a chance to admire the 72's softly lit salon. Sliding wooden doors to the cockpit bring good weather in; louvered cabinets on either side offer stowage; a flatscreen TV to port is angled for easy viewing. A large settee to starboard faces its portside twin across an adjustable cocktail table with an inlaid marquetry pattern. Forward and to starboard is the helm area with double seating at the wheel and a companion seat to port. A glossy white overhead runs the length of the salon and offsets the rich joinery that is Vicem's trademark.
"We select each piece of wood so that all the grains match," Michael told me, adding that a veteran labor force had been building cold-molded vessels at their yard in Turkey for 20 years. "We realized we had a very unique opportunity to continue [this type of] quality building," added Sebastian.
Down below, the accommodations showed off more beautiful wood. The three-stateroom, two-head layout on this Vicem 72 was really comfortable and I was impressed by the amount of stowage provided for extended cruising.
We were off the dock early the next morning to catch the high tide out of Hope Town. As we passed the iconic red-and-white striped lighthouse and made for Man O' War, we headed up to the bridgedeck. The sun was out, the seas were calm, and the ride was smooth.
With the tide ebbing-the harbor entrance at Man O' War is fairly shallow, too-Steve dropped the hook in a lee anchorage and we took the dinghy to shore to look around for a couple of hours.
It was Sunday and with everyone off at church services, Man O' War was ours to explore. We stopped by the highly regarded Albury Brothers boatbuilding yard-the family traces its roots back to the 1780s. Then we strolled the ocean side of the island, enjoying the colorful and fragrant hibiscus and bougainvillea, as well as the serene natural beauty of the place.
After lunch aboard, we set off to traverse Whale Cay Channel on our way to Green Turtle. Given the steady 20-knot NNE wind, we knew this could be dicey. Once out of the lee of Man O' War, the seas went from two to four to six, with an occasional eight-foot swell, just to make things interesting. Steve had switched on the optional Trac 250 stabilizers and with the twin 1,550-horsepower MANs turning 1500 rpm, we maintained a steady and comfortable 18 knots through the sloppy conditions-Sky even served wine and snacks topside as we covered the 23 miles to Green Turtle. Once there, with salt spray from the windswept crossing all over the boat, we got her rinsed down and retired to the Green Turtle Club bar. It was definitely five o'clock somewhere.
The next morning, Steve and I put the boat through her paces in calm conditions, posting a top speed of 31.6 knots. What impressed me the most was her 22.3-knot speed at 1700 rpm. At this rate, her engines were burning a total of 74 gph, giving her a range of 428 nautical miles, with a 10-percent safety factor built-in. When I knocked her down to 1500 rpm, turning 18.5 knots, I calculated a range of about 487 nautical miles.
Diagnostics done, we enjoyed lunch, cruising at a smooth 25 knots on our 122-mile run to West End. The next morning, it was off to Palm Beach for an on-time arrival at the boat show venue. The Vicem 72 had been a gracious host. With her timeless good looks, comfortable accommodations, and the obvious level of craftsmanship in both her build and details, she was a classic, indeed.
Vicem Yachts USA, (954) 713-0737; www.vicemyachts.com