“Victor, are you ready to start the engines?” I asked the captain.
“They’re running,” he replied.
I soon discovered that, even under way, the Fleming 78 was so quiet and free of vibration that we had to open the pilothouse door to hear any significant noise — and what we heard was the sweet sound of water, parted by the ship’s bulbous bow, gently flowing aft.
Flemings are known for their whisper-quiet, smooth ride, but the 78 — evolved from the builder’s previous flagship 75-footer — sets new standards in noise suppression. “The owner was very keen that his new Fleming be as quiet as possible,” said Duncan Cowie, the man now running this 25-year-old company, along with engineer Adi Shard, founder Tony Fleming’s nephew. “We installed nearly 100 additional sheets of lead foam insulation throughout the boat.” Bulkheads were thickened to accommodate the extra lead insulation.
Also contributing to the ship’s quietness are the new V-8 common-rail 1,000-horsepower MAN diesel engines instead of the normally specified 1,550-horsepower MANs. “The owner, a very experienced yachtsman who has owned a Fleming 65 and a much larger expedition-style yacht, prefers cruising in the 8- to 10-knot range, so these engines are ideally matched to this particular 78, providing an especially quiet ride,” Cowie added. An Aquadrive anti-vibration system allows the engines to be soft-mounted, even further reducing noise and vibration.
Cowie told me that the bulbous bow and additional waterline length, created by extending the hull beneath the swim platform, have improved fuel efficiency over the Fleming 75 by 13 percent at 8 knots and 10 percent at 9 knots. “A bulbous bow has an optimum performance range of just plus or minus 3 knots, so this particular bulb design is different from the ones on the next 78s meant to cruise at higher speeds.” Top speed on this 78 is 16.1 knots versus the 22 to 23 knots projected for the more powerful standard models.