On Board the Sessa Fly 54

Sessa's Fly 54 brings her striking looks and intelligent design to American shores. By Tom Serio.

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Back in 1492 Italian explorer Christopher Columbus completed several voyages across the Atlantic that led to a general European awareness of the American continents. (Yes, I know he sailed for Spain and I look forward to your cards and letters.) Fast-forward to 2013 and Italians are still sailing west, now with the purpose of making Americans aware of fine European watercraft — in this case, the Sessa Marine Fly 54. Introduced to the U.S. market earlier this year, the Fly 54 arrived packed with ingenuity.Sessa Marine
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Stepping up to the teak-covered aft deck from a large hydraulic swim platform, I instantly noticed the extended overhang that covers it. What’s not so apparent is an aft table. Sessa’s engineers designed it to fold out from the bench-seat base along the transom’s edge. Flip open the split-table top and there’s alfresco dining for eight. This configuration adds much more livable space to the deck when the table is not needed. Behind the large aft doors (one slides over the other), the salon is eye-catching. This 54’s interior space is maximized without being overbearing and incorporates soft, warm colors and materials that invite relaxation. The water-chilled air-conditioning system keeps it all cool too.Sessa Marine
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Immediately to port is an entertainment center with drawers for plates and glassware, plus a mini fridge, all concealed by mirrored doors. Nestled behind this equipage is the electrically actuated high-low LED TV. To the top of this unit Sessa adds a leather-lined recessed tray where keys, cell phones or other loose items can be placed without sliding about in a seaway. The electrical panel here is a piece of art in its own right, smartly designed and laid out. “Like” items are grouped together so one switch can turn off any particular function, such as lights, accessories, navigation and environmental controls. If there’s a circuit that should not be powered within a group, that can be controlled via the breaker panel located elsewhere.Sessa Marine
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Across from the entertainment center is a large L-shaped settee with electric high-low table. The square table with leather inserts folds out on both sides to create a sizable dining surface. Forward and to port is a raised dinette that offers exceptional visibility and is a comfortable place for family meals and gatherings. Again, Sessa minimizes the table footprint by building it on hinges to fold in half. Our test boat’s dinette had sophisticated dark-leather backrests and tan fabric seats with dark piping. Wenge and walnut wood finishes adorn the cabinetry and sole. With enough seating and table space for family, friends or both, the Fly 54 offers plenty of options for enjoyment.Sessa Marine
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The lower helm has great sight lines, and it’s where we ran our vessel because of rough seas. A double-size seat adds comfort, and the angled helm console aids in heads-up viewing while adding an attractive styling element. Chrome-encased gauges, chart, radar, engine displays and ancillary controls are set logically in rows. The Volvo Penta IPS joystick is to the right, as are the throttles and keyless ignition for arm’s-reach access.Sessa Marine
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Function meets art in the 54’s galley. A few steps down from the helm, the galley is an open area situated under large forward windows, which create an atrium effect. Cabinets and curved drawers are finished in a creamy-white color, which is attractively contrasted by a dark countertop and stainless-steel sink and fixtures.Sessa Marine
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Accommodations can be reached via the atrium. Aft is the yacht’s full-beam master stateroom. There are tiered levels that also act as steps down to the space, and the centerline berth offers walk-around room. Stowage cabinets and drawers line the outer sides of the berth, and a voluminous closet provides racks for clothes. Claustrophobics need not worry because large hull-side windows with opening portholes alleviate any shut-in feelings. A private head includes a stall shower with rainshower fixture.Sessa Marine
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For guests, there is a forepeak VIP with step-up berth, and abaft to starboard is an over-under bunk setup for the kids. The guest spaces share a well-appointed head with circular shower and basin sink. Safety is always a concern when transiting to the foredeck, and Sessa knows it. Wide, nonskid walk-around decks, high railings and grab rails provide stability en route to the large sun pad and anchor tackle.Sessa Marine
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The builder’s forward thinking is also illustrated in this yacht’s flybridge Bimini top. Jim Renfrow of Total Marine in Dania Beach, Florida, Sessa’s East Coast dealer, showed me the magic. In a matter of seconds, he and company captain and sales rep John-Henry Falk had the top’s frame disconnected from the stanchions. Instead of laying the top across the forward sun pad, Renfrow lifted the front edge of the pad, uncovering a recessed well where the frame and canvas hide away. You wouldn’t even know there was a Bimini on board. Very cool!Sessa Marine
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The 54’s flybridge is low profile, in keeping with the vessel’s overall sleek and flowing lines. Behind the fully appointed helm is a large U-shaped settee with — you guessed it — a fold-out table. Maybe Sessa should call these “smart tables” since they both fold out and go up and down. This one has cup holders on each end and a half-moon railing that supports the open-table leaf, but it also acts as a grab rail when the table is folded. Renfrow tells me that, although these exterior tables are plain teak, Total Marine will have them varnished, like those on board — a nice touch, indeed. The corner bar comes complete with sink, fridge, freezer, grill and freshwater inlet for ice.Sessa Marine
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She looked great, but I wondered how she would run. Getting under way in a fresh crosswind, we effortlessly departed our slip and headed for the inlet. Controlling the twin Volvo Penta IPS900 D11 diesels, first by joystick and then by throttles, was intuitive. A Side-Power bow thruster is standard and helped close-quarter maneuvering. The 54’s a quiet ride too. Sound levels at the lower helm never exceeded conversation levels, even as we were tossed around in the confused seas off Fort Lauderdale. The Fly 54 wasn’t bothered by the washing-machine conditions, but it was difficult to get good speed readings in the three- to five-foot lumpy seas.Sessa Marine
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The Sessa Fly 54 handled the tough sea state with aplomb thanks to her deep-V hull form. Her roll moment was moderate and transitions were gentle as we took beam seas while making an about-face back to the inlet, helped by 1,400 horsepower of big iron belowdecks. From her layout to performance, the Fly 54 is a solid citizen with attractive lines, a serious contender for the cruising family looking for a midsize vessel. The Radice family has built the Sessa line of yachts since 1972, and this one may arguably be one of the best things to hit our shores from Italy since, well, Columbus.
Sessa Marine, +39 0363 946500; sessamarine.com LOA: 53'8"
BEAM: 15'4"
DRAFT: 4'6"
DISPL.: 48,500 lb.
FUEL: 528 gal.
WATER: 150 gal.
ENGINES (tested): 2 x 700 hp Volvo Penta IPS900 D11 diesels
BASE PRICE: $1,487,000
PRICE AS TESTED: $1,561,658 TEST CONDITIONS:
Speeds were measured by GPS off Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in calm seas and 5-knot winds, with 25 percent fuel, 25 percent water and three persons aboard. Fuel consumption was measured with the Volvo Penta electronic-monitoring system. Sound levels were measured at the lower helm with windows and aft door closed.