Cheoy Lee 90

Cheoy Lee refines popular design with its 90' Expedition yacht.

Since the 1950s, Cheoy Lee has built just about every kind of yacht. One of the yard’s first imports to the U.S. was a 30′ Herreshoff-like ketch built of teak. Fiberglass trawler yachts by William Garden and Charles Whittholz followed, and by the 1980s the yard was building Tom Fexas-designed sportfishing boats and motoryachts. The Fexas 83’/92′ series and a series of Jack Hargrave-designed motoryachts that followed were pioneering efforts in the production of large fiberglass yachts.

Cheoy Lee’s new 90′ Expedition Yacht is yet another example of the builder’s ability to match its output to the marketplace. Dowdy, neo-commercial designs-expedition yachts, if you like-are the increasingly popular marine equivalent of sport utility vehicles. But while most builders opted for full-displacement designs with relatively Spartan appointments and a semi-commercial finish, Cheoy Lee sensed a demand for a more refined offering. The 90 is not a sheep in wolf’s clothing, but the Awlgrip exterior finish and detailed interior joinerwork make her more yacht than work boat.

Tom Fexas penned an exterior profile that will weaken the knees of any yachtsman who has dreamed of chasing the horizon. Her stout bow rises proudly above the water. She’s fitted with hearty anchor pockets and a foremast with a crow’s-nest. The “cargo” deck, forward, is large enough to carry several tenders, or perhaps a small car. A 2,200 lb. capacity crane with a 14′ reach is standard equipment. Side decks border the pilothouse, above, forming a Portuguese bridge forward. A stack and electronics mast complete the effect, which is, in a word, “yare.”


The 90’s hull form is an adaptation of a successful Cheoy Lee design developed by the late Jack Hargrave. Fexas was commissioned to provide engineering and make a few nips and tucks.

“We appreciated the Walter Mitty appeal of extended cruising designs, but we also understood the limitations imposed by oceangoing displacement forms,” Fexas said. “Poking along at hull speed while suffering under the influence of a laborious roll period quickly becomes monotonous.”

Although the 90 has soft, seakindly, deep forward sections, a hard chine borders her afterbody. This creates a slightly stiffer form and allows the 90 to cruise a bit above hull speed. Her cruising speed is in excess of 12 knots with a maximum speed of 14 knots. Active fin stabilizers enhance the ride.


Draft is perhaps the most significant compromise in a heavy-displacement design. A full-displacement 90-footer might draw as much as 11′. Fexas knows many yachtsmen dream of globe-trotting but spend their time in shallow coastal waters, and the 90’s 7′ draft improves skippers’ odds of avoiding the bottom. In anticipation of unexpected bumps, a moderate keel extends below the running gear to offer some protection.

The 90 is built at Cheoy Lee’s new shipyard in Dao Mun, China. Female tooling is used to laminate the hull, made of alternating plies of 24-ounce woven roving and 15-ounce mat. It averages more than 1″ thick. Fuel, waste and water tankage is integrated with the hull and forms a double bottom. A network of fiberglass stringers, web frames and four watertight bulkheads provides support.

The machinery space is amidships, accessible from a hatch in the galley sole or through a watertight door in the forward accommodation space. An alternate arrangement allows access directly from the main deck, which seems more desirable. Two Caterpillar 3406E commercial-rating (600 hp each) diesels are fitted to 3:1 ZF gears. The 90 carries 4,850 gallons of fuel, which Fexas calculates will provide a range of 1,150 miles at cruising speed. Reducing speed will add considerably to this range and allow for serious ocean voyaging.


Electronic helm controls operate the main engines, synchronizer and bow thruster. There are also plug-in remote stations on deck and in the crow’s-nest, the latter an ideal spot for conning while you weave about coral heads in the Bahamas. A 40kW and a 32kW Northern Lights generator live outboard of the engines, both fitted with power takeoff for hydraulic pumps. Exhaust from the main engines and generators exits via the stack. This will be changed to cleaner underwater exhaust. An isolation/boost transformer fends off the evils of inconsistent shore power supply.

While the interior design trend on this type of yacht ranges from wood-trimmed, painted spaces to men’s club mahogany caves, Fexas and Cheoy Lee again chose a different path. The 90’s interior joinery would complement any well-finished motoryacht, and Cheoy Lee offers a selection of wood finishes. Her interior layout deserves the same praise; with the exception of the machinery space amidships and the large, ship-like pilothouse, little is given up in the way of accommodations and luxury.

A large main deck saloon is aft, adjacent to a dining area. The amidships galley has an informal dining area/crew mess and two separate pantry areas. Standard refrigeration is a 26 cubic foot side-by-side refrigerator/ freezer in the galley and a 12 cubic foot freezer in the pantry. Owners who want to part with civilization for long periods of time might consider additional freezer capacity. A sky lounge is abaft the pilothouse, followed by an exterior entertainment area with an electric grill, full-service bar and built-in seating area. While additional tenders and water toys could be stowed here, Fexas’ space allocation makes sense. It compensates for the rather small afterdeck. The 90’s lazarette wraps around the integral swim platform and serves as a water sports prep area accessible from the master stateroom. A hydraulic gangway is in a pocket in the transom for stern-to docking.


Belowdecks accommodations are split fore and aft by the machinery space. The owner’s and VIP suites are aft. Four staterooms with private heads are forward. A door in the passageway can be closed, segregating the crew in the two forward staterooms with discreet access via the foredeck hatch.

The 90’s specifications and outfitting leave little to the imagination and should satisfy most cruisers’ needs. Significant features include two hydraulic anchor windlasses equipped with chain and twin 210 lb. stainless-steel anchors. Two warping windlasses on the afterdeck are designed to ease line handling dockside. A 1,200 gallon-per-day watermaker is fitted in the machinery space, as is chilled-water air conditioning. While Cheoy Lee includes a complete list of audio-video accessories, the owner specifies navigation and communication electronics.

If you’re ready to escape or are simply comforted by the knowledge that you could, the Cheoy Lee 90 Expedition Yacht is for you. The bottom line for independence afloat is about $4,000,000.

Contact: Cheoy Lee North America, Dept. Y, 801 Seabreeze Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316. (954) 527-0999; fax (954) 527-2887;