Lady In Waiting: Sunseeker 86

The Sunseeker 86 yacht is at your beck and call for elegant entertaining and cruising.

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What I really wanted to do with my date was keep her out all day, lay a course for Port Lucaya on Grand Bahama, and make it there in time for a late lobster lunch and a couple of Kaliks. But the Sunseeker 86 was a busy lady right after the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show, with a dance card full of touch-and-go sea trials planned.

I had jumped aboard her huge, hydraulically operated teak swim platform at the Lauderdale Marina on the Intracoastal, as the first trip ended and my turn aboard began. "Beautiful boat," the gentleman hopping off said to me as the captain, using his thrusters, got her aft end into the seaway and nosed out the bow for a clean departure. "You're going to love that bridge," he called out as we moved off the dock.

I saw what he meant. The spacious bridge has a layout designed for optimizing entertainment and fun. The wide-open space features the fully equipped helm forward and to port, and offers the skipper a bench seat so he or she has the option of company. Just opposite the helm area is another bench seat, and forward of that, a sunpad for two.

There is a pair of C-shape settees abaft the helm to either side, accompanied by leafing tables that can seat up to eight people each. And on the aft end of the deck, surrounded by a hefty 1 ½-inch stainless rail, there is another large sunpad that stretches from port to starboard. The large console houses a refrigerator, grill, ice maker, prep counter, and sink with hot and cold water-so that hosting an alfresco lunch or elegant sunset dinner at a favorite anchorage will always be a special event.

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The bridge's teak deck is a nice touch and well executed, making it an instant reminder of how much attention Sunseeker pays to details. Hefty hardtop supports also caught my eye and almost made me wish for the kind of bumpy ride that would put them to the test. Judging from the lack of breeze as we cleared the north side of the 17th street bridge, that was not going to happen. So, I settled for opening up the retractable center portion of the hardtop, to let the sun pour in, and sat back to enjoy the very smooth ride for a few minutes.

Continuing my inspection on the afterdeck, I found a large dining table with enough room to seat 10. Forward and to port was another barbecue grill with an ice maker below.

A sliding glass door leads to the salon where a décor of contrasting dark woods with light fabrics and trim was selected. (Sunseeker will work with each buyer to customize the interior to suit his or her individual needs.) The seating area to port offered a pair of leather couches and a leather chair, grouped around a wood, glass-topped table. A leather loveseat was placed to starboard.

Forward and to starboard of the seating area was the dining space. A table for four expands to seat eight and a leather banquette along the starboard bulkhead provides additional seating.

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The galley aboard any boat is always a favorite place of mine and this one's enclosed design-just opposite the dining space-was just the ticket. It had everything required for preparing casual snacks or a gourmet meal. The fully equipped work area included solid granite countertops, a large pantry, Bosch four-burner electric cooktop, a full-size Whirlpool oven, side-by-side refrigerator and freezer, microwave, and plentiful closet and drawer space.

The lower helm station had extra large windows forward, an eight-position, electrically operated leather seat, and an easy-to-reach console with well-positioned electronics, controls, switches, and gauges-all a testament to thoughtful design. Seated or standing, I noted a firstrate line of sight forward. And there is also room for company here, thanks to the L-shaped seating area to port.

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From my vantage point at the helm, I could see a seating area with a teak dining table and space for six to eight people on the bow. Forward of that was a four-person sunpad.

The staterooms are accessed via a wide staircase. The forepeak VIP cabin and the amidships master suite had large en suite heads, and the pair of twin berth staterooms abaft the master each had a Pullman as well. All of the staterooms had plenty of stowage, great headroom, and pleasant décors.

At the helm, I found the hull so responsive that I was reminded of how much fun it is to run a boat. With perfect cruising conditions, she reached a top speed of 27.5 knots. Running at 2100 rpm, she hummed along at 25.4 knots, and with her tanks topped off at 1,982 gallons, allowing 10 percent for safety, I calculated an approximate range of 300 nautical miles. At 1900 rpm, where I noted she settled into a 21.2-knot speed, her range came in at 350 nautical miles. She tracked straight and true during my time at the wheel.

Of course, all good things must come to an end, and as I wistfully watched her head down the waterway with her next appointment aboard, I understood why this lady was in demand. With all she has to offer, the Sunseeker 86 is sure to keep her owners and guests very happy.

Sunseeker, (305) 856-4050; www.sunseeker.com