Made to Order

The Dover 90 is a fine custom yacht built by experienced old hands.

Dover Yacht's Terry Smith and Don Boyle have been banging about the marine industry for the past 25 years. Both are experienced skippers, and Boyle is a master shipwright. In 1998, friend and former client Harvey Hunt, an experienced yachtsman, approached them about funding a yacht-building project.

"We noted that there were few yards that were willing to build a truly custom yacht in the 80- to 90-foot range", Hunt said. "These days, the bulk of yachts in this class are built of fiberglass in semi-production fashion."

Sensing opportunity, they formed Dover Yacht Corporation and joined forces with John van Haltren, owner of Dovercraft, a commercial yard on the Canadian shores of Lake Erie in Port Dover, Ontario. Like most true custom-yacht projects, the 90 began life around the dinner table on the flip-side of a napkin. The group set out to create a boat with contemporary styling, suited for private use and occasional charter, and they built her on spec to showcase the yard's ability.

"Our goal was to go to market with quality that would knock people out", Hunt said.

What I found during my sea trial in Ft. Lauderdale was just that: a clean, simple, raised pilothouse design with a full-beam deckhouse aft. The soft, smooth surfaces of her hull and superstructure are as fair as a baby's bottom, a credit to the craftsmen who sculpted her aluminum structure.

Smith is a yacht delivery veteran who understands small details can make a big difference when working on deck. For example, on the 90, lines and fenders can be quickly stashed in a locker built into the deckhouse amidships. The boarding ladder stows neatly in a pocket in the bulwarks. Cleats on the side decks are raised on mounting pads with soft corners, so hooking a hoof while chasing docklines is unlikely. The afterdeck is equipped with warping windlasses and controls for short-handed operation. When it's time to tidy up, a nonslip footpath and grab rail skirt the full-beam portion of the deckhouse. The trunk-cabin roof is finished with the same.

Boarding is via port and starboard rail gates amidships. There is a seating area with a table on the afterdeck and a sunpad forward. A stair on the afterdeck leads to the boat deck/flying bridge. There is also direct access to the flying bridge helm area from the pilothouse.

A lounge area abaft the helm station has a full-service bar and a cabinet that conceals a stainless-steel barbecue grill. The hinged radar arch can be tipped down, allowing 20 feet, 6 inches of bridge clearance.

A door in the deckhouse to starboard opens to an entry foyer and waterfall-style stairs. The 90's splendid satin-finished cherry joinery is as shapely as the lines of her exterior. An open saloon with a full-service bar and a formal dining area are aft.

As there is no interior access from the port side deck, the crew and owner's party will have to share.

"We could have incorporated traditional portside crew access", Smith said, "but we wanted every square inch possible devoted to the galley."

The 90 could also be configured with full side decks, a layout I prefer on a yacht this size.

She has four staterooms belowdecks. Smith said that had charter not been a consideration, he would have opted for the added legroom of a three-stateroom layout. Stairs in the foyer lead below to a full-beam master stateroom and a guest stateroom with a private head. A separate stair, forward, leads to the two other guest staterooms with private heads.

Crew quarters are accessible from the transom platform and adjoin the engineroom. A ladder from the afterdeck allows access to these compartments and would be a safer option while under way. Accommodations for a crew of three include two cabins, a small pantry area and a head with a stall shower.

Dover Yacht works in aluminum, and its climate-controlled facility can accommodate the construction of yachts up to 125 feet LOA. The 90's hull is longitudinally framed with closely spaced flat bar supported by deeper transverse framing. Her superstructure is built in a similar fashion.

Independent of her hull structure, an aluminum tank carries 4,000 gallons of fuel. While this arrangement is in some ways technically superior, double-bottom tankage layouts are more common in yachts, as they do not consume interior volume. Smith chose a segregated single tank design for its simplicity in terms of fuel management, but said future boats likely will have double-bottom tankage. In the case of the 90, the 5 linear feet gained would be dedicated to the accommodation space.

The engineroom is simple, clean and appropriately sized. Ship's systems seem well thought out and carefully crafted.

While the 90 has a maximum beam of 21 feet, the taper of her sheer and her double chine result in relatively fine forward sections. This, combined with her relatively deep after sections (15 degrees of deadrise at the transom), suggests a form suited to offshore service.

"The 90 is designed to perform smartly at semi-displacement speeds in less than ideal conditions", Smith said.

Conditions during my sea trial were less than challenging, with seas running 2 to 3 feet. I recorded a top speed of 21.1 knots at 2350 rpm and 18 knots at 2100 rpm. After logging 2,000 nautical miles on the 90, Smith feels her sweet spot is at 1950 rpm, where I noted 17 knots on the GPS and a fuel burn of 92 gallons per hour (total) on the MTU electronics.

While we were lightly loaded during our sea trial, Smith said the 90's performance is consistent regardless of fuel load. This is perhaps one advantage of her centralized tankage design. Placing the center of gravity of consumables (fuel) close to a vessel's center of buoyancy reduces the effect on longitudinal trim. This often complements performance.

It is always refreshing to find a young, enthusiastic upstart like Dover Yacht. These days, when it seems all but the largest yachts are sliced from the semi-production line like kielbasa, Dover has no qualms about starting with a clean sheet of paper or working with independent designers.

Contact: Dover Yacht Corp., (954) 614-4111; www.doveryacht.com.