Mochi Craft 54

In a crowded Down East yacht lineup, the Dolphin 54 gets it right.

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Italian builder Mochi Craft introduced the first of the Mochi Dolphin range after being taken over by the Ferretti Group, but critics weren't convinced that a modern version of a New England lobster-style boat would win hearts and minds in Europe. One hundred boats and five models later, Mochi has proved the critics wrong. And with the Dolphin 54 they seem to have got the formula just right.

The 54 carries off the New England styling despite being a large boat with a second porthole, close to the bow, that to me sounded an off note. The Mochi windows have a unique shape-a sort of curved parallelogram that works when located amidships but seems to jar here with the beautifully traditional hull lines. Of course, not everyone will agree with me, and I must admit that I loved the light and view from the stateroom inside.

Another feature that looks a bit out of step is the teak handrail that runs alongside the superstructure and that provides security on deck in the absence of side guard rails. This handrail runs in a straight line toward the bow and it introduces a harsh, linear note on a style that otherwise has curves in all the right places. However, while traditionalists might be turning in their graves, buyers seem to be lining up.

Once I stepped on board, whatever minor quibbles I had about small issues of style were forgotten. Inside, a wonderful mix of traditional and modern gives the 54 a very comfortable feel. Here, there are no attempts to add gimmicks to the sound design. Teak is the dominant wood used for the furniture and joinery, and this is matched to smart leather seating and fresh fabrics. I like the way the trim has been extended to cover the window framing, a feature that adds considerably to the impression of quality.

Victory Design, who has been responsible for the Mochi concept from the beginning, has managed to fit an extraordinary amount of accommodations within the hull. This has been partly achieved by having the saloon and galley on the main deck so that all belowdecks space is given over to cabins. The master cabin is in the bow and has its own head, a raised double berth, two lockers and that lovely window in the bow of the boat that I had doubted from the outside. The large side windows allow a great deal of natural light into the cabin, giving it a sense of spaciousness.

The twin portside cabin has a conventional layout, but the third cabin has two or three berths. Normally, this is a double cabin with the head of the berth tucked under the stairs. The optional layout features a Pullman-style berth fitted above the main berth. The two guest cabins share a head, but both these and the master's are large and fitted with elegant, traditional-style washbasins and taps. Despite these generous accommodations, the designers have still found space for a single crew cabin forward of the engineroom that also has a large head.

Access to the crew cabin is from a stairway leading down from the galley, which is located in the starboard aft corner of the saloon. The galley is wellequipped, with a stove and a microwave. Separate fridge and freezer units suggest that the 54 has been designed with serious cruising in mind.

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Nonetheless, the galley seems to take up minimal space in the saloon. The U-settee around the expanding table can seat four with ease and stools can make the table a full six-seater when needed. Forward, the helm features a double seat with a single seat on the starboard side so other guests can keep the skipper company.

The helm layout is fairly conventional with two navigation screens flanked by engine gauges. The horizontal section of the helm holds the controls and switches. The line of sight from the helm is excellent and the absence of rails around the foredeck really expands the view. Rails are available as an option, however, so you can decide if you need more security on deck. Plenty of fresh air is available through the sunroof and two electric side windows. There is also a hinged rear window so you can really open up the saloon in fine weather.

The cockpit has side benches instead of the normal transom seat because the transom folds down to create a swim platform, which also opens up the tender garage. Part of the cockpit deck lifts for access to the tender garage and there is a clever fold-out launching ramp that lifts the boat when it's deployed. The large swim platform is brilliant, though the rear bulwark is a bit on the low side when the platform is up. The cockpit is protected from the elements by an extending canvas canopy and a small bar cabinet is fitted neatly into the forward corner.

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Despite the intrusion of the garage, the engineroom is generous with easy accessibility. As always with the Ferretti Group yachts, the engineering standards are set high to ensure reliability. The two 800-hp MAN diesels fit snugly and they are connected to a conventional propulsion system.

This version of the 54 had a sunpad on the roof, with grab rails and not much else; it might be less than safe when the seas are lively. This year a full flying bridge will also be an option.

One thing that has always surprised me is the way Mochi yachts perform at sea. Their slick looks might lead you to imagine that they are all style and no substance. But Victory Design has done a great job on the hull with its 19-degree deadrise. During the sea trial there was a confused swell running from seaward that the boat handled very well and with only a modest reduction in speed. With the waves on the beam or astern, full throttle could still be used with confidence. The flare at the bow is an unusual feature on a modern motoryacht but it also helps to keep the spray down and to cushion the ride. The stern features a beautiful tumblehome.

In my opinion this 54 is one of the best in the Mochi range. It brings together a happy combination of good seagoing capability and great accommodations to create a boat that's perfect for cruising in style.

Contact: Phone (954) 618-0440, www.mochicraft-yachts.com; www.marinemax.com.