NISI 1700 Xpresso

From the sheer line to the flying bridge, this NISI resembles a trawler yacht but rides on a semi-wave-piercing, planing bottom. Her unique styling always turns heads.

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We’re not talking about deception here — instead we’re caught up in a bit of magic. Casual observers who see the NISI 1700 Xpresso relaxing on her mooring may think they’ve discovered a new trawler yacht, albeit in contemporary clothing. Her upright superstructure and substantial freeboard, stretching from stem to stern, are responsible for this first impression, but I can assure you that when you stand at her sporty helm and open the throttles all the way, her speed and handling tell a different story. She’s an express yacht, and a smartly designed one at that.

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I met hull No. 1 of the 1700 at Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle, New Hampshire. Moored to a face dock at the resort’s marina, she seemed all business — very shippy — in spite of her friendly robin’s-egg-blue topsides. Up close, she looked massive for her class, and she is, in a pleasing way. Rather than blindly following the standard recipe for express cruisers, which trade useful living spaces for streamlined high style, NISI asked designer Ward Setzer to give its line of yachts (1700 and 1900 Xpresso series; 2200, 2400 and 2600 Legend series) the maximum amount of interior volume in a unique wrapper.

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Before you see the NISI 1700 at speed, she gives a clue to her performance in her aggressively fine entry and the chine rising in a graceful curve from the forward end of her planing surface to the stainless-steel cutwater. This large chunk of steel, made in-house, suggests her penchant for dealing with rough water. It also gives the anchor a durable resting place.

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Capt. Mike Cusumano, the owner’s project manager, ushered me aboard the swim ­platform and up the portside stairs to the aft deck. The 1700 Xpresso has an identical staircase on the starboard side. The pitch is gentle, the teak treads are deep, and the handsome, robust handrail increases the feeling of safety. At the head of the stairs, an acrylic NISI logo seems to float in the open space framed by the tubular stainless-steel transom gate. The one-piece tube, looping inboard from its hinges, has to be 2 inches in diameter. On the top of each beveled outboard part of the transom, a massive custom stainless-steel fairlead, with roller guides, minds the stern mooring lines. A horn cleat fastened to a teak pad on each side seems strong enough to secure a yacht that’s twice this size. NISI could easily have installed smaller hardware and been quite safe in doing so, but the company preferred to offer that extra margin of safety.

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NISI Yachts’ Xpresso series is perfect for owners who like to make relatively short hops (up to 300 nautical miles at 32 knots, Cusumano said) and tie up at a marina or anchor for the night and dine with shipmates. The entire main deck, from the transom to the helm, is on a single level, and the powered sliding-glass door opens so wide that the area invites guests to mingle, picking up conversations as they go. Although the dining table on the aft deck seats only four at meals, two on the upholstered bench adjacent to the sun pad and two on freestanding chairs, the L-shaped settee and adjustable glass-and-stainless-steel table in the salon could accommodate at least two more adults. At cocktail hour, everyone can find a comfortable perch. To further ­reinforce the ambience of a cottage by the sea, the aft deck has an electric grill and two-burner cooktop on the port side.

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Owners couldn’t ask for better sight lines from any location in the salon, including the helm. Tall windows all around flood the area with natural light. My only gripes were the lack of opening windows in the salon — save the slider back aft — and the absence of a door adjacent to the helm. If the helmsman had to loop his spring line over a cleat on the dock without a crew member’s assistance, he couldn’t. What’s more, this yacht’s height and vertical superstructure create enough windage to pose a challenging slip entrance when a good breeze blows. On the other hand, Capt. Cusumano didn’t have any trouble regaining our place on the face dock after the test run in the fresh breeze of the day, but he had help. Holding station at the dock while he secured the lines just wasn’t in the program.

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As lovely and welcoming as the main deck is, the accommodations belowdecks may be more inviting. You won’t believe the amount of space in the master stateroom amidships and the VIP cabin forward — and this aboard a 58-foot yacht that devotes about a third of its interior volume to the engine room, tankage and machinery space.

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Her cabin spaciousness comes from an intelligently designed exterior. The master stateroom spans this yacht’s full beam, and because of the tall and vertical topsides, every bit of volume is useful. The queen-size berth sits at a jaunty angle, stretching forward from the port side — north by northeast in the standard rendering. I don’t know if this arrangement results in an actual gain of floor space, but it surely feels as though it does. Opposite the berth, a head fills all of the area from the engine-room bulkhead to the main bulkhead. The large shower stall is aft, the toilet is forward, and between them is a spacious vanity. Curtains close off this lovely bathroom. Mirrors on the bulkhead aft and the overhead add to the illusion of spaciousness in the stateroom. Aboard the test boat, a dark cabin sole contrasted nicely with the white oak joinery and neutral fabrics.

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The small guest cabin forward of the master on the port side has a single berth with stowage under, a night stand, plus a hanging locker. All the way forward, the VIP cabin has a queen-size island berth with stowage under, a large hanging locker on the port side and stowage cabinets flanking the berth. The galley, opposite the guest cabin, is equipped with a Siemens two-burner induction cooktop, convection oven/microwave, and two-drawer under-counter U-Line refrigerator.

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NISI’s engineers outshone themselves in the engine room, which is accessed through a hatch in the salon. The area has stand-up headroom for adults of average height and all the space you’d need around the engines. The in-line six-cylinder Caterpillar diesels on my test boat looked lost in the large engine compartment. Everything is clearly labeled and easy to reach. The water tank sits athwartships against the forward bulkhead, helping to keep machinery noises from intruding on the master stateroom.

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My test run got underway about 1 p.m., and by then the thermals had whipped up winds of 15 to 20 knots out of the east. As my test vessel idled through the no-wake zone, the NISI’s extraordinarily quiet running didn’t agree with my sound meter. You see, I’d forgotten my sound level meter and downloaded a decibel-meter app onto my iPhone. Throughout our run, my ears doubted the readings, which seemed too high. (See the manufacturer’s data at yachtingmagazine.com/nov2013.) What I can say for sure is that the four of us (including a mate and a friend) were talking at normal volume. (The level of normal conversation is 65 dB(A).)

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Clearing the harbor, we headed east into the wind and seas. The 1700 normally runs at planing speed with a few feet of her entry clear of the water. She's fastest this way, but the skipper tipped her down a little to let her sharp bow split the short, steep seas and soften the impact on the flatter sections aft. When we turned south, taking the seas on the beam, the Humphree 1500 digital high-speed stabilizers stopped the inevitable roll. We turned off the system to feel the difference. You'll want them on.
The sea state and the full cruising load compromised her top speed the day I was aboard. Although she reached 33.5 knots at 2,360 rpm, the designer's tweaks to the yacht's weight distribution has increased speed to her 37-knot target. The changes also improved fuel economy in the cruising sweet spot between 1,800 and 2,200 rpm, or 19 to 29 knots.

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Steering the standard twin Caterpillars with UltraJet drives requires concentration at high speeds because small movements at the wheel produce big results. After I became accustomed to the sensitivity, I was able to corner confidently and hold a steady course. On a long trip, I’d engage the autopilot, though Cusumano said he prefers to steer by hand.

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NISI Yachts has done its homework and produced a fine midsize motoryacht. One thing is certain: You won’t be able to enter any harbor unnoticed. The 1700’s distinctive styling will set the yacht-watchers gawking, and owners shouldn’t be surprised to find curious visitors knocking on the salon door. NISI Yachts, 305-777-2138; nisiyachts.com

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