Novatec 55 Islander

Novatec's 55-foot Islander is a comfortable cruising yacht for all generations.

Novatec 55 Islander

ROOM TO MOVE: The 55 makes the most of interior and exterior volume-perfect for family cruising.Billy Black

Fond of aft-cabin motoryachts? Come take a look at the Novatec 55-foot Islander and you may see something familiar, comforting-and, when you move a little closer, surprising for a conservative profile that has, in one form or another, been in production since the late 1990s. With the 55 and her sisters in the series, the 50- and 60-foot Islanders, sporting new power options and a new competitive specification, we felt she was worth a fresh look.

The first thing to understand about the 55 is her mission. As Novatec puts it, "she's a family yacht for all generations," and for this she's well suited. Aft-cabin designs are focused on making the most of interior and exterior volume; the 55 has more of each than you might expect, given her length. This includes the valuable real estate of her cockpit, semi-enclosed afterdeck and semi-enclosed bridge. Her styling follows a traditional aft-cabin theme and her interior layout will please those who cruise for extended periods. She is the sort of design that would not seem cramped with guests or children aboard-even after a week or two in the Bahamas.

For instance, her afterdeck has enough space for a circular table, comfortable chairs and a wet bar with a refrigerator/icemaker. A Strataglass enclosure is fitted; air-conditioning is standard. This resulting climate-controlled space will be an ideal gathering spot when the weather is unpleasant. A stair leads aft to the cockpit, which also has space for a table and chairs. Here is a spot for a grill, or, for a live well for those who wish to fish. A hearty transom door allows access to the standard swim platform.

The bridge is fitted with a hardtop and a Strataglass enclosure as well-again, air-conditioning is standard. While this creates an all-weather helm, hatches in the hardtop and the windshield's three electrically actuated opening sections are capable of delivering an open-air feel if desired. Three adjustable pedestal chairs face the helm, which has plenty of room for instrumentation and electronics-our test boat was fitted with three large multifunction displays. A chart table, a feature too many builders consider dated, is a step away. There is a seating area with a table aft as well as a raised pilot berth-like platform: great for young children or older captains in need of a siesta.

A sliding, polished stainless steel-framed glass door leads from the afterdeck to the mid-level main cabin. The galley area has a full-size domestic refrigerator/freezer, a microwave/convection oven and a cook top. There is a built-in L-shaped settee with a high-low table and several chairs. The lower station option listed in the specification seems redundant to me given the 55's semi-enclosed bridge. If you opt for it, you will lose the deep storage in the house face and a portion of the seating area.

One of the most desirable features of an aft-cabin design is the privacy and space the layout affords an owner. The 55's owner's stateroom has a king-size berth and a private head with a shower/bath, with standard Headhunter waste system. There is also direct access to the cockpit via a polished stainless steel framed glass door. Guest accommodations are forward and include a VIP stateroom with a queen-size island berth and a dual access head with a shower. A guest stateroom/office to starboard has a desk and upper and lower berths that convert to a lounge. A washer/dryer is hidden in the passageway.

The 55's interior arrangement is not set in stone-Novatec is willing to please. A variety of woods and finishes are offered; our test boat had a high-gloss cherry interior featuring walnut-burl inlay. Corian counters and teak and holly soles throughout are part of the standard interior package. Cruisers will appreciate the amount of storage space aboard: Novatec hasn't missed an opportunity here.

Novatec yachts are produced by Nova Marine, one of the largest yards in Taiwan. Located 20 miles south of Taipei, the yard has been in business 23 years, producing yachts, commercial vessels and military craft. Displacing 30 tons, the 55's construction is clearly on the conservative side. The hull and superstructure are laid up by hand with woven fiberglass reinforcements. The hull bottom is solid fiberglass and is supported by fiberglass stringers, which are in turn supported by plywood bulkheads. Foam coring is used to stiffen the hullsides as well as the exterior decks and superstructure. The hull-deck joint is mechanically fastened and bonded with adhesive. All exposed bilge areas are painted and exterior surfaces are finished in gelcoat. The bottom is sealed with four coats of epoxy before the bottom paint is applied.

To reach the machinery space, you must shimmy through a door in an alcove adjacent to the passageway that leads to the owner's stateroom. On future boats this entryway will be moved forward and an electrically actuated hatch in the main cabin sole will allow improved access. This solution will also increase the size of the owner's head. Once inside the machinery space it is easy to move about-should the need arise, machinery removal hatches are provided. Fuel is carried in aluminum tanks and freshwater is carried in a stainless steel tank. A 17 kW Onan generator with a sound shield is standard.

The Islander Series was designed by Bill Dixon and has been tweaked over the years by the yard in response to owner input. While the 55 is rather full forward and has less stem rake than is common these days, such a form follows the theme of maximizing interior volume. She has hard chines, a moderate keel and propeller pockets that help reduce shaft angle and draft. As she requires a bit less than four feet of water, she would be ideal for exploring the Bahamas.

Our test boat was fitted with the 660 hp Cummins. This seems a good choice as she reached a maximum speed of 21.6 knots at 2350 rpm in less than 25 seconds without complaint. Novatec's captain has logged quite a few hours on the 55 and likes to cruise at 2150, which translated into just under 19 knots during our sea trial. At this setting the Cummins electronics indicated a fuel burn of approximately 42 gph. (I should note that the 55's bottom was lightly fouled and Novatec expects a solid 20-knot cruise at half load. A bit of prop tweaking might also improve the numbers.)

Bow and stern thrusters and the Cummins' low-idle feature allow the 55 to loiter confidently in tight spots. Visibility while backing into a slip can sometimes be limited on an aft-cabin design; Novatec has solved the problem by installing small windows in the bridge settee-back that allow a view of the cockpit corners. Cockpit controls are offered as an option and, I think, would be desirable. While our data reveals sound levels are a bit high, particularly in the main cabin, Novatec suggests that decibels are reduced significantly with the carpeted interior option.

The 55 is priced at approximately $1,150,000 with the 660 hp Cummins. This includes a generous electronics allowance, fully stocked entertainment centers and pretty much everything you'll need to leave the dock. If you're a cruising couple interested in more for less, the 55 is an offering worth consideration. While her look is conservative by today's standards, she offers the sort of cruising comfort and accommodations that are often sacrificed for a more avant-garde look.

Contact: Novatec North America, (904) 396-7879; www.novatec-yachts.com.