Ocean Alexander 58

The new Ocean Alexander 58 pilothouse combines a seakindly Ed Monk Jr. design with all the comforts of home (a very luxurious home, at that).

Ocean Alexander 58

Neil Rabinowitz

The last time I was on an Ocean Alexander was probably six or seven years ago on Seattle's Lake Washington, and two things stick in my mind. First, we ran in front of Bill Gate's house (which took a while), and second, Ocean Alexander was an impressive cruising boat.

Earlier this summer I had the chance to get on an Ocean Alexander again, this time at Roche Harbor in the ever-verdant San Juan Islands north of Seattle, where the houses are smaller but the scenery is better, and I was even more impressed by the company than I had been before.

I wasn't the only one. In fact, this particular Ocean Alexander, a new 58 pilothouse, was owned by Don Gearing, a contractor and developer with offices in Las Vegas and Moreno Valley, Calif., who has owned a veritable fleet of boats over the years. His last, an 85-foot motoryacht, was fine, he says, but it wasn't as seakindly as he wanted. Actually, Don, who's 82 years old, and his wife, Yuna, run their boats by themselves, and they were looking for something that would help flatten out the often-boisterous waters of the Pacific Northwest, where they do most of their cruising (they keep the boat on Vancouver Island, less than an hour away from Roche Harbor).

Like many yacht owners, Don has been relatively successful in his business life. "I guess you could say I'm a developer," he says, shrugging. He says he started out installing air conditioning in Las Vegas in 1965; eventually he moved on to providing air conditioning to hotels, then to developing homes and other properties in Nevada, California and Oregon. In short, Don can pretty much afford to have whatever yacht he wants. And he wanted this one.

The only problem was that Richard Allender wanted it too. In fact, Richard, the sales and marketing director for Ocean Alexander and also an experienced boat owner, had the boat, hull number one, built for himself. The idea was that he and his wife, Pat, would live on it and go cruising; he had it tricked out with everything he could think of. Last winter Richard was sitting on the boat in the Seattle boat show, displaying it as the prototype. Don was actually at the show to look at another manufacturer's yacht, saw the Ocean Alexander, and fell in love at first sight. "He wanted to know if it was a turnkey situation," Richard says. "He didn't want to worry about anything. I told him the fuel tanks were full; all he needed to bring was his toothbrush." So Don and Yuna had their new Ocean Alexander 58 and Richard and Pat had to move into an apartment and order another one.

I caught up with these two couples at the Ocean Alexander owners rendezvous in Roche Harbor, where Don and Yuna were living on the boat in the master stateroom, while Richard and Pat were also on board, in the VIP stateroom, as guests. Fortunately, it's a big, comfortable, well-appointed boat, and everybody seemed happy. Particularly Don. "I love to cruise," he said, with the enthusiasm of someone half his age. "We can take this boat anywhere we want to go up here."

That, of course, is the whole idea. "Our target market is for people who demand space and comfort but in a package that can be handled by an owner and wife," says Johnny Chueh, president of Ocean Alexander. "It allows our customers to have their cake and eat it too."

The 58 pilothouse was designed by the iconic Ed Monk Jr., who has been producing eye-pleasing, classic, seakindly pilothouse yachts for Ocean Alexander for almost three decades. Indeed, there are now more than 1,000 Ocean Alexanders cruising around the world; the current lineup goes from 42 to 98 feet. The new 58 pilothouse is a traditional three-stateroom, two-head design with lots of teak and luxury appointments that appeal to buyers who are used to the best, whether in their homes or their yachts, and who also, as Johnny says, want the independence of running the boat themselves. (With three staterooms, of course, there's room for a crew, but the boat is really designed for the owner-operators of the world.)

This user-friendly yacht is meant for long-legged cruising; you could live comfortably on her for a long time, and feel safe and secure taking her just about anywhere. And you'd feel justifiably proud all the way. The craftsmanship and attention to detail make the boat. The joinerwork in the book-matched Burmese teak is exceptional; you don't see any teak plugs that cover screws, for example, because the entire teak panel (instead of just the plug) is glued over the screw holes, a painstaking process that produces a clean and elegant look. And there are teak cornice boxes on the windows, not to mention burl-wood Roman pillars in the saloon and master stateroom.

The living-room-like saloon feels like home, and gets lots of light from the sliding-glass doors leading to the cockpit and from the two large windows on either side (plus the halogen lighting in the overhead). A 42-inch plasma TV and over-the-top stereo system are on the forward bulkhead, while two club chairs and a wine cabinet are on the port side, facing a large L-shaped Ultraleather settee to starboard. This is a very easy place to sit and watch the world go by, whether you're underway or tied up at the dock. And you won't be distracted by engine noise; thanks to its superior soundproofing, the Ocean Alexander is a relatively quiet boat (see chart). The saloon also has a very cool custom electric table that slides both up and out, over to the settee. In its default mode, it can be a coffee table; extended, it can be a dining table.

The center of all the action, of course, is the pilothouse, and here is where this boat really shines. The helm station, starting with the black, electric STIDD helm chair and Glendinning controls, is exemplary: Everything is neat, logical, and nearby. There is great visibility forward and to the sides (and with a TV monitor to see aft) and plenty of space to lay out charts (for those of us who still like the look and feel-and security-of paper), glasses, sunscreen, whatever. On the port side is a curved table seating four or five for socializing, dining, sightseeing or napping (I'd personally opt for all of the above), while behind the helm on the starboard side is a large, luxurious galley with top-of-the-line appliances from Franke, Miele and Gaggenau, granite countertops and double-opening cabinets for easy access and storage. There's lots of counterspace, a full-sized refrigerator, cooktop, conventional oven and microwave-everything you'd have at home, provided you lived in a very nice home. The pilothouse even has a teak and ebony sole, plus large doors on both sides leading to wide sidedecks with Ocean Alexander's signature waist-high elliptical stainless rails (these not only look good, but they also offer a tremendous amount of real and perceived safety and security).

Below, the 58 has a fairly straightforward layout, all with flawless woodwork and luxury appointments. Both the master and the guest heads have about the largest and most inviting showers I've seen outside a megayacht. You'd be comfortable in there with a friend, if that's the kind of thing you have in mind. The master stateroom extends across the full 17'6" beam, and is amidships, the most comfortable place to be while underway. There's room to spare, with a walkaround queen bed, which raises on gas struts for storing large objects (suitcases, for example), plus built-in drawers. The VIP forward also has a queen, with the same extra storage. Both have large cedar hanging lockers. The third stateroom comes with two berths, available either side by side, or one over the other (as in this yacht), plus a built-in computer desk so that the owner can have an on-board office of sorts.

Aft, the large teak cockpit offers an extra space in which to sit and watch the world go by. It's built for comfort and ease; there are boarding gates on each side, plus two more from the curved stairs leading up from the large swim platform. Up top, the bridge is large, clean, with great visibility and comfortable seating, plus the ubiquitous barbeque and dinghy/davits.

Accessible via a large door in the cockpit, the engine room is impressive-it is indeed a clean, well-lighted place. I had almost-standing headroom, and I'm about 6'2". There is polished stainless throughout; the engine mount stringers are hand polished. Everything, including the twin Racor fuel filters, is easy to reach; the wiring, hydraulic and fuel lines are all labeled, the plumbing and fittings are oversized; you can access both sides of the standard 700 hp Cat C-12s. In addition, there's a huge lazarette aft for extra storage.

In short, this is a very well-designed cruising yacht, as you'd expect from its heritage. The 58 has a twin-tunnel hull for minimum draft and maximum performance, with underwater exhaust for safety and quiet, and prop tunnels to protect the running gear. The hull is solid, handlaid fiberglass below the waterline and balsa-cored on the sides; aluminum structural beams with carbon fiber reinforcements add strength and rigidity. Safety comes first. Ocean Alexander tank tests each new model in extreme sea conditions to make sure, as Ed Monk says, that no water goes up on deck.

For his part, Monk has been designing Ocean Alexanders since the company was started by Johnny's father, Alex, 27 years ago in Taiwan. The family moved to Australia when Johnny was 10 and boated in Sydney on their Ocean Alexander 48. Johnny eventually went to the University of Chicago for an economics degree and was working as a management consultant when his father had a stroke. At 25, Johnny came home. He has been running the company ever since.

After walking through the boat at the owners rendezvous, we took it out for a short test, where we registered a top speed of 20.5 knots at about 2300 rpm. But speed is not the point. This is a yacht that can cruise all day at an easy 13 knots (1835 rpm). "That's fast enough for me," Don says. "I like to enjoy the scenery." Also, with its twin KeyPower bow and stern thrusters, its wide side decks and three control stations (pilothouse, bridge and cockpit), she's easy to dock and handle when the cruising is over. All in all, the Ocean Alexander 58 pilothouse is a very comfortable cruising yacht.

In fact, that's what she became. After the rendezvous and a photo shoot, Don and Yuna met some friends on Vancouver Island and headed north for a summer cruise.

Contact: Ocean Alexander, (206) 344-8566; www.oceanalexander.com.