Ocean Alexander 88 Motoryacht

Innovation lets Ocean Alexander load up the 88 Motoryacht.

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Every yacht starts with a designer facing a blank sheet of paper, with a fresh and unusual layout. In addition, you'll find comfortable a list of "must-includes" in one hand. What happens next can be yet another variation on a tired theme or a cleverly designed motoryacht that excels on all levels.

In the case of the new Ocean Alexander 88 Motoryacht, the result clearly reflects the latter. This is an 88-footer with the space you'd expect to find on yachts far larger.

"Actually, my original instructions were to create a three-stateroom yacht," says Destry Darr, whose Destry Darr Designs of Ft. Lauderdale did both the layout and the dcor."When the plan changed to four cabins, well, I had to do some creative rearranging."

That's what sets this Ocean Alexander apart from other yachts of this size: creativity. Richard Allender, marketing director for Ocean Alexander, puts it simply: "This is a whole lot of boat." And he's right.

Consider these amenities: four staterooms (each with private head), a formal dining area plus a country galley, a laundry room with washer, dryer, and linen closet, and an enclosed bridge with crew quarters.

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"Driving the entire design was the goal of having open space and an airy feel to the yacht, both on the main deck and in the cabins," says Darr, and that's just the sense you have as you enter the salon.

With large windows all around, the salon is split into entertaining and dining areas by an offset divider that conceals a 42-inch pop-up TV. Bulkheads and all built-in cabinetry are a warm reddish sapele with ribbon grain, accented with camphor burls and lovely inlays. In the after section, a pair of comfy sofas and chairs face each other over beautifully crafted coffee tables.

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The dining area is nicely sized so that people sitting at the table can actually push their chairs back without hitting bulkheads or cabinets. And, since the boat sleeps eight, the table seats eight - a simple mathematical relationship that seems to escape some designers. Rounding out the dining area is a mirrored forward bulkhead, a sapele wood ceiling treatment, and a bow-front buffet and wet bar complete with wine chiller and fridge/icemaker.

The forward area of the house is given over to a spacious country galley, with a U-shaped settee forward below the windows.The galley has granite counters with generous backsplashes and an array of lockers and drawers that take advantage of every bit of space, including a lazy-Susan locker in one corner. Appliances are thoughtfully chosen, and include a home-sized Sub-Zero freezer/fridge, Gaggenau 4-burner cooktop and oven, GE Profile microwave, and Fisher Paykel two-drawer dishwasher. Best of all, the cook has a great view through large side and forward windows.

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Opposite the galley is a day-head notable for its detailed door with stainless steel inserts and frosted glass panels for light.A flat-screen TV built into the galley pantry provides entertainment for those in the settee forward.The galley and settee area has hardwood soles, so spills from the galley or wet feet coming through the twin pantograph doors on each side aren't a crisis.

A particularly thoughtful touch is the desk next to the settee, which is perfect for a laptop, for keeping track of provisioning lists, or simply as a quiet place to write a letter. Surrounded by windows, it's a pleasant place to work.

One of the two areas on the Ocean Alexander 88 that I thought was particularly clever is the guest cabin layout, reached via curving stairs with a recessed handrail so you can't snag a sleeve or bruise a hip. There's a sizable foyer with a marble inlay sole and a breakfast buffet that's a perfect place for a basket of croissants and a pitcher of orange juice to greet your waking guests. The foyer also hides a walk-in laundry room with full-sized washer and dryer, plus stowage for linens and laundry supplies.

Here's the clever part: most yachts of this size have a passageway that runs from the foyer straight to the forward cabin, but not the 88. If you look at the plans, you'll see that the passage makes a dogleg after leaving the offset foyer and this makes all the difference. By bending the passage, Darr created enough room for two spacious double staterooms, each with a pleasantly sized head, and decorated in fine fashion.

The first stateroom opens directly to the foyer and has a walkaround berth, built-in nightstands, and a big hanging locker with bifold doors.The en suite head has a marble counter and sole, and a nicely sized shower. The second stateroom is just forward along the passage and is essentially the same as the first guest cabin. Finishing up the area is a cabin with upper and lower berths to port, with its own spacious head all the way forward.

The offset passage is the key to this layout, which allows cabins that are larger than you'd expect on a yacht of this size. Even better, no guests have to share a head with another cabin.

Aft of the foyer, Darr created a wide passageway that provides a grand double entry to the master suite, which spans the full beam. The centerline king berth faces a recessed flat-screen TV, and there is a love seat to port. The starboard side has built-in bureaus, but somehow the designer and builders managed to find enough space to create two oversized, cedar-lined, walk-in hanging lockers, complete with shelves and shoe racks.

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One noteworthy design feature in the master suite is that the forward bulkhead appears to be curved, although the panels are mostly flat and simply angled inward. This gives a sense of more space and, in line with the goal of creating an airy environment, it works nicely.

A his-and-hers head also uses the full beam to advantage, although the division of space is not quite equal: her side (port) gets a vanity table and a bit more room since the adjoining shower is offset slightly on his side. Both areas offer trendy vessel sinks and Euro-style fixtures, including a Grohe four-nozzle tower in the shower.

Another clever design feature on the Ocean Alexander 88 is the enclosed bridge, which has interior access from the country galley or via stairs to the boat deck aft. To provide seating for guests, most designers simply bend a U-shaped settee behind the helm.

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Darr, on the other hand, created an L-shaped settee with a triangular table so that guests have a choice of looking forward past the helmsman or watching the pop-up TV in the cabinet to starboard. By offsetting the settee, Darr also allowed space for a wetbar counter behind the settee with a fridge, icemaker, and wine chiller. Because the settee is raised, guests have a fine view through the surrounding windows, including the two aft windows that open. And, because no one wants to trudge down stairs to use the day-head, another day-head has been provided on the bridge.

The helm is a model of efficiency, with a pair of electric Stidd chairs behind a black-finished console that can be fitted with the new "glass cockpit" monitors. The big inlaid sapele wheel is ship sized, and the digital monitors for the Cat diesels are in a slanted burlwood panel below the electronics displays.

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A pair of angled doors on each side of the bridge lead to a Portuguese bridge so, with a walkaround controller, the skipper can handle most dockings from the wings.

The boat deck is very large, and can easily handle a 14-foot tender with the Steelhead 3000-pound davit. A console on the port side serves as a summer kitchen, with a Firemagic grill and sink. If the bridge and the boat deck seem even wider than the salon below, well, they are: the bridge overhangs the side decks to create protected passageways as well as protect the salon from the sun.

Like the other stairs aboard the 88, those from the boat deck to the after deck are wide and gentle, with sturdy rails. A watertight door from the swim platform leads to the crew quarters and, if the sea conditions discourage that access, there is a ladder from the after deck.

Once inside, you realize that these are the kind of accommodations most crews see only in their dreams.The captain has a double cabin with a desk and hanging locker, while two crew members can share a bunk-bedded cabin opposite. All have access to a spacious head with shower, and a small utility compartment contains not only another washer and dryer, but a mini-galley as well. Best of all, the fit and finish is the same as throughout the yacht.

A word about the construction is important, because Ocean Alexander goes to great lengths both to design and engineer the yacht properly. The 88 started as an Ed Monk, Jr., design, which was then turned over to Ed Hagemann, a specialist in underwater surfaces, to fine-tune the shape especially the prop tunnels. Then the plans went to Tim Nolan for a comprehensive structural analysis.

Much of the construction is conventional, but notable are the aluminum I-beams in the decks, which are tied to carbon-ber arches. With aluminum bracing in the window mullions, the resulting fiberglass and metal structure bears more resemblance to a NASCAR rollcage than a yacht, but it is incredibly strong. We found the proof offshore, where the 88 was well behaved and predictable.

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Keypower bow and stern thrusters got us out of a tight docking situation easily and, once underway, the most noticeable feature of the 88 was also the least noticeable: an almost total absence of noise.

Ocean Alexander brought in outside consultants to produce a sound-and vibration-control package that really works. At 1900 rpm or around 14 knots, my sound meter was barely recording 58 decibels on the bridge. At lower speeds, it dropped to 56 decibels and it never went above 62. Take my word for it: Thats really quiet. We needed the engine monitors to be certain they were running.

Once into open water, the 88 came up to speed quickly without needing trim tabs and, with the stabilizers at a mild setting, we topped out at 18 knots on the GPS.We also discovered that the boat was somewhat under-propped so Id expect a bit more speed when she's properly sorted out.

Ocean Alexander has built an impressive reputation and this new 88 carries it forward as a fine example of a cleverly designed, superbly built, and thoughtfully outfitted yacht.

Ocean Alexander, (800) 815-4081; www.oceanalexander.com