Rayburn 88

The Rayburn 88 is a mini-megayacht finished to uncompromising standards.

Everyone knows the old saw about how yacht owners trade up in size every few years, but there is another trend-lesser but still notable-in the opposite direction. It is, for lack of a better phrase, a sort of backsliding.

For some owners who have watched as the size of their yachts escalated and the complexities of managing crew and expenses grew, the time comes to say, "That's it! Let's get a smaller yacht and start having fun again!"

Simplifying your life is admirable in theory, but it can fall apart once you start looking at smaller yachts. If you are accustomed to the quality and systems on, say, a 125-footer, it will come as a shock to find that some smaller yachts have lesser quality and equipment.

Just because you've given up a large yacht doesn't mean you have to lower your standards, however, and that's exactly the niche the Rayburn 88 fills admirably. She is not a megayacht in size, but she is in quality. The workmanship, the finish and the array of systems are comfortingly familiar to an owner descending from larger yachts. She is, in the words of the builder, a "manageable megayacht.

A small, family owned yard in British Columbia, Rayburn Yachts built a reputation first with runabouts and cruisers that were beautifully finished. Since taking over its current facility, the company has built 11 composite yachts, of which the 88 is the largest. Ron Rayburn and his son, Paul, wanted to build a yacht that was truly uncompromising, so when a client agreed to fund the effort, plans for the Rayburn 88 were set in motion.

One glance at the running photo of the 88 and it's clear she is a conservatively designed yacht with beauty that lies in timeless simplicity rather than the latest styling trends. She is also a yacht that draws on Pacific Northwest sensibilities-rain and foul weather are expected, but sunny days are to be enjoyed alfresco. With wide walkaround side decks protected by the bridge overhang and high bulwarks capped by stainless-steel rails, this is a secure yacht in all conditions. When the weather cooperates, though, the huge flying bridge is the place to be.

Inside, the same simplicity has been cloaked in the warm glow of satin-finished sapele with pomele burl accents that are traditional and elegant. If you appreciate fine joinery, this yacht is a treat of superlatives. From the coffered overheads of the saloon and the fluted details to the raised paneling and crown moldings, the Rayburn 88 is a showcase of craftsmanship. I've spent a lifetime around yachts, and I'd put her up against any yacht from any country when it comes to the quality of the woodwork.

The main deck is one level, with no steps to separate the pilothouse, and the saloon flows easily from a conversation area aft to a six-seat dining area forward. Without the artificial constriction of the dividers often used to separate areas, the saloon appears far larger than expected on an 88-footer. Forward, a bowfront buffet combines china cabinets and stowage, while another granite-top buffet to starboard melds with the stairwell to the master cabin.

Aside from the bulkhead, the pilothouse and galley are set apart by the sole, planked from solid mahogany and maple (no veneers here). The L-shape galley has granite counters, a big Sub-Zero refrigerator aft, and Sub-Zero under-counter freezer drawers to starboard. Designed as a "cruising galley rather than a country kitchen-style galley, it has an island for additional counter space and stowage and also serves as a backrest for the forward-facing settee and table.

The pilothouse is elegantly seamanlike, with a curved instrument panel below large windows and a space for charts. A built-in desk is to port, twin Stidd helm chairs are behind the dash, and wing doors lead to the single-level walkaround decks. For shorthanded cruising, it's an ideal arrangement.

The Rayburn 88 is free of the usual ups and downs, both on deck and between interior areas. This is not by chance, but because the company expended considerable effort to make movement throughout the yacht easy in all conditions. There are no ladders or spiral staircases, and the steps leading to the lower deck and flying bridge are wide and comfortably spaced, with sturdy handrails.

The master suite has private access from the saloon to a small foyer, and it spans the full beam amidships, where sea motion is minimized. The king berth is on centerline, with a settee to port and a desk/vanity to starboard. Her side of the cabin has twin walk-in closets, while his side has a single closet and entry to the head with shower.

Forward and down from the pilothouse are the three guest cabins: a VIP forward, a queen-berth cabin to port and twins to starboard. Each cabin has a marble-lined head with shower and exquisite woodwork, including burled doors, raised panels, and detailed ceiling treatments. As with the master suite, the marble floors in each head are heated for those chilly mornings.

For pleasant-weather use, the flying bridge has the space of one on a much larger yacht. A settee with a table backs up to the spa, a Corian-top bar is to starboard, and there is enough room for loose chairs to complement the forward-facing seat beside the helm.

Cantilevered without supports to mar the lower afterdeck, the boat deck has a Steelhead 2,000-pound capacity crane and ample space for a 17- to 18-foot tender plus PWCs.

Though a competent couple can run the 88, the crew quarters, abaft the engineroom, are finished to the same high standards as the guest accommodations. The captain's cabin has a double berth, while a settee in the lounge area converts to upper-and-lower berths. A private entry and complete galley make this a self-sufficient cabin that can also serve as a guest cabin without apologies.

The superb finish of the Rayburn 88 is the frosting on a delectable cake, however, and the engineroom is a good place to start sampling the rest. Twin 1,400 hp Caterpillar 3412s give the 88 a top speed greater than 22 knots, with a 2000 rpm cruise of 20 knots, according to the builder.

The electrical system is sophisticated, with built-in redundancy from three Northern Lights gensets: a pair of 25kWs and an 8kW. To keep the loads balanced, the power-management system senses a light load, picks up the power need with the 10kW inverter, then the auto-start 8kW genset comes on line. It also handles transitions from shorepower to onboard generators seamlessly and converts international shore current to the proper frequency. When the power at a boat show blacked out, we didn't notice that the genset and inverter had instantly taken over-the lighting didn't even flicker.

The hydraulic system is equally redundant, with Key Power pumps on both mains to handle the windlasses, bowthruster and stabilizers. Included in this system is a reversible pump that can draw water from any of five watertight compartments or supply 12,000 gallons per hour of high-pressure water to fire systems fore and aft.

Sound, vibration and thermal control were also a primary focus, with a floating saloon floor that reduces the sound level to a whisper-quiet 64 decibels at 2100 rpm. A full Soundown insulation package provides megayacht quiet on this 88-footer.

Built on spec as a showcase of Rayburn Yachts' talents, this particular 88 won't be available for long. The good news, however, is that the second in the series is under construction. Whether you're moving up the yachting chain or down, the Rayburn 88 is a yacht that packs megayacht quality and systems into a manageable package.

Contact: Rayburn Custom Yachts, (604) 820-9153; www.rayburnyachts.com. For more information, contact: (866) 922-4877