Oviatt Marine builds big cruising yachts and trawlers, and though their new 53-foot Grand Alaskan is one of the smallest they've designed and built in the Tania yard in Taiwan, it's still a big boat. Looking at the profile, there's a flybridge over the raised pilothouse over the high foredeck, with tall bulwarks protecting the side decks. It's got the look of a serious cruiser. Its interior design makes effective use of its 15' 3" beam for spacious accommodations in the saloon and especially in the two big staterooms below. Yet it's relatively maneuverable and swift, and can easily be handled by two knowledgeable hands.
I got a chance to play with hull #3, running across the Chesapeake in the early summer haze with the owner, Ernie Pomsel of Fernandina Beach, Florida, and Mike Schlichtig, manager for Oviatt Marine's office on Kent Island. Ernie was on his way north, with the idea in mind to cut across the New York Barge Canal to the Great Lakes and cruise around Lake Michigan for a while. I tagged along on the short hop from Annapolis to Rock Hall on the Eastern Shore of the Bay.
Sitting in the flybridge under the big bimini top is most pleasant. There's the L-shaped settee with the bench to starboard, just aft of the Stidd custom helm and co-pilot seats. The helm here is on the centerline, with good visibility across the bow. There's an inflatable tender cradled aft with a retractable boat lift to launch it. Ernie had quite a few custom touches added, which Mike assured that Oviatt Marine was happy to do. For instance, the starboard seat occupies a spot where they usually place a console with an entertainment center or grill. Aft of the L-settee are two deep lockers.
But the real heart of the Grand Alaskan is the pilothouse, where the center helm commands good views through the three big panes of the windshield and the expansive side windows. Sitting in the Stid helm seat, with the big, teak-rimmed wheel, expansive control console, and a big chart table to port, you feel like setting a course for ________ (fill in the blank with your own fantasy destination , the Grand Alaskan can probably take you there).
The practical touches are thoughtfully laid out. For instance, the AC distribution panel is behind a smoked Plexiglas door underneath the chart table, out of the way, but the DC panel is at the helmsman's right hand. Still, it's hard not to be distracted by the artistry: the inlaid teak paneling, teak-and-holly sole, the upholstered L-shaped pilots' berth with a custom folding teak table. All together, these details make this a most appealing place to contemplate long-range cruising, with the comfort of knowing that now matter where you go, there you'll be - here in this very cool pilothouse.
Ernie has gone out of his way to take in all the custom stuff , Glendinning controls, computer screen front and center with the "Cap'n Voyager" charts on display, linked to the Furuno radar, B&G depth finder and wind indicator, Northstar 941X satnav, backed up to the Furuno GPS, with NAIAN Marine roll stabilizers, SIMRAD autopilot, as well as the twin CAT digital panels.
A curved staircase leads down the companionway to the accommodation deck, where there's a guest stateroom forward with a double island berth on center in the bow, with the high ceilings you come to expect in a trawler, and an opening hatch way overhead. Again, the woodwork on the paneling is nicely done. There's a deep, cedar-lined hanging locker to starboard, and an entertainment center to port. A louvered door leads into the head, which has an enclosed shower stall with a teak bench seat, a vanity, Vacuflush toilet, and a second door leading out into the passageway aft to the owner's stateroom.
This again, Ernie has customized quite a bit. "The standard plan has a queen-sized island berth, but I preferred this set-up for a couple of reasons," he said, pointing out the twin pilot berths set perpendicular to one another. The aft berth is set quite high to accommodate a combination washer/dryer stowed neatly , and accessibly, underneath the foot. There's an entertainment center with a small Panasonic TV/VCR mounted in a beautiful cabinet in the aft starboard corner, and a really deep, cedar-lined hanging locker , almost a walk-in closet. The head has a wide vanity, deep sink, Vacuflush toilet, and a big separate shower stall.
A teak paneled door leads aft through a soundproofed bulkhead hatch into the expansive engine room, where everything's neatly arranged for easy access to the diesels, generator, and other works. A stickler for keeping noise and vibration to an absolute minimum, Ernie opted for the Aqua Drive system and engine mounts. He's the only boat owner I've ever met who has his own decibel meter. Up on the flybridge, it reads just 73 decibels at cruising speed, the sound of the waves flowing along the sides of the boat are louder than the engines. The noisiest spot on the boat, as you'd expect, is the aft deck, but still it's only about 80 decibels at cruising speed.
The galley and main saloon are aft, four steps down from the pilothouse. The galley boasts a really expansive countertop with stools for casual dining. The U-shaped configuration leads around to deep, twin stainless-steel sinks, a Force 10 propane range and a GE Advantium convection/microwave over that. Both are finished in brushed aluminum to match the full sized side-by-side refrigerator/freezer to starboard.
The saloon has big, square windows on either side and double teak paneled doors lead aft to the aft deck. There's an L-shaped settee to port, with a coffee table that converts into a dining table. The corner cabinet has a big Sharp TV.
The after deck is another area where Oviatt marine has done some extensive customizing for the owner, extending the transom aft nearly three feet and adding a comfortable bench across the transom. There are side doors through the high and aft through the transom to the integral swim platform. A large hatch through the sole leads to a cavernous lazarette where the four AC units quietly take up very little of the available space.
Wide, covered side decks, protected by high bulwarks, lead up to the foredeck. The pilothouse is protected by a high "Portuguese bridge," a door through which leads up to the foredeck. The dual anchors are controlled by electric winches.
Running the boat on this flat calm day, it was impressive how tight the turns were. The big wheel took only about two turns from port to starboard, and the Glendinning controls were as smooth as silk.
This boat has the Caterpillar 3028 450 hp diesels, as opposed to the standard 300 hp Cats. Running at about 1700 RPM, we were doing 9.5 knots and the Cat readouts indicated a fuel burn rate of only about 6 gallons per hour on each engine. Given the fuel capacity of 800 gallons, the range should be about 633 nautical miles. Top speed is about 18 knots, impressive for such a big, displacement hull , with a burn rate of 26.3 gallons per hour at 2800 RPM. So you can get there PDQ if you have to, but you pay the price in fuel.