A family-owned builder hits the family cruiser sweet spot.
Skipping across the surface of Lake Michigan at almost 40 mph in a brand new yacht is a darn fine way to spend a picture perfect Midwest summer day. Fortunately for me, I can do that and claim to be working, because I am. Seriously. Being allowed to drive said yacht makes it an even better experience. Using the in-arm joystick to steer the fast-moving vessel takes it up another notch.
Such was the situation at Tiara Yachts last year in Holland, Mich. The builder had invited members of the boating press to attend a pre-dealer meeting unveiling of the brand new Tiara 53 Coupe, and the weather, the lake and the boat all cooperated. The guest of honor sat at the dock upon our arrival. Its flared bow pointed out from its berth, and its shearline curved subtly downward as it moved aft. A wide amidships hull window pointed toward a full-beam master, and windows all around the deckhouse indicated a light and airy interior, especially given the opening sunroof in the curved hardtop.
The C53 is an evolution of the 50 Coupe, with an extended hull, a revised mechanical array and a redesigned salon that’s sure to be the focal point for social activity aboard the yacht. Also new and improved is the joystick operation, which can be used for high-speed steering instead of just low-speed docking maneuvers. Tiara designers created room for an optional Seakeeper 9 gyro, for rock-and-roll-free boating — unless the captain wants to crank some through the Fusion multizone stereo system.
Access to the yacht is via the 70-inch swim platform, which leads to a set of steps to either side of the transom. The platform can be covered in nonskid or inlaid with teak, and it can be fixed or hydraulic, an option that allows it to be the launch point for a dinghy (or a pretty sweet submersible beach for hot days). At the top of the steps is the cockpit, with includes a bench settee on the transom and a single built-in chair to each side of the sliding doors to the interior. Overhead, the hardtop extends to cover part of the cockpit, and a Makefast Marine powered sunshade is an option to cover the entire area when desired.
Through twin sliding doors — pull on the starboard door and they both open in opposite directions — is the full galley. Beneath the countertop to starboard are dual Isotherm drawer units. One of the units includes two refrigerator drawers; the other has one refrigerator and one freezer. A wine chiller is forward of them. The port counter includes a sink and a recessed three-burner cooktop, and under it are eight drawers and a microwave. Two overhead cabinets are to either side.
Just forward of galley is the salon/helm area. An L-shaped sofa with room for five people is to port, while a loveseat is opposite the sofa, immediately aft of the doublewide captain’s chair. A companion chair at the forward end of the sofa slides forward and back and includes a moveable backrest, so the person sitting there can face forward or aft. A high-low table makes dinner a possibility here, if the cockpit’s alfresco setting isn’t desired.
At the helm, where the dash consists of an upper and lower level, the captain has access to the latest from Garmin and Volvo Penta. Set flush into the upper half of the dash are twin Garmin 7616 multifunction displays that can handle just about anything, given the integrated nature of today’s electronics. To the right of the steering wheel on the lower half of the dash are systems buttons (instead of toggle switches) and engine displays. The engine throttles and trim tab controls are next to the dash on a skinny console that runs between the bulkhead and the captain’s chair, which moves forward and back and up and down. Built into the right arm of the chair are the Garmin GRIB controller, a remote control of sorts for running the MFDs without actually touching them, and the Volvo Penta joystick. Most of the things a driver needs to control are at his fingertips as he sits back in his chair. One still needs to use the engine throttles to control speed outside of the no-wake zone, but steering at speed is simple and instant.
It was from the tricked-out captain’s chair that we conducted the sea trial and had a little fun driving the 54-and-a-half-footer like a 26-footer. The boat had full fuel and water, the wind was a whisper and Lake Michigan was rolling with a slow two-foot swell. We reached, for just a second, a top speed of 34.7 knots, which is within a whisker of 40 mph. More realistically, top speed was 33.7 knots at 2550 rpm. At that speed, the twin Volvo Penta D11 IPS950 diesels were burning a combined 73 gph, for a range of about 310 statute miles. The best cruise speed range was from 28.1 mph (2100 rpm) to 32.1 mph (2250 rpm). Range was 348 and 345 miles, respectively. From 1800 rpm to 2400 rpm, the efficiency varies by a mere three-hundredths of a mpg, from 0.57 mpg (1800 and 2400) to 0.60 mpg (2100).
Volvo’s Joystick Plus adds the element of steering at speed, and that made driving the C53 easy and fun. At 32 mph, I used my thumb to push the stick to the right, putting the boat into a hard starboard turn — a nice tight sportboat-like circle — and then engaged my forefinger to push the stick left and take us hard aport. Letting go of the stick brought the boat back to level and straightened out the path automatically. One can turn the stick, too, but the movements are more subtle and less immediate.
Our C53 test boat had a Seakeeper 9 gyro aboard, so we had to check out its effect on our ride. We put the beam to the swell, with some of our own wake and that of a companion boat thrown in, got a feel for the rocking motion and then turned on the gyro. The effect was nearly instantaneous and complete. The rocking motion ceased and the boat stayed level as a sniper’s temperament. Granted, the lake wasn’t throwing up a huge challenge, but I’ve tested other gyro-equipped boats in bigger waves, and the effect was pretty much the same, so I’m certain the C53 will benefit greatly from the gyro technology. Add in the Volvo Dynamic Positioning System, and owners have a boat that will hold its position in the water while remaining level atop it.
Stairs between the helm and the upper salon lead to an atrium-like landing below. With the standard plan, a utility closet with a stacked washer and dryer is to port, while the second head is to starboard. The VIP stateroom, which includes two berths in a V shape that can be combined into a queen-size bed, is forward and has direct access to the head. Opening portlights and an overhead hatch deliver light and air to the room, while a hanging locker and drawers provide storage.
Amidships is the full-beam master. The queen bed’s head is beneath the starboard hull window, which is several feet across and includes an opening hatch, like its twin on the port side. A settee sits on the port side, unless the owner opts for the full length dresser there, which our test boat had. A 32-inch TV, a Blu-Ray player, four speakers and a remote control for the Fusion stereo provide the entertainment factor. An en suite head includes a fiberglass shower stall with an overhead waterfall showerhead, teak flooring and countertops, a vanity and a VacuFlush toilet.
An optional plan turns the utility space into a third stateroom with bunks, and the stacked washer and dryer become a single unit that moves to the master.