The Taiwanese builder found a way to create more boat in less footage.
Tastes great, less filling.” So went the old commercial that touted Miller Lite beer having two seemingly opposing attributes. That idea popped into my head as I boarded the Johnson 65 — a yacht that offers a lot of amenities and room in a relatively compact footprint. As Johnson representative Art Brooks put it, “It’s more boat, less footage.”
Johnson Motor Yachts is a Taiwanese builder that markets vessels from 65 to 125 feet. The 65-foot baby of the family comes in three flavors: an open flybridge, a hardtop flybridge and a completely enclosed skylounge, which was our test boat in Newport Beach on a sunny winter morning.
Up in the Air
I like skylounge models, because the enclosed flybridge extends the living area, and with something more substantial than canvas. The skylounge offers a third deck of exceptional comfort, especially in climates that are either substantially hot or cold, as in Mexico or Alaska. Skylounge layouts also tend to move the pilothouse upstairs, because there’s no need to have two full helm stations, which makes room for an expansive interior on the main deck.
Taking the importance of living space up top one step further, Johnson designers were smart with dinghy storage. Instead of carrying the tender on the flybridge, where its weight may affect vessel performance, its size takes up valuable social space, and its bulk needs to be launched from lofty heights, the Johnson has a Besenzoni hydraulic davit in the transom. When deployed, the Italian davit lifts the tender onto the wide teak-covered swim platform, eliminating all of the issues above.
Oh, and did I forget the view? You can now drive from or lounge in a fully hard-enclosed flybridge pilothouse that has the added benefit of great visibility in most directions. The skylounge has a compact L-shaped settee to starboard that is fronted by a coffee table, a 32-inch LCD TV and a U-Line refrigerator/ice-maker. Two Besenzoni helm seats for the captain and a companion face an expansive dash where optional twin Garmin MFDs (Raymarine electronics are standard) and a C-Zone AC/DC electrical monitor bring virtually all of the ship’s systems to the captain’s fingertips. An overhead hatch, when open, turns the skylounge into an airy command pod. The only issue is a beam that splits the forward windshield. Between that and the two thick mullions on the sides, there are some small gaps in visibility, and it would be more impressive if at least the middle beam were eliminated to offer an unobstructed view forward.
The Great Outdoors
Outside, a vast upper deck may be optioned to include another L-shaped settee and a grill under a short overhang, leaving plenty of space for a table or lounge chairs aft. The stairs to port lead down to the aft cockpit, which is on the same level as the salon and makes a great party overflow area from the interior. A forward-facing settee is built into the transom, and two additional chairs around the table make it a great area for an alfresco dinner.
The sidedecks are wide enough that adults can move forward in a hurry if necessary, while the oval handrail fits well into one’s hand and is high enough to make a difference in rough seas. On the bow, everything comes in twos. There is a double sunpad, dual anchor locker hatches and a double bow roller, if you want a secondary anchor.
An electric sliding door opens and closes with a hushed whoosh. It’s the only barrier between the aft cockpit and the interior. From here, it is a straight shot all the way to the windshield. Combined with six feet, seven inches of headroom in the salon, the effect is one of elongation and open space far beyond the boat’s size overall. An L-shaped sofa is to starboard and faces the popup TV; a straight double sofa, some cabinetry and a wine chiller are to port. Just above the chiller are curved, slatted steps to the skylounge. They are so minimalist in design and so nicely integrated that they are a bit of artistry that blends into the surroundings.
The furniture and the cabinetry form many clean right angles, and on our test boat, the matte cherry finish was complemented by the cream Ultrasuede fabric finishes as well as the ivory stone surfaces. Combined with plentiful natural and indirect LED light, the effect is contemporary but not stark.
Just ahead and to starboard, the galley is a full-sized kitchen on the same level as the dinette and salon, so the openness of a great room makes one think of home. Appliances are plentiful, including two SubZero refrigerator drawers, a GE cooktop below a GE microwave/convection oven, a Fisher & Paykel dishwasher, and a GE trash compactor. There is an opening window to let out steam and cooking fumes. Caffeine cravers will like the high/low cupboard that pops up out of the granite countertop to bring up a coffeemaker. Overall, it’s a very workable galley and one I’d love to command, except for the oven, which was easily 18 inches above my head. I wouldn’t want to remove a bowl of hot soup from that far up in a house much less on a moving platform.
The dinette is nothing like the usual banquette found on most boats. True, there is an L-shaped settee outboard, but then a glass-top table and two chairs complete the look of a real dining room. Its proximity to the galley makes serving guests and staying in the conversation easy for the chef.
Six steps lead down the centerline companionway to the accommodations, which include three cabins, three heads and a fabulous office. As someone who works from home, I can appreciate a real office with tons of storage and even a portlight, which would let me spend hours at the computer without feeling like I’m in the bilge.
The full-beam master stateroom is posh and includes a walk-in closet and a small vanity desk to port. (A full-sized washer and dryer are in the hall just outside the cabin.) The head separates the stateroom from the machinery space, which helps with sound attenuation. It has a single sink, a vacuum flush head and a very large shower stall where the marble seat hinges up to reveal access to the starboard ABT-TRAC fin stabilizer. (The other fin is accessed via the closet.)
The VIP cabin is in the bow and could easily serve as the master, as it is well appointed with an island berth, its own desk, lots of storage, an en suite head and ample light pouring in through the overhead hatch and portlights. The third cabin may be configured with either an athwartship double or two fore and aft singles.
Performance & Engine Room
We headed out on a calm, sunny morning with a one-foot chop and a light breeze coming from the south. The twin Caterpillar 1,015 hp diesels barely seemed to notice the 90,000-pound displacement, and the boat came up to speed gracefully. We topped out just shy of 23 knots (104 gph) running into the wind and waves. An economical but fast cruise speed can be found at 1900 rpm and 18 knots, where the 65 will burn around 70 gph. Slow down to 1315 rpm, and the Johnson gets economical, burning 24 gph at 10.8 knots. We made smooth S-turns as I took the wheel — almost four turns stop-to-stop.
The Johnson 65 has underwater exhaust, as on most yachts of this size, which keeps things quiet. The compact engine room has a good walkway between the main engines but challenging access to the Onan 27 kw genset that is tucked outboard of the port diesel.
The first model was launched with ZF pod drives; however, Johnson has since moved the 65 to V-drives that get better performance out of the hull shape. That has opened up space in the back of the engine room, which is filled with various systems, including the 4 kw inverter, AGM batteries, a Sea Recovery 700 gpd water-maker and a charger — all standard, as are the ABT TRAC bow and stern thrusters.
When we came in, Brooks made docking look easy despite the slip being just inches wider than the hull. It’s a bit of a run from the skylounge to deck level, so there are twin control stations in the aft cockpit — both standard and both with joysticks to help captains maneuver like a pro. A dynamic positioning system to keep station is optional but would come in handy when crew aren’t available to help tie up.
This semicustom Dixon Yacht Design model will appeal to anyone looking to do coastal hops or even passages to points north and south along the West Coast. With 924 gallons of fuel, the range is respectable at lower speeds, so there is no reason not to explore in terrific comfort.