Author: Eston Ellis
What’s a skylounge?
No, it’s not a place in Vegas where there’s a two-drink minimum to see Steve and Eydie. A skylounge is something new in motoryacht design: a fully enclosed flybridge.
The flybridge has always provided the best of all possible views for the skipper; however, it has rarely been outfitted for all-weather use. Generally, even flybridges that have hardtops require isinglass enclosures to keep out wind and rain — and in cold weather, those vinyl windows just aren’t enough to keep out the elements.
The skylounge on our test boat, the Johnson 70, is covered by a hardtop and is completely enclosed in glass. It offers a spectacular 360-degree view of the water — and it is climate controlled, with both heat and air conditioning. There are two helm seats, plus an L-shaped settee with an inlaid wood table — and there’s a sink and refrigerator, so guests can enjoy a beverage and a snack while they enjoy the incredible view out the 10 skylounge windows and two stainless steel-framed glass doors.
Sea for Ourselves
We tested the Johnson 70 on a spring morning off Newport Beach, California. Our test boat was provided by Art Brooks Sea Co., the exclusive Southern California Johnson Yachts dealer.
Seas were glassy smooth and the sun was shining, as we headed out of Newport Harbor with four adults aboard.
Our test boat was equipped with a pair of 1,400 hp Caterpillar diesel engines with an electronic engine control system. Digital helm instrumentation gave us a wealth of engine and running data.
We had both trolling valves and a ‘slow vessel” control setting (the former reduces engine pressure, while the latter lowers engine rpm levels) to choose from, for maintaining a no-wake speed as we left the harbor.
Once we got into open water, we discovered that the Johnson 70 seems to have a decided preference for fast-paced cruising. We quickly reached a comfortable cruising speed of around 27 knots, at 2,100 rpm.
During our sea trial, we reached a top speed of 31.4 knots, at 2,288 rpm. However, in the builder’s own tests performed in optimal conditions, the Johnson 70 reached a top speed of 35 knots.
The 70 was quite responsive to the helm, handled smoothly and provided a solid and stable ride throughout a variety of maneuvers — including 180-degree turns at 24 knots. Whatever we did, the boat remained remarkably stable — even when we cut back to idle while offshore, or when we cut through wakes of other boats at faster cruising speeds.
The big fiberglass helm console is nicely designed to swing open after unhooking two latches, for easy access to electronics and wiring. Our test boat’s helm was equipped with a pair of Furuno NavNet system displays with input from radar and a chart plotter with C-Map cartography. At the push of a button, you can also display color images from four onboard television cameras — two of which are mounted in the engine room and two are located in the cockpit.
ZF electronic controls are provided at the helm — and there are two more control units in the cockpit (one on each side of the saloon door). Our helm also had an Icom VHF radio, a Ritchie compass, Muir windlass controls, a Raymarine Tridata display, a Simrad autopilot and a Sidepower joystick-controlled bow thruster. (Additional Sidepower thruster controls are located adjacent to the electronic controls in the cockpit.)
We had three windshield wipers on the forward windows, a Pioneer AM/FM CD stereo system (with speakers installed in the overhead), Cruisair air conditioning and heating controls, and a stainless steel captain’s wheel. We liked the dual Pompanette helm seats.
Cruising with the aft skylounge door open, there was a normal amount of noise while under way. However, once we closed that door, the skylounge was remarkably quiet — even at 27 knots.
Our only quandary in the skylounge was that we couldn’t find the switch that controls the overhead lighting until the end of our sea trial. We finally found it on the helm’s electrical panel — labeled ‘spreader lights.”
We would have liked to see some piping on the edges of the padded vinyl around the forward heating vent, which looked uneven. The bird’s-eye maple wood panels on the helm console could also have used some quarter-round trim, to eliminate rough edges. Admittedly, these are very minor concerns that could be easily eliminated during the commissioning process.
The Johnson 70’s boat deck, abaft the skylounge, has plenty of room to stow a large dinghy. Our test boat had a Brower Systems davit for convenient launching and retrieval.
While the skylounge seating area is undeniably comfortable and would be a great spot for guests to relax with the skipper, there is even more space for entertaining in the cockpit, a few steps below the skylounge.
The cockpit’s large forward-facing settee is flanked by a pair of fiberglass consoles. One (to port) conceals a barbecue, while the other one holds a sink.
In addition to the twin control stations on either side of the stainless steel-framed, sliding saloon door, you’ll notice wide walk-around decks protected by beefy stainless steel rails.
The fiberglass boat deck provides welcome shade for the cockpit, and both halogen spots and stereo speakers are built-in overhead. Underfoot, our test boat offered teak decking — both in the cockpit and on the adjacent swim platform.
The swim platform is accessible through an aft pair of stainless steel gates in the cockpit. After opening one of these gates, you descend a few steps to reach the unusually wide platform.
A hot and cold shower is located here, for a comfortable rinse-off after swimming or diving. Glendinning Cablemasters are also installed here, for easy shore power cable handling.
You enter the saloon through a large stainless steel-framed glass door that opens automatically, at the push of a button labeled ‘air door.” This feature wasn’t working on our test boat; however, the door opened easily enough through the old-fashioned method of pushing the door handle.
Inside, our test boat’s saloon was trimmed in nicely finished light cherry woodwork with bird’s-eye maple trim. Big windows make for a light and airy feel, and overhead halogen spots add even more light, when necessary.
A large plasma-screen television rises electrically from a cabinet along the port side, opposite a big, comfortable settee and an inlaid wood table to starboard. An entertainment center with a DVD player and a surround sound system is standard equipment.
An aft staircase, to port, leads to the boat’s full-width master stateroom and the engine room. Forward, up a few steps from the saloon, there’s a roomy dinette to port and a galley to starboard.
The galley is compact and unobtrusive, with a granite counter and under-counter appliances concealed beneath wood joinery. Our test boat’s equipment included Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer drawers, a Fisher & Paykel dishwasher drawer, and a Broan trash compactor. The galley also features a stainless steel double sink, a ceramic-top range and a microwave/convection oven.
Forward, stairs lead belowdecks to three additional staterooms.
The first one offers over/under bunk-style berths, a hanging locker, a television and an adjacent head with shower. This cabin would be ideal for kids or fishing buddies.
The next cabin provides twin berths that could be transformed into a double berth with a filler cushion. It also offers hanging locker storage, a television and an adjacent head.
The VIP stateroom offers a queen-size berth, hanging locker storage, another television and an en suite head with a stall shower. There’s also a full-length mirror.
While this stateroom is undeniably luxurious, it pales in comparison to the breathtaking aft master. The master stateroom takes advantage of the boat’s full beam to provide an especially spacious retreat, with a queen-size berth, hanging locker storage and a large en suite head.
This stateroom is well located for the owner who will spend many nights aboard, while the forepeak stateroom will experience a bit more motion.
You enter the engine room through a door in the companionway leading to the master stateroom. The big Caterpillar engines dominate this compact compartment.
With power to spare for fast-paced cruising, plus all the creature comforts you’d find in the finest homes on shore, the Johnson 70 is an especially attractive boat for those who want to spend a lot of time aboard. The well-equipped skylounge helm station makes it all the more practical for all-weather operation and maximum control under way.
CONTACT: Art Brooks Sea Co., Newport Beach, CA; (949) 673-1669; (800) 477-8382; www.artbrooksseaco.com