Yacht-quality features and finishes look and feel right at home in a lively outboard-powered center console.
The hottest trend in powerboating today is outboard power. More specifically, outboard-powered center consoles. In some parts of the country, center consoles are as ubiquitous as SUVs. Their open design provides an excellent platform for fishing, diving and day cruising, and many come complete with heads, cabins and other amenities. Outboards used to have a bad reputation, but new engine technology has brought outboard power forward. Today’s outboards are quiet, efficient, dependable and boast weight-to-horsepower ratios that help boats accelerate quickly and achieve high speeds.
In a crowded center console field, it can be difficult to get excited about a new model, but when I heard Ocean Alexander was entering this market, I figured its boat would be special. With a focus on larger motoryachts, OA’s line featured boats from 70 feet to 155 feet, so why would a motoryacht manufacturer start building a gas outboard center console? As is often the case, it came down to the marketplace: yacht buyers.
Ocean Alexander motoryacht owners who own multiple boats expressed dissatisfaction with currently available center consoles. They wanted a center console with the high-quality fit and finish, amenities and customization they were accustomed to on their larger boats. Building a gasoline outboard-powered boat smaller than 50 feet might be a departure from Ocean Alexander’s current lineup, but the builder’s owners had a point: OA could do a better job producing a boat in this category. Such a departure from the norm led to an appropriate name for the new center console: Ocean Alexander 45 Divergence.
I first saw the 45 Divergence at its evening debut at the Miami International Boat Show. Two new models were lined up next to each other. Blue underwater lights (Lumishore) blazed, abovedecks accent lighting highlighted their silhouette and music played, showcasing the entertainment aspects of the vessels. Guests wandered through the boats and made it easy to see how the open layout and multiple gathering areas really work for entertaining. With a forward lounge, popup lighting, a central helm, a cabin with a head, and the cockpit opened wide with “balcony doors” extended, the boat can accommodate large numbers of people in a cocktail setting.
The balcony doors are an unusual feature on the 45 Divergence. Sections of the hullside fold down to allow access directly through the gunwales to the cockpit. Like side doors on steroids, they are lowered by electric actuators to form wing-like platforms on either side of the vessel. At 6 feet, 11 inches by 2 feet, 7 inches each, they add 18 square feet on each side, stretch the beam to wider than 19 feet when open and create 168 square feet of cockpit area. Removable carbon-fiber stanchions with safety rails protect the outboard edges. When there is not enough room to fold down the balcony, a patented “door within a door” provides normal side door use.
A retracting swim ladder in one of the balconies can be deployed when the door is down, converting the balcony to a side swim platform. The swim platform aft also has a stainless boarding ladder and plenty of room to walk past the outboards even when they are raised.
Buyers Got Choices
With more than 400 options available, a 45 Divergence can be set up to suit a specific owner’s needs and tastes. Two versions of the boat were in Miami to help buyers understand the diversity of the platform and the variety of options. Featuring Palma Blue Alexseal paint, one version showcased the Dive package: a fixed transom couch, storage for dive tanks, teak decks, teak tables fore and aft, and an oak interior. The gray-hulled Fishing version featured a folding aft seat that converts to a leaning post to create open cockpit space. Additional fishing amenities included six rod holders, a cockpit sink, a transom livewell, freezer plates in the insulated fishbox, rod storage, a walnut interior and carbon-fiber tables and accents. Owners can fish or dive off either of these boats, but the two versions helped buyers understand the different options available.
After the show I was able to connect with the gray-hulled fishing version for testing at Ocean Alexander’s Merritt Island, Fla., factory where these boats and the OA 70 are built. The folks at Ocean Alexander appropriately call the 45 Divergence a “day yacht,” since they use their experience with larger vessels to ensure these boats, despite their size, have yacht-quality construction, finish and features.
The 45 Divergence’s Evan K. Marshall–designed cabin is extremely versatile thanks to 6 feet, 7 inches of headroom, a drop-table dinette, and a galley with a refrigerator, a microwave and a sink. The galley comes complete with cookware, cutting boards and dinner china for four people, including all plates, bowls, flatware, napkins and glasses. The inside dining/ sitting area converts to a comfortable sleeping area with a queen-size bed by folding down the forward wall to reveal twin reading lights and nightstand shelves. The head has ample room and a convenient separate shower compartment finished with an elegant stone floor.
On deck is where this boat really shines. The cockpit area has the fold-down balconies, twin couch seating and a table that raises out of the sole with help from an actuator, which allows the area to be fully open for watersports, fishing or entertaining. With the table up, it is a great open-air dining area, a place to lounge under the SureShade automatic awning, or have movie night on the retractable cockpit TV. An outdoor galley features an electric Kenyon grill, a stainless sink, an induction cooktop, drawer refrigerators and an ice-maker. Forward, ahead of the helm, is a lounge seating area with drink holders, a Fusion Apollo series stereo, a sunshade on carbon-fiber poles and a windlass with a washdown system.
A hardtop covers the triple Lebroc bolstered helm seats, all of which feature arm- and footrests. The carbon fiber– accented dash has a full Garmin package with triple 8617 MFDs, a FLIR Thermal Night Vision M324S w/stabilized gyro, AIS, Sirius weather, an Octoplex NMEA 2000 network-controlled electrical system and all engine gauges. The tilt wheel, throttles and the Smartcraft joystick for the Mercury outboards with optional Skyhook are within easy reach of the helm seat. Visibility was good all around, and the helm air conditioning was refreshing as we eased our way through the cut to get to open water.
Cruising at 1100 rpm for a no-wake speed of 5.4 knots gave us a 593-nautical-mile range based on 90 percent of the boat’s 607-gallon capacity. Once in the clear we pushed up to speed. The Ocean Alexander 45 Divergence is a large vessel packed with features and amenities, including an 870-pound Seakeeper 6 gyro on our test boat, but the quad Mercury 350 Verados pushed it up on plane smoothly. At a fast cruising speed of 35.9 knots, 5500 rpm, the four Mercs burned a combined 87.7 gph (0.41 nmpg), which yields a range of 224 n.m. At wide-open throttle the 45 Divergence reached an exhilarating 41.2 knots (47.4 mph). During high-speed hardover turns at about 33 knots, speed dropped nearly 10 knots but the boat stayed on plane and felt secure. Back on the straightway, it quickly came back up to speed.
This boat is easy to maneuver — joystick controls make docking simple — and fun to drive. The Ocean Alexander 45 Divergence is equally adept as a day yacht, a weekend cruiser, or a fishing or diving platform for family and friends. It’s also a solid open-air entertainer. Yacht-quality construction, features and amenities will impress boaters moving both up and down the boat size spectrum.