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Yachts - September 2009 - The Next Level

Written by Diane M. Byrne

Boat International USA - ReJoyce

She may be the smallest of the series-built Westports, but the 98 has many large-custom-yacht amenities.

It's not easy being a custom builder.

No, this isn't a ploy to make you feel sorry for the yards that construct one-off yachts; rather, the intent is to shed light on why more megayacht builders are offering yachts on a semicustom basis. In fact, ask the principals of any megayacht yard building yachts in a series why they're following this path, and chances are they'll candidly tell you that the biggest reason is cost control. It's difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint exactly how much money it takes to create one-of-a-kind yachts, especially when one owner wants a modified hull design, another makes change order after change order, and yet another wants to use an exotic wood the yard has never imported and cut to fit before.

All this said, however, being a semicustom builder isn't exactly an "if you build it, they will come" situation. Rather, because buyers of megayachts, regardless of size or origin, tend to have more sophisticated expectations than production boat buyers, a builder has to make sure that its offerings incorporate touches that make them stand out from the crowd--a crowd which, you may have noticed, has gotten bigger within the past couple of years and continues to grow.

Washington-based Westport Shipyard is one of the yards that embraces this concept. Having successfully built a number of yachts in series over the past decade, including recent 112-footers and 130-footers, it introduced the newest member of its fleet, a 98-foot raised-pilothouse motoryacht, at the 2003 Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami. Despite her "small" size, she still shows off some big-yacht, custom-construction features.

One of the things that makes the 98 different is the smart space planning. It's carried throughout the yacht, literally from the engine room on up to the aft deck and into the relaxation areas inside. In the engine room, you'll find full walkaround access to the twin 1,480-hp MTUs (which permit a mid-20-knot cruise speed, according to Westport). This practical access is something some semicustom builders still don't offer in the 100-foot-plus range. There's also abundant space above each powerplant to let an engineer reach across to a critical maintenance point. A handy workbench that comes complete with a set of tools is just to port inside the entrance to the engine room. Also handy are the sight gauges forward for the fuel and labels on all the pumps.

More well-planned highlights lie inside. The comfortable saloon, with a combination of fabric wall coverings and satin-finished cherrywood paneling, contains a clever feature for when cocktails are the order of the day. When guests pick up a drink from the bar that lies to port immediately inside the doors from the aft deck, a pull-out drink table just forward of it, made by Westport's joinery department, frees their hands.

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