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Yachts - September 2009 - The Next Level

Written by Diane M. Byrne

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.

To accommodate everyone when it comes time for full meals, Westport graced the 98 with a country kitchen, which you'd certainly expect on a yacht this size. What you wouldn't expect, however, is the size of the room--in a word, huge. Even with a large U-shape dinette and an elbowroom-friendly galley, nothing looks crammed in. The space also has an uncharacteristic look for a yacht: Blue Corian countertops and a faux-wood sole make it appear more like a kitchen in a home.

Even something as simple as the day head gets special treatment on the 98. It lies athwartship and, as a result, is deeper than most of its kind.

Westport thankfully did not overlook the importance of keeping the crew well tended to. Just aft of the engine room lie two good-size staterooms, a double-berthed captain's cabin to port and an upper-and-lower-berthed room to starboard, each with private heads. The captain even has a small Corian-topped workspace adjacent to his berth, with a drawer for paperwork and related items. Westport also installed an LCD panel touchpad for its proprietary Vessel Information and Control (VIC) system in the crew area. The VIC panel monitors items such as bilge pump, tank gauges, heat sensors and carbon-monoxide alarms that are installed throughout the yacht, and the security system.

There's another VIC panel in the pilothouse, itself an unusually large space for a yacht of this size. A workspace with a swing-out stool beneath it lies to port, next to a small bench seat. The owner and guests can discuss the day's itinerary with the captain while seated at either this benchseat or the huge observation lounge that occupies the starboard side of the room.

As for the relaxation spaces, the size of the aft deck is akin to that of a much larger custom yacht. Of course, there's the customary curved benchseat and table for dining or simply enjoying the view, but more than a handful of guests can stand in small groups about the shaded space without bumping elbows. Also notable is the fact that the area is fully decked in teak, a classy, albeit higher-maintenance, touch. (The rest of the exterior decks are FRP with nonskid.)

A second helm station lies on the flying bridge, where you'll also find two wing controls, a bar with barstools, a Jenn-Air grill, and a C-shape seating area that occupies the whole starboard side. Three steps down and aft of here--through the middle of the radar arch--there's terrific real estate for a variety of toys (Westport provides a Novurania RIB and a Nautical Structures davit to launch it).

And if you overhear a crew member saying he or she is heading to the "doghouse," trouble isn't brewing. Rather, it's the term Westport uses to refer to a 5'5"-tall mechanical and equipment space off the port-side hallway on the main deck. Inside there's access to wiring as well as a wine chiller; the crew can even stow owners' and guests' luggage in here.

In the custom-yacht realm, sound-suppression and vibration control are increasingly important issues for owners. While semicustom builders by their nature don't offer owners the big-dollar solutions that custom yards do, Westport took practical steps with the composite-constructed 98. The MTUs are installed on vibration-absorbing mounts, and motors, pumps, and the gensets are on shock/isolation mounts as well. The fuel tanks forward in the engine room act as a noise buffer for the two guest staterooms (one a queen room, the other a twin room) on the other side of the bulkhead. (A third guest stateroom is accessed from the galley, while the owner's stateroom lies off the same foyer that leads to the two just-mentioned staterooms.) Overhead surfaces throughout are clad in Thin-sulate, which provides acoustic as well as thermal insulation.

While being a semicustom builder isn't a guarantee of success, it's certainly an attractive strategy given that it increases a yard's ability to maintain control of the variables that tend to create headaches in the custom realm. And it's a strategy that Westport believes doesn't have to yield yachts that have a one-dimensional look. The resulting 98 has palpable big-features-in-a-small-package appeal.

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