Beyond the Reef
Jack Nicholson once appeared in a film called ‘As Good as it Gets’. They could well have been writing the script for the Outer Reef 70 – for this boat was truly – as good as it gets, in terms boating capability, and excellence!
Like a thunderbolt out of the blue it struck me; just a few moments aboard this boat and I was emphatically reminded of the fact, the reality, that Asian boatbuilders had really come of age. There are many of course who would suggest the tiny island of Taiwan in fact leads the world when it comes to boats from 80-feet upwards, but it is in this field of passagemakers where enormous strides have been made also!
In other words, Asian manufacturers and in particular those in China and Taiwan where this vessel was manufactured, are focussing on the passagemaker style of vessel, perfecting and indeed evolving the concept as they go. They have added their own branding, their own interpretation of what constitutes a good cruising boat, providing the often over-looked lifestyle features that for want of a better descriptive, make a house a home; a reality that didn’t go unnoticed by semi-retired Sydney businessman Andrew Prentice.
Like most astute businessmen who find boating a useful relaxation medium, the ultimate dream is often to have a boat that they can use for their own pleasure, that will also ‘pay its own way’ through luxury chartering.
After a heap of due diligence, combined with what he had learned from a lifetime of boating, Prentice finally succumbed to the realisation his quest for excellence and value could be readily satisfied by heading to the yards of Taiwan.
More particularly to his ‘chosen’ yard of Outer Reef Yachts, which in his opinion had stamped its own identity on a new style of ocean-going vessel that dared to be different, dared to embrace the luxury ideal but in the end, still offered the absolute prerequisite of a ruggedly, robustly dependable hull pedigree – with mechanical ‘nous’ to match!
Step aboard Prentice’s ‘MY Aroona’ and as suggested, it was virtually instantaneously obvious Outer Reef Yachts (ORY) had broken the stereotyped ‘mould’ so to speak, with a vessel which was classy yet almost subtle in the way it presented its features; rather than being demonstrative. I say that for the harder I looked, behind the magnificent presentation, the more I discovered really sound practical and certainly innovative ideas that simply made living aboard just that much easier and more pleasurable.
It was a hospitable, welcoming and certainly very ambient boat to be aboard and this was certainly where this subtlety aspect impacted most – it wasn’t in your face, it wasn’t imposing. Size was another aspect that was somewhat of an enigma also. The lines of ‘Aroona’ were so aesthetically well proportioned and palatable that from a distance one could be forgiven for thinking it was simply yet another 55-60ft passagemaker design. Get up close and personal however, look up from water level and you soon appreciated the fact it was a lot bigger boat than first envisaged.
It’s Your Choice
Outer Reef as a brand is ostensibly a production boat but the bottom line is, when it gets to this size of vessel – owners get precisely what they want, within the parameters of course, of the structural bulkheads. The boarding aspects were what you would expect of a passagemaker style of vessel; a generous low-profile boarding platform, drop-in pulpit bars, entry to the crews quarters through the bulkhead-style rear door, and entry up onto the cockpit level courtesy of a staircase each side of the transom beam.
The lifestyle aspect commenced the moment I stepped onto this cockpit level which was enveloped nicely by the transom beam, generously high topsides and the overhead flybridge ‘overhang’. The aft lounge and portable deck chairs around the beautifully crafted teak and holly compass-adorned table – was surely the perfect setting for late afternoon drinks. From this cockpit you had access to the outside head, to the flybridge level courtesy of the near upright gelcoat and teak staircase, and to the foredeck via the portside or starboard walkways.
That latter aspect was in fact most impressive; just like being on a superyacht or indeed a ship, with its walkway entry doors each side, the overhead protection, the extended bulwark panels and of course the teak walkways. It also surely ‘painted’ the right picture as it led me forward onto the Portuguese bridge ahead of the front windscreens, and then down a flight of steps onto the mandatory ship-style anchoring bay which again was well protected by the high bulwarks.
The two rather innocent looking saloon doors gave no hint of what was to follow as I entered the formal area of ‘Aroona’, the main saloon. Décor was satin-finish teak, heaps of it, which contrasted well with the teak and holly ‘planked’ floors, the overhead padded roof panels, the pleated blinds in the window alcoves, and the suede finish lounges.
Overdone with so much wood? No way; the again subtle additions such as the single lounge chair, the aft lounge, the L-shaped dining setting ahead of it with its work of art that was the table, the wall-pillar lighting, the wood furniture modules – all combined magnificently to form the ultimate picture of ‘complementing’ luxury yes, but more importantly, a warm ambience.
Forward of the saloon and up two steps was the galley. Pinch myself, this was better than most contemporary homes have to offer, not only with the plethora of equipment available, but also in the way it was presented – the luxury look was inherent, not painted on! Storage provision abounded, and the features such as the four-burner electric cook-top moulded into the bench, the range-hood above, the house-size oven, the dishwasher, the microwave, the huge twin sinks – would keep any master chef happy.
All that was within the confines of this portside L-shaped galley proper, then opposite on the other side of the walkway, against the starboard wall if you like, I discovered more very user-friendly innovation. Not so much the house-sized side-by-side refrigerator and freezer but alongside it a pantry of ‘ginormous’ proportions. In a cubicle where you would normally expect to find either shelving or pull-out wire baskets, in this instance Outer Reef had provided beautifully crafted individual wooden bins on rollers, which slid from floor to roof. It must have taken a Taiwanese craftsman several weeks just to build this feature alone!
From the galley you can move further forward again, through a door (the first time I had ever seen a door fitted here) and into the pilothouse. The craftsmanship and practical user-friendly features continued, with chart table, the day-lounge behind the skipper’s Stidd chair, the two side entry doors, the full-width electronics display – all presented in their own unique highly impressive Outer Reef style.
As impressive as these appeared though, they paled into insignificance when compared with the grandiose staircase alongside which was in effect the internal access to the flybridge level. Yet again, the amount of time involved in building this one statement of affluence, would have been astronomical; ORY had excelled once again!
Up these stars and upon entering through the sliding acrylic and stainless steel door, I was confronted by another playground of significant proportions. With ‘windowed’ clears for protection against inclement weather, pride of place up here was the helm station complete, with in this instance, two instead of the three Raymarine E120 electronics in the pilothouse, and two Stidd skipper’s chairs instead of the one below.
Aft of this station there was supreme comfort for eight guests (plus four more on the fold-away deck chairs) seated at the two lounge settings either side of a central walkway which led through to the aft deck. There, the additional refrigeration and icemaker combo and an electric BBQ were located on the aft faces of the lounge bases. Further aft of that again was a deck of immense proportions, for the cradled tender, the life-raft, the davit – and whatever else you wanted to store up there, in the way of toys and fishing gear. As with the lower deck, here again on this flybridge level there was a general feeling of warmth and ambience, enhanced of course by the nice choice of upholstery colours, and, the full teak floor – that was a ‘biggie’ for me!
Treated Like Royalty
Perhaps surprisingly, this Outer Reef catered for just seven people (plus crew), but let me tell you, those seven people were treated like royalty as regards accommodation on the lower level. Sure, you could have compromised on space and maybe in the end provided four accommodation rooms, but the reality is that six or seven people on a long trip is plenty; especially so in Prentice’s charter guise, where you need to concentrate 24/7 on providing the ultimate in pampering, service and satisfaction.
The VIP cabin featuring queen-size island berth with walk-up stairs each side, was up forward in Aroona’s bow, and the guest or family cabin, with its double lower berth and single upper berth, was virtually opposite the base of the stairs, off to port. The master stateroom was stately, grandiose in fact –without being over the top. The athwartships berth was of king-size dimensions, there was a feature wood and plush panel ceiling and all the storage cupboards and drawers were well secreted – tasteful is a word that springs to mind, very tasteful, and homely!
Presented again in the satin teak finish with contrasting plush panelling and carpeted floors, all three rooms featured all the usual trappings such as opening portholes, cedar-lined wardrobes, television/stereo/DVD/iPod, mirrors and of course ensuite bathrooms. In the case of the master stateroom there was one other rather ominous bulkhead style door complete with locking wheel in the centre – which suggested there were ‘men at work’ on the other side.
This door led of course, through into the full head-room engine room. Built of hand-laid-up GRP hull, with Divinycell core sandwich construction above the water-line, the 55-tonne Aroona conformed to USL Code 2B for Queensland Survey. Nowhere was the attention to mechanical detail and specification more obvious than in this engine room. The equipment, all clearly labelled and sensibly positioned so as to be entirely accessible for maintenance purposes, was serious!
Taking pride of place were the two 503hp 8.8-litre, inline 6-cylinder Caterpillar C-9 ACERT diesel engines which ran through 2.609:1 ratio ZF Hurth 360A gearboxes and conventional shaft drive, to the 35”D x 24.93”P Faster 4-blade bronze propellers, but it was the other beautifully presented mechanical ‘peripherals’ which really gave me the ‘warm and fuzzies’.
All within the confines of this one room was the fuel and water tankage, two Cruisair AT-Series 14kW air-conditioning units, a Reverso oil change system, CCTV, a Fireboy fire prevention system, two Northern Lights gensets, of 26kW and 16kW, a Victron Quattro 24V/5000W/120A-50A/30A-230V inverter/charger and another stand-alone Victron Centaur 24V/60A & 12V/20A battery charger, the Max-Q 1826S 284 L/h watermaker, the ABT TRAC 0.75sqm stabilisers on ABT TRAC 220 Actuators, and, a serious battery bank of 24V Lifeline batteries including four 225Ah for the house and another two for the engines, plus two 105Ah batteries each for the pilothouse and the genset. What an inventory, and that was only the big-ticket items!
But wait; there was more, for just when I thought I had reached the ‘end’ of the boat as far as rooms went, a bulkhead door at the other end of the engine room opened to reveal yet another huge and impressive room for me to feast my eyes upon. “This is my room,” Captain Ross Millar proudly enthused. Loosely described as the crew quarters, it was in fact the veritable ‘operations’ nerve centre of the boat, for in there was the laundry, two huge ‘chest’ freezers, a spare parts room, a full crew galley and off to the side of it, the entirely separate crew accommodation of a twin-single (athwartship and fore and aft Pullman style) bunk room and adjacent to this, an ensuite bathroom.
One word, sublime! In fact there were a lot more emotive ‘descriptives’ I could throw in for a boat that was designed, built and presented to an obscenely fanatical level. But it didn’t come with the associated price tag I expected, which of course suggests it was damned good value into the bargain. It went well – 14 knots maximum and anywhere from 8-12 knots cruising – but more importantly it was a comfortable boat to be aboard, when it came to the blue-water stuff! All in all, a boat that was an absolute pleasure to be aboard!
- Boat Design Name: Outer Reef 70
- Year Launched: 2010
- Designer: Outer Reef Yachts
- Interior Designer: Owner
- Builder: Outer Reef Yachts
- LOA: 21.77 m
- LWL: 19.36 m
- Beam: 5.64 m
- Draft: 1.52. m
- Displacement: 55,000 kg
- Max Speed: 14 knots
- Cruise Speed: 8-12 knots
- Construction: GRP hull, with Divinycell core
- Fuel Cap: 8200 litres
- Water Cap: 1514 litres
- Engines Make: 2 x 503 hp Caterpillar C-9 ACERT
- Gearboxes: ZF Hurth 360A