BOAT TEST NAVIGATOR 42
The design tradition at the historic Norman R Wright & Sons yard in Brisbane is for functional and beautiful craft. But even in such exalted company the new Asian-made Navigator 42 is a standout, reports ALLAN WHITING
Back at the beginning of the 20th century, when Norman R. Wright started building boats, virtually all boats had to look 'right', regardless of whether they were working or pleasure vessels. But in some respects that wasn't hard to do: the most common and traditional boatbuilding materials back then - longitudinal planks over transverse curved frames - encouraged good-looking vessels. When you bend a straight plank around curved frames you get a deck line with 'sheer'. Most eyes prefer hulls with sheer to those with none or, as fibreglass builders tend to offer these days, reverse sheer.
Other commonly appreciated characteristics of the 'classic' look are flared bow sections - also practical for spray reduction - and some 'tumblehome' in the aft hull sections. (Tumblehome in its original Old English/French sense may be defined as 'proper slope' and was popular for the additional hull strength and stability it conveyed; the way it reduced upper hull weight; and the effective narrowing of the deck to prevent easy boarding during sea battles).
The Navigator 42 ticks all these classic-boat design cue boxes. In fact, the tumblehome in the aft sections is exaggerated almost to 'slipper stern' curvature at the transom. True to her roots, she looks right.
PICNIC BOAT PLANS
After designing the second of the Palm Beach series of classically-styled power or picnic boats, a 32-footer back some years ago, Norman R. Wright & Sons saw the appeal of this style of boat to a wider, more budget-conscious market. Five Navigator 42s have been sold since last year's Sanctuary Cove boat show launch and a Navigator 60 version has been drawn up, with one already on order, we're told.
The next Navigator introduction will be a 34 and a trailerable 25-footer is also in the wings. Future Navigator permutations include a passagemaking version and an electric-propulsion model. (Watch this space).
Although the Navigator 42 is a classic Norman R. Wright & Sons design, it's the first product of a new joint venture. Norman Wright International is a new company contracted to build boats in China, in conjunction with a Chinese company, Poly Marine.
Poly Marine builds the Navigator 42, using precision hand lay-up with vinylester resins. The hull bottom is solid FRP, using only E-glass stitched or woven fabrics. Balsa coring is used in certain areas to help reduce weight.
The structural engineering work was done by High Modulus and was designed to comply with Germanischer Lloyd.
The editor normally keeps me away from powerboat tests, because he's seen me flinching as I've motored past the Royal Motor Yacht Club, with my hat pulled well down, so that none of my rag-and-stick mates can see me. However, the Navigator 42 offered an entirely different experience: its classic lines and undeniable beauty have great appeal even to brine-soaked yachties and I sat at the timber-faced console, for all to see, unapologetic and with head held high.
Even at rest the Navigator 42 looks right, with its lobster-boat proportions, curved screens and tapered saloon pillars. The cockpit and transom brightwork contrasts with a polished white deck and cabin top, surmounted by a varnished, raked mast. The test boat's dark-blue hull helped show off its elegant lines and we doubt many customers will order one in all-white, despite the increased maintenance costs of dark-finished hulls.
The teak-soled cockpit looked inviting and clambering aboard was easy, thanks to broad sidedecks and conveniently placed steps on both cockpit coamings.
The steeply raked and curved 10mm front screens, generous sidedecks and beautifully tapered stern sections combine to limit saloon and cockpit volume, when compared with a broad-sterned, wide cabin 'tub' style boat, but the Norman R. Wright & Sons' design team of Bill Wright and Adam Evripidou, with input from Navigator Boats' marketing specialist, Mel Brookman, managed the available space very cleverly.
As you step into the cockpit, a grand piano-shaped bar is positioned where you'd expect to find a set of sliding doors. There is a sliding door to starboard, but when open it's recessed into a glazed bulkhead, with a custom-shaped top-opening cockpit fridge hard against the starboard coaming.
The neat trick is a 6mm lifting glass pane that rises electro-mechanically from the surface of the bar, sealing off the saloon in conjunction with the sliding door, as required. With the lifting window and sliding door open the illusion is a larger cockpit than it actually measures.
Cockpit seating consists of three removable bar stools and a four-seat transom bench. A highly-polished cockpit table slots neatly in front of the bench and two deck chairs complement this open dining area.
Clever use of available space shows in the saloon layout as well. The four/five-seat dinette butts up to the bar on the portside and what looks like a beautifully polished buffet to starboard is actually the galley. The 'buffet' lid lifts to reveal a deep sink and two-plate electric cooktop, and a second 130lt fridge and microwave also feature.
SLEEPING FOR SIX
A short, central companionway leads below, to the forward double-bed cabin, with a full-sized bathroom with separate shower recess (600lt of water will do a couple for a week at least) to starboard and a cabin with two stacked bunks to port. The forward cabin has an island bed and the wood hull lining traces the bow flares. Wood trim abounds in the cabins as in the saloon and cockpit, and the bathroom bench top is solid timber.
Back up top, the dinette can be converted into a friendly double berth, thereby providing sleeping for six or a better night's rest in the saloon for the owners should the wind blow-up at night while at anchor (think westerly at Tangalooma). A nice finishing touch is a powered LCD TV screen that emerges from the portside dashboard.
Although the deck heads are easy-maintenance FRP throughout, the moulded pattern simulates wood-planked ceilings, even to the point of incorporating slight imperfections. Nice detail. Ample glass and hatch areas combine with generous LED lighting to counter the darkening effects of wood trim.
Fit and finish are superb and there are no jarring notes. The powered 8mm saloon side windows are mounted without frames and the wood boxing around the cabin pillars is near-perfect. The fat B-pillars in the saloon house two of the sound system speakers and, rather than cover them with fabric, the builders have hand-cut wooden mesh panels that don't obstruct the sound, but preserve the all-wood look of the interior. Anyone fearing Chinese fit and finish standards needs only to inspect this boat.
Air-conditioning is ducted through the boat and the vents are well integrated into the trim panels. Needless to say, the boat is bundled with a generator and it goes without saying that you can specify an inverter for silent-ship while watching your LCD TV at night.
Areas that can often be overlooked for quality finish, such as cupboard and cockpit locker interiors are well crafted and the engineroom is all class, with checkerplate flooring and ready access to service items and the generator, for example.
AT THE HELM
The saloon steering station is in keeping with the traditional style of the Navigator 42, with a wood-rimmed and spoked wheel aft of a wood-faced, curved instrument panel. Tradition gives way to practicality at this point, with a full suite of electronic navigation and systems-monitoring instruments arrayed before the helmsperson. Autopilot is standard and the twin engine controls have a synchronising function.
The forward saloon windows don't open, but the side ones slide down car-style and the roof hatch lets in air from breeze strength to gale force if required.
The test boat is fitted with the standard power package: twin Yanmar diesels with shaft drives, backed up by bow and sternthrusters, but an optional Zeus drive is being investigated. It's most likely the engines will remain under the saloon floor, in the interests of ideal boat-weight distribution, with the Zeus pods connected by jack shafts.
ON THE WATER
Departing a Brisbane River jetty was a doddle in the Navigator 42, thanks to twin screws, but it was good to know there were twin thrusters for backup. A Zeus package would make manoeuvring even easier and should have great buyer and ex-yachtie appeal.
The Navigator 42 is powered by twin Yanmar 6LY3 UTP electronically-injected, turbo-diesels, each rated for 380hp at 3300rpm and fed from a 1200lt fuel supply.
Vision at river speed was excellent from the two-seat steering station, but the bow rose at half throttle, necessitating a play with the trim tabs. Out on Moreton Bay, we found there was plenty of tab adjustment to keep the bow tip on the horizon, even at WOT, with the engines howling at 3250rpm and 30kts on the clock. The optimum cruising speed seemed to be around 22kts, allowing fast passagemaking at three-quarter throttle, with two-engine fuel consumption of only 90lt/h. The fuel use penalty over cruising at 14kts was around only 10lt/h.
Bill Wright tested a Navigator 42 hull model in the Australian Maritime College's towing tank at Launceston and reckoned he and Adam Evripidou had come up with a vessel that exhibited "exceptional performance and fantastic fuel efficiency". We are inclined to agree with them.
When putting in a few tightish turns for the camera we were also impressed with the stability of the hull and its lateral grip. The helm was light and positive.
However, there's no such thing as the perfect boat and while we loved the hum of the engines at speed, their location under the saloon floor won't please everyone. The upside is that the cockpit ambience is the soothing swish of slicing wake, with no underfoot noise or vibration.
We dropped the pick for lunch off one of Moreton Bay's many low islands and appreciated the battened cockpit canopy. Clears are also available to weatherproof the cockpit. With two of the Velcro-fastened transom seat cushions removed the transom door opened easily and, clipped in place, allows easy access to the large swim platform. A hot-cold shower pulled easily from its transom recess.
The Navigator 42 is already a success, only a few months after release, proving that there's a market for a stylish, top-quality, high-performance, small-family cruiser/entertainer that won't break the bank.
Those who evaluate a boat from the point of view of maximum volume for a given marina berth space may find the Navigator 42 poor value, because for the same money it's possible to buy a larger-volume boat with more deck and cabin space. That's fine; the Navigator's rationale is lost on them, but for those who want a boat that's also a piece of marine art... welcome aboard. And she looks right.
Specifications: Navigator 42
PRICE AS TESTED
Teak or American cherry fitout; electric-flush toilet; Miele hotplates, Panasonic microwave; Isotherm fridge-freezer with ice-maker; cockpit shower; lead-vinyl, Mylar-coated insulation; 7.5kVa Onan generator; full Raymarine instrument package - GPS, plotter, sounder, autopilot; VHF radio; Jabsco searchlight; engineroom fire extinguishing system; Fusion sound system; TV and antenna; hydraulic steering; one manual and two electric bilge pumps; Bennett trim tabs; 200amp/h AGM batteries for house and engine start; twin battery chargers; Cruisair air-con; leather interior seating; Manson plough anchor; Muir windlass; Lewmar hatches; teak cockpit deck and swim platform; and mooring lines and fenders
Material: FRP hull, decks and superstructure
Length overall: 12.8m
Berths: 1 double cabin, 2 singles in a second cabin, dinette double
Fuel: 1200lt (extended range option)
Water: 600lt (plus optional watermaker)
Holding tank: 120lt
Make/model: 2 x Yanmar 6LY3 UTP
Rated HP: 380 (each)
Propellers: ZF four-blade 25s
Thrusters: 2 x 6hp dual prop
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