BOAT TEST ALASKA 46 SEDAN CRUISER
This timeless single-level cruiser offers a dignified ride, plenty of space, and a handy turn of speed for a fast – or relaxed should you prefer — getaway, discovers DAVID LOCKWOOD
We first tested the Alaska 45 Sedan almost five years ago. The new incarnation, the 46, has grown a leg or, rather, an extra foot, gained 90-more horsepower in standard guise, and become noticeably more refined by way of improved fit and finish. But the bits we liked in the first place - the efficiency of the warped-plane hull, the seaworthiness for passagemaking, and big interior - remain firmly in place. Viva la evolution.
The refinements come courtesy of the Queensland Leigh-Smith family who import Alaska Motor Yachts, among other brands, via their eponymous Queensland-based boat business and Gold Coast City Marina. Built by Double Happiness Yacht Company (DHS) in Shanghai, China, from Italian designs, the Alaska cruisers have - since 2003 when the first 42 was launched - carved a niche for themselves.
Besides the abovementioned qualities, value for money counts for plenty, too. Priced from $790,000 with twin QSB 5.9 425hp engines and drive-away as tested for $849,000 with upgraded QSB5.9 440hp engines, the Alaska 46 is a good deal of boat for your brass. The specifications list is long and detailed, with nothing left wanting but a tender and davit on the hardtop, a barbecue on the rail, and a rod in the holder. Pretty much all this stuff is listed as optional.
Though traditional or classic looking, the Alaska 46 Sedan hides a lot of new technology. It starts with the twin Cummins QSB fully electronic common-rail diesel engines with DTS electronic gearshifts, which are just delightful to use and include synchrony, single-lever and troll modes. Meantime, the SmartCraft engine-monitoring panel mid-dash supplies a myriad of data including fuel consumption.
Inboard engine vents and recessed deck fillers make sense, although for environmental reasons excess fuel should you spill some during fill-up drains to the bilge. Back aft, meanwhile, the new Euro-style transom and deep boarding platform with safety rail can be used for fishing, diving, showering and cooking the barbecue. The teak deck on this boat is vacuum-bagged for a tight fit, we're told.
Underfloor, the separate lazarette has room to store a table, chairs, fishing and cruising gear. Back inside the boat, below the galley floor, is a huge larder for toting provisions. Up front, below the main bed, is another big storage area. Indeed, footloose couples have a lot of reasons to load this boat and go explore the coast.
The watertight engineroom is accessed by a cockpit hatch; with soft panels in the saloon floor in case you have to crane a block back out. The generator is aft and, with the engines well forward, there is oodles of servicing room. Owners might need to crouch, but they won't have trouble accessing the engineering. Underwater exhausts are standard, the sea strainers have clear-glass inspection tubes, with paired oil dipsticks on the centreline, and Racor fuel filters up front.
Despite the Chinese build, all the fittings are big-brand stuff, easily serviced and backed locally, while the seacocks are labelled and have ball valves. Then there are the Leigh-Smiths who have sold countless boats over the years. Owners get a direct line to service. And the hull and foam-cored deck are built to RINA and CE approval.
Berthing is assisted by a standard issue Sidepower bowthruster - with a sternthruster optional - and an obliging, sliding starboardside door alongside the internal helm station. Step outside and you can still reach the controls. In fact, you could berth the Alaska 46 Sedan singlehandedly. The non-skid walkaround decks, semi-bulwarks, extended bowrail with lifelines, and elliptical grabrails make the decks crew friendly, too.
A clever stainless steel ladder detaches from the leading edge of the hardtop and snaps in place to grant access up top to where you might carry the tender. The cockpit, meanwhile, is big enough to host lunch in the shade of that same extended hardtop. There's a built-in transom lounge with a eutectic fridge/freezer in its base, a timber table, moulded sink and second top-loading fridge/freezer.
Of course, the boat has a generator, a 7kW Onan, and air-conditioning by way of 16,000btu and 24,000btu Marine Air units. But there was also a 3000W Victron inverter/charger for silent-ship mode that operates the microwave oven, icemaker, fridges, AC lights and a galley powerpoint for, say, the cappuccino machine. LED lighting reduces the DC draw to a trickle. From 30amps with the old lights blazing, the boat now draw just 8amp with LEDs.
The Onan start button, inverter control and Tankwatch (holding tank) gauge were on the dash and, thus, handier than a below-deck location, while a new rocker-switch panel included wiper controls with freshwater washes. Among the suite of optional Raymarine electronics is a C120W widescreen (I would want radar for passagemaking), with the autopilot yet to be fitted.
The chain counter is for a reliable Australian-made Muir windlass and 20kg stainless steel anchor with 50m of 10mm chain. With a spare windlass capstan and dual bowrollers you can carry a reef pick or a second anchor on a longer chain-and-rope rode. The anchor locking pins, saltwater anchor wash, external galley garbage bin, insect screens on all the portlights, new flush windows and solar vent on the head are among the nice touches.
The appeal of the Sedan is its one-level living. You sweep though the wide stainless-framed doors and enter the warm cherrywood saloon, with a Macro Suede-upholstered L-shaped lounge to port, set around a dinette, opposite a second long lounge that doubles as a pullman double berth. You can easily seat eight people indoors in air-conditioned comfort while enjoying the views out the windows. Lift-out carpet over the teak and holly flooring was welcome underfoot, as were the overhead ceiling rails in a seaway.
The boat is fitted with one of those excellent Grundig TVs, a combo fridge/icemaker, storage cupboards for carrying the crockery, and drawers under the lounges. The U-shaped galley up front is traced by white Corian counters, and being on the same level as the saloon, it's great for serving a crowd. The overhead cupboards also hold the microwave oven, with a bench-height fridge and narrow freezer below. But the boat has two outdoor fridge/freezers as well and, should you want to cruise, there is scope to fit extra freezers below decks.
The two-cabin layout under the foam-insulated foredeck includes a communal bathroom immediately to starboard, opposite the guest's midships cabin with twin single beds and hanging space, but it misses out on a separate shower stall. Owners score an island double berth in the bow, a dresser or quasi office area, and en suite with nice big shower.
There's a salty feel in the cabins thanks to the detailed but not overpowering satin joinery, the abundant opening portlights, and great headroom. New soft white liners enhance the natural light, while the soft furnishings are fittingly nautically styled. And space isn't in short supply on the Alaska 46 Sedan.
But it's underway that the boat impressed the most during our sea trials off the Gold Coast. We didn't hold back, with our camerawoman flying above in a helicopter. The flat run aft of the warped-plane hull means the boat is eager to get out of the water. She planes willingly, rips around excitedly off the wheel, and maintains an upright and flat attitude throughout the turns.
The speed curve chart in the specifications panel hereabouts is for the standard-issue 425hp QSB5.9s. At 17.5 to 20kts, your range is about 400nm, according to the official data. With 756lt of water as standard, absolutely abundant storage, and great vision (the upright matt dash should also reduce glare at night), the Alaska 46 Sedan is more than just a weekender. She's more an all-season's cruising boat.
Proving as much, we're aware of five dedicated offshore Alaska owners in Queensland, but also some seven boats in Tassie, where they have gained a real following, and four more in Sydney. Owners tend to be grey nomads and/or baby boomers, but we're told a few younger families are jumping aboard for the sake of the Alaska's unquestionable practicality.
Despite some noticeable turbo whine, the Alaska 46 is quiet. And, we should add, respectfully dry. Bennett trim tabs are fitted but the boat's natural running attitude means you don't need them. With full fuel, three-quarters water and three adults, the 440hp QSB5.9 straight sixes held a slippery 19kts cruise at 2900rpm without huffing or puffing.
Top speed of 24kts is quoted with the standard 425hp QSB 5.9s, which is about as fast as you need to go these days, and with their roots going back to the proven 6BTA5.9 these are reliable engines. But another nice aspect of the Alaska 46 Sedan is that she travels in fine fettle at 9.5kts or hull speed for about 30lt/h and a range of more than 700nm. Fast or slow, the call is yours.
With a big foredeck for hanging out, an extended hardtop upon which you can carry a tender up top, a decent shaded cockpit for al fresco dining, and indoor spaces that work when living aboard or entertaining, the Alaska 46 Sedan makes dollars and sense. But besides growing an extra foot, she has long cruising legs and, with that, you get a touring sedan as well as a big weekender.
The 46 Sedan is the best-selling boat in the Alaska range and, as her name suggests, a true all-weather cruiser - little wonder she's sold well from Queensland to Tasmania.
The whopping 756lt water supply, safe range of 400 to 700nm range, abundant storage space, plus generator and inverter power, make the Alaska 46 Sedan a serious coastal cruiser.
This 46 Sedan was the best Alaska we have seen out of the Shanghai yard. The local Leigh-Smith family who import the boats are largely responsible for the quality control.
The engineering on the Alaska 46 Sedan was better than we have found on many mainstream American and European brands.
Thus, once quality control practices are in place, there's no reason to be prejudiced against Asian-made boats.
Resale value of traditional or classic boats has held up well compared with contemporary sportscruisers and here-today-gone-tomorrow go-fast boats.
SEDANS, SPORTSYACHTS & CABRIOLETS
There's nothing new about the two different powerboat designs on offer today. The single-level sedans, sportsyachts and cabriolets have been around for as long as flybridge cruisers with an upper station. But what is changing is the mix. More people are opting for single-level boats. Perhaps that's because baby boomers are the boat buyers these days and their knees and hips are giving out? Older people definitely prefer single-level boats.
While a flying bridge is a boon to navigating at sea and on crowded waterways, there's no reason that a well-designed sedan can't reel in the sea miles and pick a safe path through a thronging waterway. At the end of the day, or night, it all comes to vision.
Several factors weigh in favour of the Alaska 46 Sedan's vision. The flat-pane glass windscreen helps, the upright matt black dash does its bit, and of course you can dim the lights on the chartplotter. But it's the warped plane hull that's responsible for this boat's great performance and clear vision.
There is a fine entry with 60degrees deadrise for slicing the waves, but thanks to her flat running surfaces, with 8degrees of deadrise at the transom, she carries her loaded weight well and doesn't wallow. In other words, the boat runs nice and flat. No need for that modern-day reverse sheer.
Only a tiny touch of trim tab was called for to milk top speed and, without the tabs, you can still see clearly from the lower helm over the seaworthy bow. A deep keel helps with tracking back down-sea, the bugbear of some warped plane hulls, which tend to bury their nose.
In respect of vision when going astern, we like the side opening door. You could also add a sternthruster to the standard bowthruster and a docking remote so you 'drive' from the cockpit. This way, we feel confident you could berth the boat and tie it up alone. The walkaround decks will help with that, too. A smart sedan.
Specifications: ALASKA 46 SEDAN CRUISER
PRICE AS TESTED
$849,000 w/ Cummins 440hp QSB5.9 diesel engines and options
Raymarine electronics package, covers, and more
$800,000 w/ 440hp Cummins; $790,000 w/ 425hp Cummins
Material: GRP hull w/ composite sides and decks
Type: Warped plane hard-chine motoryacht
Length overall: 15.1m w/ integrated swim platform
Hull length: 14m
Draft: Approx 1.07m
Deadrise: 8degrees at transom, 60degrees at stem
Weight: Approx 16,000kg (dry)
Berths: 4 + 2
Make/model: Cummins QSB5.9
Type: Fully-electronic six-cylinder common rail turbo-diesel
Rated HP: 440 (crankshaft) at 3400rpm (max.)
Gearboxes (Make/ratio): ZF/1.96:1
Props: Four-blade bronze
Leigh-Smith Cruiser Sales,
Gold Coast City Marina,
Coomera, Qld, 4209
Phone: (07) 5502 5866; 0408 758 887
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