BOAT TEST ALASKA 46 FLYBRIDGE
This trusty Alaska 46 Flybridge has a great new interior layout, discovers JOHN ZAMMIT
When you look at the way we use our boats these days, our boating style has evolved, and so have the demographics. Primarily as a result of the GFC the market has slowed, but it's also aged and one of the few growth areas is the trawler market that's mainly driven by baby boomers.
According to Dean Leigh-Smith, principal of Gold Coast-based Leigh-Smith Cruiser Sales (importers of the Alaska range of motoryachts), "Our customers are mostly baby boomers who've had boats before. They want to go cruising in comfort and they're favoring the trawler concept with a pilothouse-style bridge. Bigger volume boats, going slower and using less fuel."
Leigh-Smith spoke about his parents being a typical case in point. "Aged on the wrong side of 50 and they want to go long-range cruising," he explains. "They don't want too much capital tied up in a big boat but want all the safety and comforts including a queen-size master suite."
The Alaska 46 Flybridge fits the bill. It's a big-volume, trawler-style boat that comes fully fitted and ready to go to sea. Not only that, she can idle away at a sedate 8kts sipping just 20lt/h of fuel, or, if you really want to reel in those sea miles, she can get up on the plane and reach 24kts.
While she's got features aplenty, the standout is the unique master suite situated amidships. Leigh-Smith told <I>Trade-a-Boat</I>, "When we were designing the 46, we essentially laid out a drawing in tape on the hardstand area; we laid out a queen-size bedroom and said, 'Build the boat around that!'."
The result is sensational, a great boat with a unique layout including a second cabin forward with all of the comforts of home. But I'll come back to the accommodation because this boat is about much more than that.
THE BIG 46
With a hull length of 46ft, the efficient utilisation of space everywhere gives the impression you're on a much larger boat. From the moment you step into the saloon from the cockpit, through large bi-folding stainless steel doors, the sense is one of tasteful refinement, light and space.
There's L-shape seating around a high-low fold-up table to port with bench seating opposite to starboard, forward of that a handy bar with a 190lt two-door fridge-freezer under, ideal for preparing snacks or mixing the Margaritas, while still being involved in the conversation.
The galley forward to port incorporates everything you'd possibly need for extended time aboard, like flush-mounted four-burner electric cooktop, Corian bench top with inbuilt exhaust extraction, stainless steel sink with flick mixer tap, under-bench icemaker-refrigerator combo and a clever garbage chute in the bench top with direct access from the sidedecks. No more trudging rubbish through the saloon to empty the bin. There's also a microwave within easy reach.
A 7kW Onan generator comes standard, for when you're not connected to shorepower, and a 3kW charger/inverter powers the galley outlets, microwave and TV.
The helm is located forward to starboard and raised, providing good all-round vision as well as more headroom in the master suite below - a win-win you might say. The double helm seat faces a stylish timber console with leather trim and the large stainless steel wheel with wooden rim gives the feeling of substance.
There's plenty of room on the dash for a single Raymarine E120 screen, incorporating GPS-plotter-fishfinder, alongside a rudder-angle indicator, autopilot, Tridata, anchor chain counter, bow- and stern-thruster controls, Cummins SmartCraft engine monitoring screen, trim tabs, and controls for the windscreen wipers fitted to all three panes. Quite a full dash but it's all laid out logically, is easy to monitor, and within easy reach.
It's also a nice driving position, with a sliding sidedoor leading out to the sidedeck. This is a feature of most trawler-type boats, both practical and handy. Apart from more ventilation, the sidedoor allows the skipper to easily step outside and go forward or aft when docking or anchoring shorthanded, even to look out of underway at night. (There is an optional internal layout in the pipeline that provides for a second sliding door portside with a redesigned galley and saloon).
Engineroom access is via a hatch in the cockpit. It's a large area with good head height and engineering. The engines are well forward, keeping the shaft angle low and improving the efficiency of the props. There's plenty of room around both engines and the generator for ease of servicing. Incidentally, the generator is fitted with a muffler and air-water separator that silences the exhaust, so you can use it at night in those quiet anchorages without upsetting the neighbors.
Racor fuel-water separating filters housed on the forward bulkhead are easy to get to, as is the engine coolant top-up. Batteries (two house, two for engine start, one for the generator and one for the windlass and bowthruster) are neatly housed in GRP boxes located to starboard. The three fuel tanks, holding a total of 2270lt, are located outboard of each engine and forward of the engineroom. They're all interconnected but can be isolated in case of a problem.
The two interconnected water tanks are housed aft in the lazarette and under a separate cockpit hatch. Located here are the optional watermaker and air-conditioning units, plus access to the power steering and sternthruster. There's handy storage space, too, an ideal spot for the picnic table, chairs and water toys.
Up in the cockpit is inbuilt transom seating with a table, and with the folding saloon doors open, the two areas blend into one, big indoor-outdoor living area. There are two large iceboxes, (I'd be inclined to convert one to a freezer if I was going away), and a freshwater deckwash. Step down through gates either side of the transom to the swimplatform that's fitted with an optional safety rail, an electric barbecue and a hot-and-cold transom shower. This is a boat to enjoy, indoors or outdoors, for an intimate party for two or a gathering of the clan.
Wide walkaround sidedecks lead forward and with high siderails extending up from the raised bulwarks means getting forward is safe and easy, even underway. At the bow was a Maxwell 2200 anchor winch with a single 45lb anchor (twin bowrollers provide for a second) and 50m of chain - for cruising, I think another 50m of chain wouldn't go astray. There's a saltwater deckwash at the bow and foot controls for the anchor but no recess for the anchor gear, meaning any mud coming up with the anchor chain would finish up on deck.
Moving around this boat underway is relatively safe and easy, and that goes for accessing the flybridge. Wide moulded steps lead to this spacious area, where twin helm chairs face a dash with controls and electronics duplicated from below. Ahead is U-shape seating that converts to a double bed, while aft of the skipper is room for a davit and dinghy. A bimini with three-sided clears means you're protected from the weather, while zippered openings allow you to enjoy a fresh summer breeze. An Isotherm fridge-freezer comes standard so you don't need to go far for a cool drink or snack.
Returning to the accommodation, the master stateroom amidships is a real surprise and a highlight. As with all good ideas it's so simple! It's large by any measure but for a 46ft boat, remarkable. Forget conventional hinged doors here, twin sliding doors open in a V formation towards the companionway, which then becomes part of the stateroom giving an incredible feeling of space. Of course, if it were just a couple onboard you could leave the doors open and only close them when you had guests.
There's a full-size queen bed with side drawers, plenty of storage and hanging space and even a flip-up vanity table. The en suite features an electric toilet, dressing table and separate shower.
Going forward to the bow is a second cabin with over-and-under twin bunks. They have plenty of length, so accommodating tall teenagers or guests isn't a problem. An adjacent second bathroom incorporates a toilet and vanity with an overhead shower.
An abundance of fixed and opening portlights in the hull and large overhead opening hatches let in plenty of light and ventilation, while LED lighting throughout the boat sets the mood as well as conserving energy.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
We went down the Coomera River, through the Broadwater and out through the Gold Coast Seaway into a 1.5m swell with a slight chop on top. Travelling downriver at 6kts presented an opportunity to see how the Alaska 46 Flybridge tracked at slow speed. With this style of boat, if the rudder is not balanced and working in harmony with the hull and the keel, there is a tendency to wander at slow speed and you need to constantly steer, which becomes tiring. Not so here, take your hands of the wheel and she tracks perfectly, which means the setup is just right.
Fitted with twin 480hp Cummins QSB5.9 electronic turbo-diesel engines, upgraded from the standard 425hp donks, she performed well at sea. Working through the rev range, we ran her into, across and with the sea, and there was power to spare. Her fine forward entry, warped-plane hull and ¾-keel all combine to give a soft stable and comfortable ride. While conditions were relatively good on the day, I was left in no doubt that she could handle a bit of rough stuff.
Given the volatility of fuel prices these days, it's nice to know this boat is comfortable loping along at a sedate 1600rpm traveling at 8.7kts and using just 25lt/h of fuel. However, if you need speed, ramp her up to WOT at 3300rpm and she'll return around 24kts.
(Facts & figures)
ALASKA 46 FLYBRIDGE
I found the sweet spot at around 2600rpm on the day, which produced 16kts using 94lt/h, more than respectable for a boat weighing it at 16 tonnes dry.
PRICE AS TESTED
Engine upgrade to 480hp Cummins QSB5.9, Raymarine electronics package, inflatable dinghy, 200kg ADC davit, stainless steel barbecue, stainless steel baitboard, flybridge clears and canvas package, 110lt/h watermaker, and washer/dryer combo
<B>$840,000</B> w/ twin 425hp Cummins QSB5.9
Twin 425hp Cummins QSB5.9 electronic turbo-diesels, 70% fuel and 50% water
RPM SPEED FUEL BURN RANGE
600 4kts 6lt/h 1513nm
800 5.5kts 8lt/h 1560nm
1000 6.7kts 10lt/h 1520nm
1200 7.7kts 16lt/h 1092nm
1400 8.7kts 20lt/h 987nm
1600 9.5kts 30lt/h 718nm
1800 10.1kts 41lt/h 559nm
2000 11.9kts 56lt/h 482nm
2200 14.9kts 70lt/h 483nm
2400 17.6kts 90lt/h 443nm
2600 19.9kts 110lt/h 410nm
2800 22.6kts 140lt/h 366nm
3000 24.8kts 170lt/h 331nm
3050 25.2kts 180lt/h 317nm
* <I>Sea-trial data supplied by Alaska Motor Yachts. Range figures based on full fuel.</I>
MATERIAL: Handlaid fibreglass
TYPE: Warped-plane monohull with ¾-keel
LENGTH OVERALL: 15.1m
WEIGHT: 16 tonnes (dry)
HOLDING TANK: 150lt
PEOPLE (NIGHT): 4+2
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Cummins QSB5.9
TYPE: Six-cylinder electronic turbo-charged
RATED HP : 480 (each)
WEIGHT: 658kg (dry)
The 46 Flybridge is aimed at the couple who want to go cruising and I think Alaska have nailed it with this boat. Featuring top-quality fittings, loads of standard inclusions and sensational accommodation, the Alaska 46FB is fitted out ready to go. And with electronics, desalinator, bow- and stern-thrusters, davit, tender and all the toys coming in at a price around $900k, it's a quite amazing little package.
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