TESTED: ALASKA 49 AFT CABIN YACHT FISHER

By: JEFF STRANG, Photography by: KELLY TWOHY

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

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As superstructures go, the Alaska 49 Aft Cabin – Yacht Fisher doesn’t conform to a standard. Her lines topside are of a practical nature, where the focus is on accommodation and lifestyle liveability styles demanded by Australian boaters.

TESTED: ALASKA 49 AFT CABIN YACHT FISHER
The Alaska 49 Aft Cabin Yacht Fisher: the manufacturers left nothing to chance during its design and construction.

When it comes to building great boats there is no substitute for experience. And the most important thing experience teaches, is to never, ever cut corners. Putting their hands up as one of Australia’s most experienced would have to be the Leigh-Smith family of Coomera, Queensland. With five decades in the industry I certainly support their application.

To be honest, just talking about history really isn’t doing justice to the current generation of Leigh-Smiths charged with leading the business today. If you spend time in their company much more than "history" shines through. Family values are clearly important, so to forming strong relationships with those here for the long haul.

Again, that word "experience" seems hard to avoid. You see selling boats is only part of the picture. Dean and Ryan Leigh-Smith grew up on boats and supported by their other business Gold Coast City Marina (the largest boat servicing yard of its type in the Southern Hemisphere), regularly find themselves pulling them apart and putting them back together. That’s the kind of knowledge only those truly immersed in the industry can bring to the table and it’s exactly the know-how needed to design boats that will stand the test of time and be loved by the people who own them.



BUILT TO BE USED

And so to the Alaska 49 Aft Cabin – Yacht Fisher… Based on the Alaska 46 – one of my favourite hulls from 2012 – the 49 has an ethos of a-boat-for-the-whole-family cemented into its very fabric, under numerous layers of handlaid fibreglass.

If, at a glance, you immediately think of a boat from the late ’90s with a few modernised lines then you have an educated eye. Dean happily offered that the decision to go down the aft cabin path was the result of extensive research which revealed such designs were fetching a premium in the brokerage market – in other words this configuration is in demand.

After a period working with the best ship designers available right here in Australia, the process shifts to developing and building the boat with the company’s Shanghai-based building partner of 10 years, DHS Yacht Co. Without boring you with the detail of the build process, what is important to note is the size of the pile of frequent flyer miles the Leigh-Smith team built-up, ensuring Alaska 49 hull number one (hull number 86 out of the 46 series mould) made it to its debut back here on the Gold Coast just right.

Only it didn’t make its debut. Well it sort of didn’t. The boat was sold within two hours of being launched after the extensive pre-delivery and commissioning process. It is only by the good grace of the new owners that we got to see it at all. I guess the Leigh-Smith brothers were right about the demand.



LOCALS TO THE FORE

For many reasons, not the least of which being the Leigh-Smith’s desire to help nurture and support the local marine industry, much of the fit-out and servicing of all of the company’s products is done on the ground at the Gold Coast City Marina.

This philosophy also helps reinforce the strong network of bonds mentioned earlier and ensures efficient and responsive backup and support is on hand should an issue ever arise. When I got to see the boat only six weeks after its arrival I was immediately struck by how well appointed the vessel was, and with familiar brands I knew carried plenty of support. As someone who has wasted plenty of time and money trying to get servicing arranged on products without this backup I appreciate the forethought.



ON TOUR WITH DEAN

To be honest embarking on a boat test with Dean Leigh-Smith himself is worth the price of the airfare on its own. The man has a passion for the boats the company builds that is hard to keep a lid on.

Starting on the flybridge, I was surprised by the detail invested to have things just so. I like the relaxed feel of the flybridge in general. With the clears rolled-up the skipper and passengers get to enjoy the best of a journey on the water without being divorced from the experience behind plate glass windows and maxed air-conditioning. Little touches, like the solid-teak grating hidden away under the pile of lifejackets in the under-seat storage that ensures important stuff stays off the floor clean and dry, are the sort of refinements that shout of the experience we’ve discussed.

From his perch on the forward helm seat (one of three control stations onboard) as we prepared for the sea trial, Dean explained how our test subject had received the very first Cummins QSB6.7s. This is the replacement engine for the QSB5.7 – the larger capacity should in theory deliver a greater lifetime in this popular series. Coupled with the excellent electronic SmartCraft controls and digital monitoring system these engines are a driver’s delight to use.

Previously, the smaller Alaska 46’s high-speed performance had surprised me, so I had a better idea what to expect with the 49. Even so, this really is a case of don’t-judge-a-book-by-its cover. As Dean pushed the throttles down the outwardly mild-mannered beach cruiser promptly transformed itself into a high-torque planing vessel that would happily rival any sports yacht or fisher. With a data-proved top speed of 28.4kts the Alaska also performs well at slow cruise, but feels incredibly comfortable at 18kts where consumption is a thrifty 115lt/h.

Of course flat-out speed is just part of the equation. Fuel efficiency and manoeuvrability are at least as important and both of these considerations have been taken care of. Cummins specifically developed the new engine to be at its most efficient at cruising speeds and the Leigh-Smith’s build Sidepower bow and stern thrusters into the boat as standard.



LIVING STYLE

With the on-the-water performance of the Alaska 49 Aft Cabin – Yacht Fisher well demonstrated it was time to get immersed in the vessel’s more lifestyle orientated facilities.

A short staircase behind the bridge accesses a hardtop-covered aft deck and lounging area. This all-weather outdoor lounge offers top quality alfresco dining and general relaxation in any conditions Huey decides to throw your way. Like the flybridge it’s fully enclosed with clears and as such offers plenty of manual or electronic (air-con) climate control options. Regardless of the temperature, refreshments will always be on hand thanks to an abundance of refrigeration which are seamlessly integrated at every opportunity. It’s a theme continued throughout the vessel with every spare space dedicated to refrigeration or storage – or a combination of both.

Internally, the Alaska 49 is quite a different boat to the previously tested 46. The change in configuration driven by the new aft deck lounge space has allowed the designers to create a sanctuary-like saloon, which is perfectly complemented by an all-new full-beam master cabin to aft. Great acoustics are instantly apparent and hint at the build quality and generous application of wall coverings and soft furnishings.

The saloon itself is more or less divided into three sections, with the indoor dining suite and entertainment area leading past a full-length galley to port and the dedicated helm station forward.

The blend of high-gloss solid timber (another upgrade – Dean says this boat has half the timber of the previous boat at twice the price) and ultra-leather panelling works well and doesn’t distract from the panoramic views out the window. A few upgrades from the 46 are apparent, such as the top-notch Blum drawer sliders, and I assume this approach will be continued throughout the range.

The downstairs helm station is a slightly more comprehensive version of the flybridge facility, with all monitoring and control systems – watermaker, generator, refrigeration and invertor – highly visible and easily at hand. Old seadogs like me will be delighted to see a proper multipoint locking sea-door in place beside the helm station. It’s one of two onboard (both are custom built) and its purpose is to allow quick access to the bow for the captain.



COMPLIMENTARY UPGRADE

As stated the new aft deck lounge has allowed for a complete rethink of the accommodation spaces. To my mind the result is a significant upgrade and one of the new 49’s most important points of difference.

To for’ard the boat boasts two beautifully appointed cabins, a VIP suite in the bow and a guest cabin with twin singles to starboard. In keeping with the rest of the vessel both cabins are finished in lashings of timber, ultra-leather panelling and sumptuous upholstery, all professionally designed by Identity Interiors. Another sensible touch is the separate head and shower. It is annoying when one person’s "needs" stop others getting on with theirs.

Last but not least is the aforementioned full-beam master. Located aft with a private entry many will consider this to be the Alaska 49’s piece de resistance. I was struck by its volume relative to the overall size of the vessel. Full-beam masters are not new but they are rare in vessels under 55 feet and this one boasts arguably the most clear space around the king-sized bed I have seen.

An abundance of portholes ensure it’s a room with a view, while flooding the space with natural light and ventilation. Again the separate bathroom and head policy has been employed – it is hard to argue with the logic of the approach. Both are equally well appointed; the head featuring another new Alaska upgrade, a Techma quite-flush toilet.

The second of the two custom sea-doors allows for quick access out of the master cabin on to the rear platform. It’s perfect for a quick trip outside to check all is well and doubles as an emergency exit.



THE VERDICT

There is much to like about the Alaska 49 Aft Cabin – Yacht Fisher. On the bones of one of my favourite hulls the Leigh-Smiths have built a quality vessel which is a clear upgrade in many areas from the previous, already very good Alaskas.

The configuration is well proved and perennially popular, which should help with resale values and more importantly deliver on its something-for-everyone promise. The on-water performance delivered by the new bigger-capacity Cummins engines should also tick a box.

If any of these factors are striking a chord, remember this. Any owner of a Leigh-Smith Cruiser Sales boat also receives the sort of aftersales and service even the best of operators simply aren’t geared up to match.



[HIGHS]

› All-weather, all-activity boating

› Designed in Australia specifically for Australian boaters

› Unsurpassed after-sales and service

› Beautifully appointed with the best fittings and accessories

› Separate heads and bathrooms

› Efficient and quiet on-water performance

› Privately accessed full-beam master cabin

› Full-beam king-sized stateroom aft with virtually no water noise



[TRADE-A-BOAT SAYS… ]

The configuration is well proved and perennially popular, which should help with resale values and more importantly delivers on its something-for-everyone promise.





SPECIFICATIONS: ALASKA 49 AFT CABIN – YACHT FISHER



PRICE AS TESTED

$1,050,000



GENERAL

MATERIAL Fibreglass

TYPE Planing Monohull

LENGTH OVERALL 15.24m

BEAM 4.27m

DRAFT 1.2m



CAPACITIES

PEOPLE (NIGHT) 8

CABINS 3

FUEL 2100lt

WATER 756lt (plus watermaker)

HOLDING TANK 50lt



ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL 2 x Cummins QSB-6.7

TYPE Electronic six-cylinder turbo-diesel

RATED HP 480 (each)

DISPLACEMENT 6.7lt (each)



SUPPLIED BY

Leigh-Smith Cruiser Sales,

76-84 Waterway Drive,

Coomera, QLD, 4209

Phone: (07) 5502 5866

Email: sales@lscruisersales.com.au

Web: www.lscruisersales.com.au

 

Originally published in Trade-a-Boat #439, May 2013.

Find Alaska boats for sale.

 


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