Boat Test #2099- Carver 506: Welcome to the show... 

Imagine that you have this humongous mother of an air compressor. Now, grab its hose, plug the nozzle through the hull of your boat, and aim it into the interior. Turn on the compressor and pump up the interior as if it were an inflatable. Keep pumping until it's ready to burst through the hull. Presto! You've just increased the size of your boat's interior to its absolute maximum volume.

If only it were that easy.

But it can be for boat designers- if only they would think to use this imaginary air compressor while their boat is still on the drawing board. Case in point: Carver's new 506. Its engineers stretched the limits of their imagination (and fiberglass) to design an aft cabin cruiser that feels larger than life. It features a seagoing sunroom encased with expansive panes of glass. There's even a power moonroof that's placed atop the lower helm station.

STRRRRRRRETCH OUT.

Carver makes great use of the 15'4" beam in the 506 by pushing out the salon nearly to the hullsides. But how can that be? What happened to the sidedecks? They're still there, but they have been raised well above the hull's sheerline. On most competing cruisers, the sidedecks eat as much as 2' off the boat's interior.

All this open expanse isn't purely aesthetic. Wide open to the aft deck, the all- around visibility from the helm is better than you'll find on almost any other aft cabin cruiser this size. Climbing behind the tilt wheel, we were also impressed with the tan dash treatment that reduces glare, angled panels for electronics, seat bolster that allows stand-up operation, and three 4'-long windshield wipers that keep close to 90 percent of the glass clean.

Lots of space, lots of natural light, and lots of nice details. Top end: 27.8 mph.

Carver 506 Motoryacht Review BoatingMolded steps were everywhere (the only ladder leads to the engine room). which makes moving between levels easy and safe. The bowrails were nice and high, too, but we'd prefer them to be pulled inboard, so they line up inside the rubrails. which would make it easier for passengers to grab them and reduce the chances of damage from pilings. Another improvement: Extend the rails all the way to the wing doors on the aft deck.

Because of the split-level layout on the 506, it's only a few steps down from the aft deck to the salon. Two rows of windows create two lines of sight, so whether you're seated or standing, you can see outside. And if you think getting a good deal on a 50-footer means settling for laminated countertops and some cheapo powdered-teak veneer, think again. The cherry joinery and detailing inside the 506 are almost on par with some more expensive cruisers, such as Cruiser's 5000 Sedan Sport ($685,000 with 625-bhp Detroit Diesels) and Bayliner's 5288 Motoryacht ($868,317 with 500-bhp MAN diesels).

Carver doesn't skimp on the Ultraleather recliner couches, under-couch pullout drawers, or the mirrored dinette light fixture, either. Karadon galley countertops (similar to Corian) look great and are easy to clean, and like the rest of the boat, they're designed and router-cut with the aid of computers for a nice, tight fit. There's a useful freestanding dinette table, too, but it needs a means to secure it, especially in rough seas. Same goes for the four dining chairs.

THE QUIET TOUCH

Open spaces are terrific, but what about noise? How can you relax with twin diesels ringing in your ears? Carver's engineers understood this problem and successfully avoided it. While running at 1500 rpm (11.4 mph) during our test, we could stand on the swim platform and carry on a conversation with someone standing by the transom door. Unexpectedly, we heard the captain chime in to our conversation from the helm, fully able to hear us from 25 feet away. While taking sound readings at the upper helm, our dB-A meter never reached 80, even at WOT. On most boats, we get readings that high by the time we're on plane.

If your kids or guests become too noisy or irritating, take sanctuary in the aft master stateroom. It has a "walkaround queen berth, separate tub and head compartments, and radiused cherry doors and bulkheads. The guest suite forward has its own head. The third stateroom, with 6'6"-long single bunks partially tucked under the salon, also has a private head, but we think it could use a pocket door to make companionway access less awkward.

GLASS ACT

As we mentioned earlier, a clever trick Carver uses to make the 506 feel big and open is its generous use of windows. But how did the company manage to work all that curvaceous glass into the sides of the deckhouse? It used a secret weapon: aluminum supports, which start at the hull's sheer and run their way up to the flying bridge. The aluminum framework also permits narrower window mullions, which improves sight

Where did Carver find the frames for such windows? Rather than forcing the windows to sit inside stock frames, Carver designed the glass into whatever shapes it wished and then bonded those shaped panes directly to the fiberglass. In other words, there are no frames. This technique should minimize the possibility of leaks and corrosion problems.

Other aspects of the 506's construction are equally innovative and impressive. The hull bottom is fortified with an all-fiberglass gridwork of stringers, which runs the length of the hull uninterrupted by the plywood bulkheads. How? The bulkheads are notched and placed atop the stringers. Since the bulkheads don't cut into the stringers, they are stronger and make the hull stiffer. First, the hullsides are cored with balsa from the sheer down to six inches above the waterline. From there to the chine, Divinycel foam core is used. The hull-to -deck joint is bonded by Sikaflex adhesive/ sealant and then is glassed over from the inside. A barrier coat of vinylester resin is used to inhibit osmotic blistering.

The 16'-long engine room is easy to work in. Enter it through a hatch in the salon sole. We'd prefer high-pressure fuel lines belowdecks, especially on the fuel tank crossover lines. The 506 uses hose clamps. The engines sit on soft mounts, gusset- supported angle brackets that are through-bolted to the fiberglass engine beds. Wiring and plumbing are neatly routed out of harm's way, and auxiliaries such as the Kohler genset and Marine Air air-conditioning units are easy to reach for maintenance. One thing that isn't within easy reach is the starboard engine's raw-water seacock. We'd like to see it moved to a more accessible place. 

The 506 is big, quiet, and innovative, but don't mistake it for some heavy-duty offshore juggernaut. At 9 to 12 mph, it pounded in three- to five-footers, even when running down sea. Of course, all cruisers of this type have significant sail areas, which makes handling a challenge in any kind of wind. But no one buys an aft cabin motoryacht to go hammering offshore. They buy it for space. Lots of it. And on that count, the 506 will exceed your expectations- even if they are inflated.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ALL CARVER YACHTS CURRENTLY FOR SALE IN CALIFORNIA

This review/article originally appeared in Boating Magazine, May 2000 and was written by Eric Sorenson. For more great yacht reviews, visit their website and subscribe at: http://subscriptions.boatingmag.com

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