Mainship takes the plunge into the arms of the Italians.
The world-wide reputation of "Made In Italy" in the boatbuilding field is based above all on large custom motor yachts, considered by many to be the real leaders, the image of Italian boatbuilding prestige. And while the Italians are still trying to properly stamp production models with their own illustrious trademark, it's no secret that American builders are trying to beat them to the punch. Some, like Mainship, are taking big gambles in the race to create Italian savvy with American muscle.
Mainship made a formal commitment to this burgeoning trend in the pleasureboat market last fall when it introduced the 35 Mediterranean, and announced plans to add two larger hulls to this new series. "The example of what we are trying to achieve with the Mediterranean series is embodied in 100-foot Italian motor yachts," says George Gilmour, CEO of Mainship's parent company, Morgan Industries. "Our objective is to capture that essence and appeal in a value-oriented production pleasureboat."
The notion of synthesizing what Mainship calls a "legitimate" line of Euro-styled motor yachts in an American production facility is by no means radical. The challenge, however, is eminent. For over 10 years, the entire scope of Mainship's building experience has been with New England-style, trawler-type boats. Thus, the Mediterranean series is the company's first foray into the business of multiple production lines. In addition, Mainship will attempt to apply its existing provident production techniques to the task.
Black And White And Sharp All Over - The 35 is the first of a new breed of Euro-style cruisers.
At Mainship, the cost of a boat is determined by how much time and material it takes to build it. Value (or a lot of boat at a very competitive price) is still achieved with what Gilmour calls process-driven design. "We want to provide products with a lot of customer appeal through simplification in the work place."
The number of man-hours on each boat is limited while simultaneously infusing products with the best quality the company is capable of. Tom Calhoun, director of sales and marketing for Mainship, says this type of assembly fits into customer objectives. "They'll get a good-looking product that is relatively simple because we maintain simplicity in manufacturing, which creates greater quality and reliability."
As we know from glimpses of true Italian motor yachts, the soul of the breed is in the details. Sophisticated levels of detailing and quality are crucial to any boat looking to get a stamp of approval from abroad. Simplicity in the production facility, however, somewhat restricts the ability to get fancy. And although Mainship's large purchases of materials and components provide economies of scale, the company likes to keep inventory low. That means that there must be a sizable client base to warrant the purchase of Italian materials, or just good copies. Says Gilmour, "If we get into more complicated, desirable Euro-cabinet systems, for example, we will provide distributors with the opportunity to supply to us on a production basis."
Because it will take time to adjust production techniques to the purpose, Mainship considers the 35 to be the primitive ancestor of a line that is gradually developing as the hulls continue to grow. Says Gilmour, "While we think the series by and large captures the appeal, I think the boats become inherently more legitimate from a styling standpoint as they get bigger."
For now, the company considers the 35 to be a big step in a new direction. "Mainship is on the threshold of broadening its appeal," says Gilmour. "We've recognized that there has been a shift in styling preferences on the part of the boating public."
The ambitious plans, however, force the company to put its original line, recently dubbed the Nantucket series, on the back burner, although those boats are still available for loyal traditionalists. Yes, we'll still see the corduroy pants and leather belt types cruising on Mainships. But don't be surprised when you see Capezios without socks skimming the decks as well.
"Sure doesn't look like a Mainship," was the surprised and suspicious statement we elicited from a passerby on the docks of the Yacht Center in Pompano Beach, Florida, as we watched the prototype 35 Mediterranean slowly make its way toward us. Gone was the flat-transomed lobster hull cradling a vertical deckhouse topped with a prominent bridge. A more rakish stem was the prelude to gradually ascending planes of black and white fiberglass devoid of brightwork. How do we approach this newcomer? With an open mind. This is a brand-new boat, from the hull and deck to the ornate hardware.
Attention is first drawn to the bowrail because it is unusual. Single pieces of aluminum are shaped into curved three-sided sections. The sections (seven per side) are bolted down side by side and connected with "stays," which are short pieces of aluminum that give the structure as a whole more support. It's an interesting shape, although we're not quite sure it's European. The forward section of the rail, however, looks like an import. It extends up and forward and provides support for the crew when working with the anchor.
Offsetting the undulating curves of the bowrail is the squared symmetry of three pairs (forward, spring, and at transom) of rather avant-garde cleats. They are hefty and more than adequate, although the mix of shapes catches the eye off guard.
At the foredeck, the windlass is one of very few optional items (a Bimini top is one other). Everything else on our test boat is standard, and that list is impressive. Abaft the winch are two sunpads that slide onto plastic runners; they flank a Bomar hatch. Access to the foredeck is fine as there are grabrails and nonslip in the right places. The sidedecks drain. Although Mainship is striving to attain a new look, it's nice to know that the traditional seakeeping/comfort characteristics of the Nantuckets are retained.
Italian marine engineers are best known for foresight in the designing process. Features must have form and function. Looking around the cockpit of the 35, we discover a few items that fit that criteria.
When coming aboard from the molded-in swim platform, you won't have to worry about struggling to swing short legs over the transom. A transom door with two molded-in steps swings down onto the platform; the motion is controlled by a simple cord. Just walk it up, nice and easy. A handheld faucet also is at the transom, as well as two shorepower outlets with covers.
To the port and starboard sides of the cockpit are molded-in seats that can double as big entry steps. Once all of your guests are aboard, snap in white cushions and get comfortable. Forward of the seats are stowage lockers with high-style aluminum hardware with large finger notches on the underside for easy gripping.
Located in the center of the deckhouse structure is a sliding aluminum door (with screen) for access to the cabin. Although Mainship admires European door systems, the budget wouldn't allow for the additional cost - which is close to five times the price of conventional doors. So to affect a similar look, Mainship designed the deckhouse mold to be symmetrical, with two converging, angled vertical planes that will accommodate the flat surface of the production door. Lights are recessed in the overhanging section above the door, and are operated from outside.
Because the cockpit is smaller than some we see on other 35 footers (space is reserved for interiors), a conventional ladder to the bridge might intrude on precious space. To solve the problem, Mainship molded six steps into the deckhouse structure. Grabrails are here also. To starboard of the steps is a small recessed niche that holds a fire extinguisher.
As you come up to the bridge from the ladder and through a manhole, shapes and color register first. The L-shaped lounge to port (four person capacity) makes use of long, cylindrical-shaped vinyl back cushions attached to aluminum rails. Although they look a little odd at first, they are useful as they are the only form of back support. The captain's swivel pedestal chair at the center of the bridge has the same type of cushions for neck and arms. These pads also cover the rails that border the manhole. We assume they are there to ease impact if the offshore going gets tough.
Everything up here is white, except for gauges and controls at the helmstation, which are black. There is a standard array of VDO gauges, a Ritchie compass, Italianesque steering wheel (Hynautic hydraulic steering), and Morse shifters. Other features include venturi windshield, keyless ignition, snap-on plastic covering that fits neatly over the controls, and lockable stowage for flush mounted electronics to starboard. A fairly deep footwell is located below the helmstation.
Push It Back - To conserve space, the helm station is built on a vertical plane, rather than one angled out toward the driver. The standard array of instruments includes goodies from VDO.
The size of the bridge is average, so in order to create more usable space, Mainship tried to keep the helmstation as compact as possible by mounting all controls on more of a vertical plane. For the most part, conventional helmstations are angled out toward the driver. This surface is blunt, but that doesn't mean controls are harder to see or operate. Visibility from the bridge is good. From this vantage point, the better part of 35 feet really stretches out in front of you. From here you can also see the two standard white horns that have their own place in a recessed section of the bridge structure. The controls on our test boat worked fine, all except for the Morse throttles. They were squeaky, although not hard to operate in any way. Perhaps a spritz of silicone on the control heads will clear up the problem.
THE INSIDE STORY
When the Mediterranean concept first evolved, a primary goal was to create a clean and open design; this design element is esteemed by Mainship as very legitimate. By creating space, the company gets closer to imparting the image of an expansive Mediterranean motor yacht. Well, let's face it, 35 feet is far from the lifestyles of the rich and famous, so Mainship does the best it can by keeping things uncluttered. Over any other space on the boat, the main saloon comes closest to that goal. If it weren't supposed to be a Euro-copy, we could swear it was a good old American party platform. Furnishings are few to maximize usable floor space; there's plenty of room to get everyone on their feet and having a good time.
Just forward of the cabin door to port is an entertainment center. It features a Kenwood stereo with AM/FM radio and cassette deck, Kenwood compact disc player, four speakers (two in the saloon two in the master stateroom), plus a Hitachi VHS and color television. The television can be pulled out from its recessed space in the console and pivoted to face in a number of directions around the saloon. (Need we remind you that all of these items are standard?) The circuit panel is also located here, as well as an emergency indicator diagram, and controls for the air conditioning.
Eating In Bed - The dinette in the main saloon converts to a berth with a hydraulic base that lowers the table to the level of the seats. Insert filler cushion and sleep one adult or two children.
To starboard is a convertible settee that will sleep two adults. Unlike furniture we see on expensive motor yachts, this piece is not built in. A compromise, but this heavy item is unlikely to toss about in rough seas.
Forward of that is the galley. At the New York Boat show, there was a considerable amount of cooing over the amount of counter and stowage space here. There are plenty of drawers and cabinets, as well as a Quasar compact microwave oven, Kenyon two-burner "Euro-style" electric stove, Norcold refrigerator/freezer, and porcelain sink with drain board and crisper. Although it doesn't look imported, a designer faucet with spray wand really caught the ladies' eyes, and was tampered with by more than a few frustrated vocalists. In one of the cabinets below the countertop is a fire extinguisher.
Opposite the galley, kitty-cornered forward, is the dinette. The table is hydraulically operated and drops to the level of the seats to create a berth for one adult or two children; just drop in the filler cushion. Cushions, by the way, are thick and comfortable.
The overall look is bright and neat. Big, screened Taylor windows (tempered safety glass) with decorator blinds and curtains line both sides of the saloon. Space is enhanced by a pale gray headliner that tops off 6 feet 3 inches of headroom, and recessed lighting along the outer edges that is controlled with a fader switch. There's also a soft pile carpet, and a central vacuum system to keep it clean. The color scheme, a mixture of mauve, blues, and greys, is very pleasant, although far from unconventional. Other production companies have a bead start in terms of creating more exotic surroundings with things like curved surfaces, fancy counter laminates, and chrome accents. This decor, however, represents Mainship's departure from traditional layouts and generous applications of teak in the Nantucket series. The only complaint we had about the saloon was the lack of grabrails, and fiddles on countertops.
Room With A View - If the weather turns, you'll have to ante up, as a Bimini top is one of very few options with this boat. The L-shaped lounge seats four, plus room for one more at the captain's seat.
Take two steps down from the galley, and swing to port if you want to get to the head. Note that the doorframe has a one-piece rounded-corner aluminum extrusion - that's the effect Mainship wants.
Around the comer is the shower stall. The door is a curved acrylic piece that slides out of sight along the cylindrical portion of the stall that faces to starboard: Beam me up, Scotty. In the stall is a molded-in seat and shelf, and telephone-type handle. Automatic shower sump pump is also standard. Forward of the stall is a sink/vanity/mirror unit with stowage beneath and above. Above that is a small screened port. Tucked between the stall and starboard bulkhead is a Raritan electric head (with macerator and holding tank). There are more fancy knobs on the door and cabinets, although there were no fancy towel racks or TP dispensers - or plain ones - on the test boat.
Forward of the head is the master stateroom. (Note again the curved aluminum doorframes.) A double pedestal berth has a comfortable 5-inch mattress. There is stowage beneath the berth, and in counterspace flanking it on either side; stowage space above is covered with a curtain. Aft and to starboard is a cedar-lined hanging locker. (A twin locker is just abaft it, located opposite the head in the companionway.) Mood lights are controlled with a fader switch, and there are two bullet lights forward. Against the forward bulkhead is a full-length mirror. The boat we tested used plexiglass, but Mainship says production models will use real glass here and in the head.
The color scheme here is the same as in the saloon, and there is still plenty of standing room. This space is also bright because of the 15-by-30-inch Bomar hatch located forward, and plexiglass window abaft it.
For any good boat, shape and function, as well as color and texture, are part of the story - more so on a boat that boasts its style. In the quest for sumptuous comfort, however, don't forget the part the keeps everything floating. Mainship has changed that design, too.
While the Nantucket series is based on a traditional hull shape that consists of hollow sections forward with rounded chines and very flat deadrise aft, Mainship wanted something more up to date for the new series, without compromising good performance characteristics throughout the power range. The design selected is popular with other production companies, and does what it's intended to do.
The new mold consists of convex sections forward for a smooth, sharp entry, that gradually taper into a hard chine planing surface aft with moderate deadrise at the stern, and adequate keel. It ran true to form when we took her out. She got up on plane easy, without kicking up much of a wake. This hull is a good compromise as it moves from displacement up through planing with minor changes in running angle.
Hull materials are pretty standard. Mainship makes use of balsa core in conventional places, and Coremat is used to build thickness and create a fair gel-coat surface.
STILL A JERSEY GIRL
A full-blooded Italian motor yacht captures a harmonious symmetry of lines and textures, which are complemented with various accoutrements carrying hefty price tags. And most of all, there is no form at the expense of function. It's true that some big American production companies are doing a good job of affecting a similar image. The 35 Mediterranean, however, is not quite there yet. But as we said, this game is still all very new to Mainship.
What Mainship has managed to do quite well is offer a very competitive price in exchange for more straight lines and fewer elaborate niceties. With all standards included - and that package is substantial enough to get you out on the water at the time of delivery - the boat sells for approximately $115,000. When you consider price per foot, that can mean a savings of as much as $15K, if not more, when compared to the competition.
Feeds A Family - The galley features lots of stowage space and great standards like a microwave, refrigerator/freezer, and "Euro-style" stove.
At the moment, the name Mediterranean is somewhat unjustified, especially when the price is so American. But there's a good chance this will change. Mainship's commitment to fine-tuning this line is evidenced by the fact that it has now spread out to fill the entire Marlboro, New Jersey, physical plant. Previously, the plant was shared by Mainship, Silverton, and Luhrs, as all three companies operate under the umbrella of parent company Morgan Industries. The other companies have moved to expand on their own, leaving Mainship with room to carve more than one market niche.
Plans for upcoming hulls in the Mediterranean series include three 41-foot versions (a Grand Salon, Double Cabin, and Cockpit Motor Yacht), and a 47 foot cockpit motor yacht. We had a quick peek at the 41 Grand Salon in Miami and we can confirm that more big changes are underway.
But that's another story. For now, let's allow Mainship to get a lot of us out on the water in total comfort without breaking the bank, and leave the Italian motor yachts to the Italians.
UNDER THE HATCHES
Access to the engine compartment is through a centerline hatch in the saloon. (The rug is cut to fit the hatch, so you won't have to go pulling it out from the corners when you want to check things in the bilge.) Here, the 350-hp Crusader engines are in good company. The compartment is gelcoated and has sound deadening and insulation.
Freshwater cooling is a nice standard, as this can run as much as $2K if placed on an options list. Raw-water inlets have bronze ball valves. Other standard features include Quicksilver fuel filters for each engine (and genset), a fiberglass diamond-patterned footplate, three bilge pumps, and galvanized mufflers. There are also two fire extinguishers (for engine and generator), a halon system, and an engine alarm system at the helm. Two 12v batteries are provided; they're kept topped off by a 30-amp battery charger.
Bonus Points - Standard twin 350-hp Crusaders are freshwater cooled.
We suggest that Mainship double the existing single hose clamps to meet ABYC standards. Company reps say they will comply with those standards on production models. One other drawback was the absence of internal raw-water strainers for engines. The generator is at the aft end of the engine compartment, and is accessed through a hatch in the cockpit sole. Our test boat had a 7.5kw Kohler that was mounted fore and aft. The model that comes standard with this boat, however, is a 6.5 Onan that will be repositioned to lie athwartships, creating more stowage space in the bilge. The generator is freshwater cooled. A fire extinguisher is mounted within reach. In this section of the compartment, grommets are placed in bulkheads through which wiring is passed. Wiring is neat and well secured.