Both sensuous and sensible, Sunseeker's new Portofino 46 is an elegant express cruiser with offshore legs...

As I turned off South Federal Highway and into Sunseeker Florida's new Pampano Beach headquarters, I caught a glimpse of docks filled with sparkling, elegant yachts of many sizes. Each one bore the hallmarks of a Sunseeker design- sleek, aerodyamic profiles with uncluttered decks, large cockpits and a sense of style that is second to none. Some had sun-filled, open bridgedecks, while others sported hardtops with opening panels or flybridges with commanding views.

I was here to test one of Sunseeker's newest designs, the Portofino 46. It's one of four models in this UK-based builder's line of offshore cruisers. Introduced last September at the Southampton International Boat Show, it was designed to be a capable, open-water cruiser for a family or two couples, complete with a spacious cockpit layout and luxurious accommodations below. I joined John D'Agostino of Sunseeker Florida on the docks for a sea trial. I was eager to see what the new 46 would do.

Sunseeker Portofino 46 Performance SpecsThe Portofino is based on a performance-oriented deep-V hull from Sunseeker's favorite designer, Don Shead. It holds true to the concepts that Shead has incorporated in countless Sunseeker designs. This running bottom has a sharp, rakish entry for efficient wave penetration, and an aggressive 20-degree V amidships that changes very little on its way to the transom. Shallow prop tunnels help minimize the draft and reduce the shaft angle for optimum thrust. Distinct chines running from stem to stern force spray out and away from the boat, while adding lift and roll stability aft.

I've had the pleasure of testing Shead's Superhawk performance designs for Sunseeker in the past, and I can attest to their performance in choppy conditions on the Chesapeake. But on the gusty, wind-blown day that I tested the Portofino 46, seas were running five to six feet at a minimum offshore, so we stayed within the protective confines of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) to gather data and driving impressions.

Turbos on the twin 500-hp Yanmars kicked in at around 1800 rpm and helped lift the Portofino 46 out of the hole quickly and smoothly. Yanmar's fuel consumption data shows approximately 15 gph per engine at 2400 rpm, so cruising range at about 26 knots can be as much as 270 nautical miles using 90 percent of fuel. At a wide spot in the ICW, I put the 46 through a series of high and low speed turns. I can report that this design retains much of its headway in all but the tightest of turns. Power steering converted a measured movement of the wheel into a precisely controlled banking turn, but the 46 would instantly sit upright when the wheel brought the rudders back to center. The sensation was one of total control, even at lower speeds when backing around the docks.

Because the Portofino 46's layout specifies a mid-cabin stateroom, a forward stateroom and a large engine room, it lacks the volume aft to accommodate an enclosed space for an inflatable dinghy. Sunseeker's designers and engineers answered this potential shortcoming with a substantial fiberglass swim platform topped with a nicely laid teak that makes boarding a breeze and allows easy launch of a dinghy or PWC. A single hydraulic motor that drives a belt to operate the lift is hidden neatly away beneath the semi-circular sunpad aft. I particularly liked the raised step, also teak-planked, at the forward edge of the platform that makes stepping up into the cockpit easier and also provides an impromptu seat for swimmers when the boat is at anchor.

The test boat had optional teak planking in the cockpit in lieu of the standard fiberglass sole; that's an option I'd choose for the beauty and increased skid resistance underfoot. Access to the engine room was through a large hatch in the aft sole. There's a handy ladder for easy entry, and the compartment is well-finished with carefully installed equipment, massive stringers and engine supports, and plenty of heat-resistant sound insulation.

After I climbed back on deck from the engine room and sealed the hatch, D'Agostino demonstrated two innovative ideas in the C-shaped aft seating area of the cockpit. To port, a clever folding table stores under the seats and pivots out on a massive, L-shaped bracket when food is served. Additionally, the backrest separating the aft seat from the sunpad pivots forward to expand the amount of sunbathing space. The stainless grabrail aft is a good idea, but this sunbathing area should be used when at anchor.

Our test boat had a full wet bar to starboard equipped with an optional Raritan icemaker to supplement the standard Isotherm refrigerator. It also had an optional Gaganeau electric grill- the newer variety with a removable tray for easier cleaning and lava rocks for better grilling. That's everything the family or host might want for outdoor dining. I liked the secure, stainless handrail that fronted the wet bar because it made bending down to look back into the corners of the fridge that much easier and safer.

Comfort at the helm is key in a cruising boat. Many other builders try to create a "leaning post" at the helm seat by employing a folding front cushion. Sunseeker designers took a different approach. They found a way to pivot the entire seat bottom back and down. There's room for only one person on the helm seat, but the navigator has a large curved seat to port complete with a Plexiglass-protected chart flat. The wood-rimmed wheel doesn't tilt but there's more than enough room for the helmsman to get comfortable, whether he's standing or sitting. Morse mechanical single-lever binnacles and controls for the trim tabs are both within easy reach. Sightlines through the beautifully curved, swept-back windshield are very clear when sitting, even on initial takeoff. A full complement of analog gauges set in burl walnut recalls English sports car dashes.

Our test boat had a standard package of electronics that was very complete. It included a Simrad Shipmate VHF, Simrad AP22 autopilot, Raymarine Autohelm ST- 60 depth and mileage log, and a Furuno LCD radar.

On the centerline, just forward of and above the entrance to the main cabin, Sunseeker installed an opening hatch. It's under the windshield and it brings plenty of light and fresh air into the cabin. The hatch also lights the steps leading into the cabin, even with the sliding tinted door closed.

LIVING IN LUXURY

Designed by Ken Freivokh, the main salon is all sensuous curves and carefully coordinated textures and colors. The deeply lacquered finish on the cherry cabinetry is rich instead of glossy. It's a warm face for spaces that conceal everything from the circuit breaker and switch panels to the ceramic cooktop and molded sink. Both the mid-cabin guest stateroom and the master stateroom forward have en suite head compartments, but only the master has a separate shower. Even here. contemporary fixtures and a thick glass basin accent the modern interior styling.

The Portofino 46 has many competitors, both foreign and domestic. Comparatively speaking, Fairline's Targa 43 is shorter overall but equally beamy, with a layout that is generally similar but less spacious because it includes a dinghy garage. Sea Ray's 460 Sundancer is a bit longer and wider, opens its mid-cabin up to the salon, and has a standard hardtop

The Portofino 46 has a number of distinctive attributes of its own. Having sea trialed the boat firsthand, I'm most impressed with its proven, deep-V hull form. the world-class styling and decor, and also its 33-knot performance. This 46-footer packs both style and substance.

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

This review/article originally appeared in Motorboating & Yachting Magazine, May 2003 and was written by Captain John Woolridge. For more great yacht reviews, visit their website and subscribe at: https://mby.com/subscriptions/motorboat-yachting-subscriptions

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