Oyster 54: A Serious Bluewater Passagemaker
It comes as no surprise that this new Oyster is luxurious below and purposeful on deck. A review from our November 2010 issue.
I'm writing this review from far out in the Pacific Ocean aboard my own boat, Roger Henry. There's not so much as a rock on which to crawl up, much less a rescue facility, for 1,000 miles in any direction. I mention this because it places into sharp relief just how crucially important is every single detail of the vessel beneath us: the design, the material selection, the execution, the safety of the workstations, the viability of the living spaces. I look out on these endless horizons, then back to the through-hull fittings, the standing and running rigging, the mechanical and electrical systems.
So when a manufacturer touts a new boat as a "bluewater passagemaker," I place that boat, in my mind, right here, and I hold it to a standard demanded by these rough and remote conditions.
Oyster Yachts need not fear that benchmark, for its design and construction teams have created a superb shorthanded, long-legged, oceangoing cruiser in the new Oyster 54.
With 50 built, the Oyster 53 enjoyed a hugely successful run. But feedback from experienced and articulate owners prompted Oyster to reapproach designer Rob Humphreys with a brief to draw a boat of essentially the same size but with improved performance, slightly more interior volume, and a more contemporary styling.
Will White, a professional captain for Oyster, invited me along to help move the first 54 in the United States from Poulsbo, Washington, to the Seattle Boat Show. This gave me an entire day to dash about the decks, crawl through the bilges, and pester him with way too many questions.
The hull is constructed with a combination of E-glass, Kevlar, and carbon fiber impregnated with both polyester and vinylester resins. This sophisticated composite approach results in a hull that is stiff, quiet, durable, impact resistant, yet light.
I found the center-cockpit layout to be as efficient as it is elegant. The cockpit's sizable scuppers, 10-inch bridgedeck, and cleverly recessed companionway hatch protect the vessel from downflooding. A large cockpit console incorporates a table, cooler, footrests, and handholds. The teak decks are wide, unobstructed, and, with properly placed handholds, allow safe and easy passage forward. The bulwarks and stout stern and forward pulpits add to the overall sense of security.
I was particularly pleased to see Oyster's attention to detail regarding safety equipment, which includes a designated life-raft locker, installed crew-overboard system, 27.5-inch coated lifelines, and stout jackline padeyes installed throughout the cockpit and the length of the deck.
Generous locker space can be found in the cockpit and in a deep lazarette aft. Right down to the protected placement of the AC power-cord socket, I found the entire external layout to be efficiently integrated.
Enormous, well-placed electric winches handle the sheeting loads of the large Seldén sloop rig. The traveler runs handily just aft of the helm station. My only concern is that the wheel, measuring a few too many inches in diameter, impedes the helmsman's access to the cabin-top clutches and winches. This is easily rectified.
The interior is airy, lush, light, and sensible. The three-cabin design offers a sumptuous owner's stateroom aft with en suite head and a shower stall. An equally luxurious double cabin for guests, with a second head/shower, is forward of the main saloon. A crew berth with tiered bunks is offset to starboard of the forward head. Every berth on the boat comes equipped with seagoing lee cloths.
The galley is contained enough to be safe in a rough seaway, yet spacious enough to allow the preparation of meals for a sizable crew. The main saloon has an offset table to starboard, with plush L-shaped seating. The polished maple table has a top so large that when fully opened, it extends to the U-shaped settees on the opposite side of the wide cabin, creating enormous seating capacity.