At times, when reviewing a new boat, it takes something startling and unexpected to put the experience in its proper perspective. Such an “aha” instant occurred for me shortly after taking the wheel of the Moorings 5800 last fall during sea trials on Chesapeake Bay. From my second-story perch on the vast flybridge of the 58-footer, though the view was expansive, for some reason I’d failed to notice the J/22 we were overtaking when we’d swapped drivers and I’d assumed the helm. But suddenly, the smaller boat was abeam, and its masthead was almost precisely at eye level. It was a strange, even unsettling perspective. Then, looking down, I noted the expression of shock and awe on the face of the sailor at the tiller. He seemed far, far away. For a brief moment, it felt as if I were at the controls not of a sailboat, but of a helicopter.
And that, I realized later, was my defining moment aboard the Moorings 5800. The popular charter company commissioned an all-star South African team — naval architect Alex Simonis and the accomplished builders at Robertson and Caine — to come up with the ultimate platform for high-end sailing vacations. They delivered a boat that is unique and even evolutionary. With this grand and spacious 58-footer (also available in a private, three, four or five cabin owner’s version as the Leopard 58), there’s no longer a reason to book an island resort for your annual retreat: You just load up the big cat with food, friends and family, and take the whole place with you.
Before we get to the rest of the boat, let’s just say that if I never had to leave the spectacular flybridge of the 5800 — accessed via an eight-step stairwell to the clouds — for the duration of a charter trip it would be perfectly acceptable. With the exception of a head, all the creature comforts are addressed in exceedingly fine fashion. For recreation, of course, there’s sailing (though with a gooseneck situated almost 20 feet above sea level, even that familiar act takes some getting used to). All the relevant sheets and lines are within arm’s length of the driver, easily lassoed by a trio of big electric Lewmar winches and banks of rope clutches. The jib is self-tending. On our test sail, in a changeable breeze that hovered around 10 knots, our upwind and reaching speeds averaged about 7.5 knots. The hydraulic steering doesn’t offer much feedback, and finding the groove is a bit challenging. For vacation sailors, I’d imagine the autopilot button would be pressed often.
That’s because, for relaxation and sustenance, the upper deck of the 5800 just can’t be beat. Why steer when you can spread out on one of the comfortable chaise lounges (which I’d guess would be the envy of anybody who ever boarded a Carnival cruise liner)? Even the seat backs flip around to make comfy spots to relax and soak up the rays. Thirsty? Grab a cold one from the built-in fridge. Hungry? Toss the burgers and dogs on the Kenyon gas grill, with the handy Corian counters and adjacent sink for slicing the onions and cleaning things up. The 5800 was laid out for joyous outdoor living, and it delivers in spades.
At the end of the day, of course, all the sun and fun is tiring, but the 5800 also has that covered with roomy, comfortable staterooms. While there are many accommodation layouts from which to choose, our test boat was laid out with an industry first — a six-cabin mini-hotel (all with en suite heads) with a pair of what might best be described as small studio apartments, not buried in the hulls but situated on the “first floor” right on the bridge deck. What makes these lavish spaces even more novel and luxurious is the forward cockpit they open onto; it’s practically like having your own balcony.
The other quite radical feature is an ingenious aft platform for dinghy storage, which can also be lowered directly into the water to deploy the tender, and left in the down position, flush to the ocean, where it effectively becomes a clever back porch.
Here’s how Boat of the Year judge Ed Sherman summarized the 5800: “This is an interesting boat. They’ve basically created a very large platform both horizontally and vertically to accommodate a large group of people and provide them with a vessel that affords them some ability to separate down below and have a great view all around.”
That seems just about perfect. The Moorings 5800 isn’t for everybody. But if you’re ready to party hearty with your pals, why, step right aboard.
This article first appeared in the August 2013 issue of Cruising World. Click here to read more about The Moorings.