“All you want in a boat but with something extra on top” – Scott Dillon, R Marine Pittwater.
If the legendary wooden yachts of our past had kept evolving, how might they look today?
Belize could well offer some insights.
We sense they may have stayed with a lower profile than many of today’s offerings not just for beauty’s sake, but because of the more tall and top-heavy a yacht, the more ungainly and susceptible to windage.
The trick is to have a sweet sheer-line and profile without it stealing room below decks. On the Belize, the sheer remains fairly flat until gently rising toward the bow.
But in this case, even good looks can be deceiving; the Belize actually delivers greater space – in the sizing of beds, heads, showers, in fact all living areas – than similar-sized production counterparts.
The Belize 54 was created by 4D Designs in collaboration with the Riviera and Belize design team. It’s a testimony to very experienced thinking, artful computer-aided design and stronger, less bulky miracle materials. But there are more differences: unusually for
a motor yacht today, the Belize sheer is really the top edge of a substantial and shippy bulwark, as opposed to a token toe-rail, ensuring more secure side access and drier passage-making.
This bulwark is in turn capped with a shaped teak rail (left natural, but available with four coats of gloss, if desired).
Set atop the cap-rail is a beautifully electro-polished array of 32mm stainless stanchions carrying two 25mm horizontal rails that wrap right around the boat, to almost halfway along the cockpit.
The top rail is a 60mm elliptical shape that, as the hand falls upon it, feels as substantial as the reassuring traditional teak handrail of days gone by – without the vulnerability and maintenance.
The surface below the surface
As you well know, the geometry beneath any planing motor yacht is crucial to performance.
Belize was never going to make do with some off-the-shelf version, nor even settle for creating their own in the absence of propulsion data.
First prize, really, is to design in conjunction with the particular drive setup a specific yacht will have.
Because innovative pod propulsion had been agreed upon for the 54, the yacht’s running surface was primarily penned on that specific basis – first by Ocean Yacht Designs, then reviewed by the renowned Riviera team of naval architects, designers, engineers and master craftsmen.
With all their approvals in hand, the hull was then taken to the Australian Maritime College (AMC) in Tasmania, for two rounds of tank testing.
Further shape adjustments were made during AMC’s testing; all the time improving efficiency (a reduction in running trim angle, for instance, as well as a nice bonus of ‘less effective power required’) and resulting in a shape beautifully mated to her power source.
Essentially, it’s a warped-plane hull with a very fine entry, and strong flare decreasing to a fairly flat run aft – a deadrise of 12 degrees.
Further aiding performance is a proper keel to assist tracking, with a very substantial turn-down chine in the bow to deflect spray and deliver a dry and silky ride offshore.
The yacht simply proceeds in a stately fashion, in keeping with her exterior style.
In more traditional times, the actual profile of the bow itself might’ve been dead plumb. But at the speeds we’re able to drive our yachts today we need buoyancy forward; we don’t need a bow that will dig into a wave (this is not an ocean race) but lift over it. Hence the slight spoon arc of the bow, at any sort of speed slicing a glassy sheet of water that turns into spray further down the flanks.
Following this wake along, almost halfway down the hull we start to detect the gradual compound curve of the hull’s tumblehome, becoming quite pronounced at the transom.
This reverse curve is more than sensual, it’s also practical; placing less weight up high in the hull and offering protection from slamming ... against a jetty, or rafted companions.
A more gracious time and place
The Belize designers at Riviera have struck a keen-eyed balance between European panache and Australian practicality.
Throughout any Belize yacht, fabric panel walls, leather, weatherproof leatherette and passages of woodgrain are used in a contemporary palette to create a warm and inviting ambiance, and to contribute to excellent acoustics.
Two-pack polyurethane finishes accent and protects key surfaces in the galley, on door panels and other key joinery interludes.
High lustre is not, by any means, the answer to every décor decision; a number of Belize interior surfaces are quite muted. Satin varnish, for instance, is evident throughout the saloon, galley, helm, companionway and forward cabin threshold.
Galley bench tops offer a choice of natural solid surface materials.
The Miele name badges the induction cooktop, combination oven, and microwave.
The AC/DC Vitrifrigo system provides two capacious chiller drawers and a separate freezer drawer.
The dual bowl sink is served by award-winning Grohe Euro tapware.
Right across from the galley, on the starboard side, is the true heart of the saloon; a large L-shaped seating area that does double duty as lounge and dinette. (Or triple duty, with its clever purpose-built storage for crockery, glassware and charts tucked under.)
The saloon’s opening side windows allow for natural ventilation.
The sense of any classical or retro references quickly disappears when you examine the impressive technical side of the 54.
There’s nothing at all nostalgic about resin-infused composite construction, double vinylester outer skin, or watertight, stepped collision bulkhead and independent foam-filled hull compartments. Or a deck both screwed and glued to the hull, with the final seam girded by a full-perimeter 60mm 316 marine grade stainless steel rub rail.
The engineering department affords choices of two smooth, fuel-efficient pod-drive propulsion options from Volvo Penta, each with through-hull underwater exhausts.
There are two engines and drive choices for the Belize 54:
Volvo Penta IPS15 800
Twin D8 engines and drive units (2 x 442kW/600hp), joystick maneuverability, Dynamic Positioning System, auto and manual trim tabs, Volvo/Garmin Glass Cockpit navigation and system monitoring system, Active Corrosion Protection and line cutters
Volvo Penta IPS20 950
Twin D11 engines and drive units (2 x 533kW/725hp), joystick maneuverability, Dynamic Positioning System, auto and manual trim tabs, Volvo/Garmin Glass Cockpit navigation and system monitoring system, Active Corrosion Protection and line cutters
Boating has learned a lot in the many decades since the golden age of wood.
Like anti-vibration engine mountings on two-pack, white epoxy-coated I-beams.
And double layers of acoustic and thermal lagging that swathe the engine room – even on the ceiling – all faced with white perforated aluminium insulation panels.
No doubt the old world of analogue needle gauges would find it hard to believe a vessel entirely wired and monitored using CZone digital switching, networked to a 10-inch touchscreen at the saloon entry and, in the case of the Daybridge, an additional 3.5-inch touchscreen at the upper helm.
Then there are the battery banks providing backups for the backups: two Mastervolt (12v) 225AH sealed AGM batteries for engines alone, four (12v) 200AH batteries for domestic service, and even two dedicated 130AH GELs just for the auxiliary and generator starting. Add to that two battery chargers; plus an inverter to power the premium sound system, some three LED TV’s, and the icemaker.
Would the old craftsmen think it overkill to install some four electric bilge pumps, have each ball valve in polished stainless, fit anti-siphon loops, Head Hunter odourless sanitary hoses and double hose clamps on every underwater fitting?
They wouldn’t. Nor do we.
But they might well shake their heads in wonder at the joystick controls for close quarters manoeuvring ... to say nothing of the Dynamic Positioning System/Skyhook GPS system for station-holding over a reef, or whilst waiting off a fuel jetty.
And old heads would certainly shake even more at the very posh, silent, fresh-water-flush Techma toilets.