This boat was inspired, we suspect, by the old Charles Wittholtz designs which were popular in the 1970s and ‘80s, a precursor to the “expedition” concept – long before the word was ever applied to yachts. The hallmark of Wittholtz designs were the canoe stern, full bows and beefy construction. While the Serenity Series draws inspiration from those roots it goes far further than this designer ever dreamed of doing, giving us a contemporary feel in the superstructure and along the sheer, which is almost like a classic, modern Benetti.
The Love Bug
We must confess right now that we have fallen in love with this boat, so if you find some of our usually sober objectivity missing, please forgive us. (We also confess to being romantically polygamous.) To our eye the Serenity 59 is a compact version of a far larger motoryacht. Perhaps that is because Cheoy Lee has also built 68’ and 83’ Serenity models that look nearly identical to this one. The 59 is the little sister, but she is robust, containing most of the elements of the bigger boats, albeit more compact, but for a lot less money.That’s one reason why we think she’s going to be so popular. The other reasons have to do with the execution of the concept. Lets take a look--
The full beam master stateroom has been carefully designed to utilize every square inch and not to waste space. First, we must remark on the fact that we approve of the way Cheoy Lee has placed the master head and walk-in closet between the engine room and the master stateroom itself. Second, there is a large walk-in closet that women will love. Third, the head compartment itself has been carefully designed to utilize every bit of room.The master bed has been pushed back into the area used by the walk-in closet and the head to port, thus using space that would have gone to waste in the head. The separate shower compartment is large enough for one person, and that’s all we need there at one time. Note that both the toilet and the sink can be used at the same time (by different people), which is important when the owner and spouse are rushing to get ready for cocktails.We like the desk in the forward starboard corner and the love seat to port. We don’t know what is going in the forward port corner of the cabin, but we would put a man’s hanging locker there, and relocate what appears to be a TV screen.
The VIP stateroom is in the bow and is fairly standard. It shares its head with the other guest stateroom which is probably okay for most people. The folks at Cheoy Lee tell us if you want an en suite head for the 3rd stateroom they can do that, no problem. As regular readers know, we prefer to see twin bunks, port and starboard, or over and under, in the forward cabin, to open up the space and to make sleeping accommodations more versatile. We’re sure that Cheoy Lee would build it that way if you wished.We like the use of the spiral staircase because it not only saves room, in a rolling seaway you can lean against it and slide along as you climb up or down. Also, the space behind it and underneath is great for equipment. We like the desk in the foyer, something that we’ve never before seen done quite like this. Cheoy Lee tells us that if you want three en suite heads, they will be glad to accommodate you. This is easily accomplished by getting rid of the desk, moving the washer/dryer aft, and putting the head for the forward cabin on the port side. That is how many builders design their boats, but we were happy that Cheoy Lee showed us this unusual variation on a theme.
The Main Deck
Let’s start at the stern and work our way forward: The swim platform is about 2.5’ (.79 m) wide which just barely makes it, in our book. We’d like to see in 3.5’ or 4’ (1.07 – 1.23 m) wide. The swim platform looks perfectly proportioned as it is, but experience has shown us that our eye needs to get used to a new proportion here. This is a work platform, a staging area, a meet-and-greet front porch, a teak beach for sun bathing, in addition to being a swim platform and diving board. Construction back in this area of yacht is extremely low-cost, so we would make this bigger.
We applaud the single stairway from the swim platform up to the aft deck. Most motoryachts have stairways on each side of the transom as if they were leading to an anti bellum mansion, like Tara. (What a waste of space!) By doing it this way, Cheoy Lee can get in a long, slightly rounded seat. Well done, lads!We enter the saloon through a fiberglass door that swings out. Be advised that some other builders of boats in this class use Freeman-type metal doors here that dog down to protect the boat if it is pooped. While the likelihood of that is remote, if it happens, you’d want the more substantial door. They are clumsy and heavy, however.
We are keen on the layout of the saloon because there is a standard sofa, chair and coffee table, but there is also a stand-alone dining room table for six. Granted it is not big enough for King Henry VIII, but it works and it is something you usually don’t see on a boat of this size, particularly in a long range cruiser. Most boats in this class and size usually are not too formal in their saloons, and have diner-style settees which are ok for breakfast and lunch, but are a little too informal (in our opinion) for evening dining, particularly when entertaining. To our mind, this one feature alone moves this layout ahead of lots of others we’ve seen in class. Just because a couple is out cruising, doesn’t mean they want to rough it all of the time. After all, we’re not rag-baggers who have to be out in an open cockpit with our slickers on, braving the driving rain and getting soaked to the core. We are power yachtsmen! And, we like our amenities even though we plan on going to remote locations, often in snotty conditions. Cheoy Lee finishes this off this terrific saloon with a raised bar counter at the galley with two stools, which makes the whole area a trifecta hit in our book.
Curves Are Important
We’d like to point out the rounded curves for all of the cabinetry, tables, and built-in furniture. When you look at a drawing, usually one’s eye doesn’t even notice it – but when you walk into the saloon these subtle details make all of the difference. The curves in the saloon make this look like a classic yacht. They refine the surroundings, dilute the harsh but unavoidable look of white fiberglass, and hark back to another era when labor was so cheap yachtsmen could afford to lavish many man-hours of work on joinery. That’s why yachts used to look the way they did – and look the way they do now.Obviously, we think Cheoy Lee has gotten this right. The designer has also put into the starboard side of the saloon the standard powered up and down TV that most motoryachts have. This approach takes up all of the space in this cabinet making it useless for anything else. We’d put the TV in the overhead and use the cabinet for something like glassware or other storage. You can never have enough storage on a boat, and by the looks of things, that may be an area where the Serenity 59 needs some more work.
Again, proportions are just right, in our opinion. We like the four-burner cook top and the large upright refer/freezer. It should have French doors because they don’t take up so much swing room. The only sour note here, in our experience, is the sink with one large basin and one very small one for the garbage disposal. On board a boat, dishes should be cleaned, rinsed and put in the dishwasher all in one operation. Never let dishes sit in sink. Give us one large sink with the garbage disposal, please.
Once again, Cheoy Lee has done a good job of design, in our opinion. We like the settee arrangement to starboard because it has room for two guests to join the skipper and look forward, and room behind the skipper for others to easily pass. To starboard of the helm there is plenty of room for charts. Along the aft bulkhead there are ample bookcases for cruising guides, reference books, owner’s manuals, and gadgets. Most important of all, a pocket door closes off the pilothouse from the galley and saloon, meaning the boat can be operated at night from the lower station.
Having the helm closed off is imperative for any long range displacement-speed cruiser. Because the boat is only going 8 knots, if you are planning any serious long-distance cruising, chances are you will be running at night in open water. It could be cold, rainy and rough, and unless you are an ex-sailor who loves to be wet and miserable, you will be driving the boat from the cozy, dry pilothouse. If you can not close off the helm from the galley and saloon, unless it is absolutely dark there, you cannot steer because of the glare and reflections on the windshield. Night piloting is difficult enough without that problem. To rely on one’s radar alone to “see” forward, is courting trouble, even at 8 knots.There are two things we would change on the helm, one we think is a necessity, the other depends on where you plan to cruise. We would put a second Stidd seat to port of the skipper’s seat, both for safety and companionship. We believe that there should always be two sets of eyes looking forward, and since this is a couple’s boat, it is important to have both involved with the piloting of the vessel.Secondly, we would carefully consider what kind of door is on the port side of the pilothouse leading to the side deck. If you are just going to poop along the coast, then Cheoy Lee’s standard-issue sliding door will be fine. If, however, you are planning on crossing bodies of water that can be nasty – such as the Irish Sea, the Windward Passage, or the run down to Tasmania – then you should consider installing a metal dogged-down door here. Remember, while this boat is a “production” boat, it is built one-at-a-time, and the folks at Cheoy Lee will be more than happy to upgrade anything on your build – all it takes is money.
The flying bridge and boat deck of the Serenity 59 are well designed for practical operation, in our opinion. Regular readers of our reviews of motoryachts know that we think that stairs from the saloon to the flying bridge are a waste of valuable space both below and topside. After all, this boat is only 59’. Why do you need two sets of stairs to the flying bridge?But the Serenity 59 is somewhat of an exception, and here is why: the spiral staircase that leads to the staterooms can have nothing above it other than head room. By cleverly designing the stairs to go down one way and up the other, Cheoy Lee designers avoid wasting space with two separate stairways in the saloon.If the stairs to the flying bridge were eliminated could more storage be carefully tucked into the space? Yes, and depending on your use of the boat, that might be a good option. However, we can think of circumstances when someone at the lower helm, or in the galley, might want to quickly get to the bridge. Again, the buyer of this boat must carefully consider how the boat will be used and sit down with Cheoy Lee’s staff and discuss what is best.
The Boat Deck
This boat has a 17’1” beam and we would make the most of that by buying a 14’ to 16’ tender and placing it athwarship at the aft end of the boat deck. The controlling factor on such a move is the headroom coming up the stairway from the aft deck. We think it would work, even if the tender had to extend a few inches beyond the aft edge of the deck. In this case the davit could also be placed athwartship with its base being supported the cabin sides or a reinforcing support between the cabin side’s fiberglass and wood joinery.What such a change will accomplish is more useable deck space abaft the “L”-shaped lounge. This is an ideal place for the life raft and many other big, bulky items that a cruising person might want to have aboard, such as a motor scooter or two, a large hamper for storage, or even an extra freezer. In any case, make sure there are rails around the stairway as well as a hinged closing hatch.
In our opinion Cheoy Lee has done a masterful job of creating a wonderful cruising boat that can be used for easy coastal work, or more demanding long distance cruising. We like the side decks as opposed to a wide body because it makes line and fender handling easier, as well as washing down the boat and generally getting around. It also, in our opinion, makes the boat look traditional even though it has a contemporary flare to the superstructure. The boat does not carry enough fuel to make the run from Bermuda to the Azores, or from LA to Hawaii, but other that those two long stretches, the Serenity 59 can travel most anywhere else non-stop. Anyone considering a boat in this class needs to talk to the folks at Cheoy Lee.
Standard and Optional Features
|Washdown: Fresh Water||Standard|
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
Boats More Than 30 Feet
|Helm: Second Station||Standard|
Full Warranty Information on this brand coming soon!