The Back Story
Neither a borrower, nor a lender be… Well this isn’t always good advice, particularly in the case of Alexander Chueh, a former hardware manufacturer who loaned a friend some money in the 1970’s to start a shipyard. As the story goes, the friend ultimately couldn’t repay the loan, and Mr. Chueh got the shipyard instead. Rather than sell it off to recoup his losses, he threw himself into his new acquisition with the same zeal as his other entrepreneurial endeavors, and Ocean Alexander was born. For more than 30 years Ocean Alexander has been a reliable builder of mid-size and large motoryachts to the world market. Early on Alex teamed up with Seattle naval architect Ed Monk and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, Alex's son, John Chueh, continues the company's long partnership with Ed Monk, Jr. "I grew up in a boating family," says John. "We owned an Ocean Alexander 48', and I also enjoyed sailing, surfing and windsurfing. Our dinner table conversations were often about boats, the market, the individuals, products and competitors. Above all, we learned integrity and character from my parents -- to treat people fairly in life. If you are fair to others, then everything will take care of itself."John studied economics at the University of Chicago and considered an academic career in organizational behavior, but wanted real-world experience first. After working with a business consultancy, he decided some "hands-on" experience at Ocean Alexander was where he wanted to be. Under John's energetic leadership, Ocean Alexander is expanding the line and increasing production to meet the new challenges of taking Ocean Alexander to the new millennium. Ocean Alex now builds 14 models from 54 to 155 feet. It has a reputation in the marine industry for giving good value for money.
The Cruising Yacht Ingredients
The Ocean Alexander 54 Trawler is the smallest boat the yard builds and a good place for us to start. In the case of the 54, the ingredients are evident the moment you step aboard. The boat’s designer is renowned Seattle Architect Ed Monk, Jr. and when it comes to displacement and semi-displacement trawler-type yachts, there is none better that Ed. The 54 has the lines of a Pacific Northwest Trawler with a high flared bow, a bit of swale in the cap rail aft, and stern rake.
The Bulbous Bow Issue
Instead of the bulbous bow one often sees on displacement boats over 70’ or so, the 54 has what Ocean Alexander calls an “S” bulb. Instead of the cylindrical bulb the “S” bulb is shaped more like a plant seed. Ocean Alexander has even applied for a patent for the design. The reason for the bulbous bow, first used on tankers, is to increase the speed of a displacement vessel. And it certainly does on large vessels, and as much as 10% we’re told. There are examples of boats in the 50-foot range where the bulbous bow delivers a pounding vibration to the entire hull in rough seas. The “S” bulb is intended to solve this problem and increase displacement speed at the same time. We look forward to testing this boat to find out how well the “S” bulb actually works in practice.
Dual Deck Plans
The hallmark of a successful build is leaving choices to the buyer, and that includes deck plans. In the case of the 54 Trawler, there are two layouts offered -- basically, two or three staterooms. With the dual-stateroom layout, the master is full beam amidships and a guest VIP is forward. Aft of the master is a utility room, which will go a long way for provisioning for long distance voyages. Alternatively, this utility room can be a third stateroom, accessed via a stairway that will be installed in the salon. In this manner, you can have more guests to share the watch loads with. You could even use this cabin as crew quarters. Again, the choice is yours.
Additional changes to the layouts can be seen in the salon where the L-shaped sofa is lying either forward or aft, and the pilothouse that will accommodate either a single or twin helm seats.
A Grand Entrance
So much for the big picture look... let’s get to the details. The salon’s overhead extends to the transom to protect the aft deck from the elements. Typically, this is a prime gathering spot on any yacht, but on the 54 Trawler, there are so many, that this can only be referred to as “one of the gathering spots” and we’ll leave it at that. While some may expect that this aft deck be furnished in entertaining opulence, in this instance, it’s empty, and like an empty canvas, it’s simply waiting for an owner to populate it with his choice of furnishings… or not. The choice is there for the taking. Not to worry, though, as there is still an abundance of outdoor seating that we’ll get to shortly. Mind your shoes as we step inside.
Entering the main salon from the cockpit deck is via a Dutch-door, and the salon is comfortable in its simplicity. Separate barrel seats lie to starboard and an L-shaped sofa lies to port. Please notice that there are hand rails on the overhead for stability while transiting the salon in a seaway. Oiled teak woodwork offsets the teak and holly sole. An entertainment center with the requisite flat-screen on-a-lift is forward.
Two steps up from the salon is the galley. It’s separated from the salon by a large partition that comes half way up to the overhead, which opens up the areas and keeps the chef part of the conversation. The U-shaped galley is nicely equipped with double basin stainless steel sink, Sub Zero refrigerator/freezer, gas stove, convection microwave, and electric oven.
Up three more steps from the galley and you arrive in the pilothouse. Properly elevated to reduce nighttime glare from the galley and salon, the pilothouse is a study in sea-going functionality with excellent visibility all around, dual helm seats, a full complement of electronics with redundant backups, and the obligatory settee and table lying aft. While the pilothouse is beautiful and functional, we’d like to see a couple of changes. We’d start with the dual sliding doors to the Portuguese Bridge. Dutch doors allow for keeping the pilothouse closed off at the bottom, while opening the tops of the doors to let air flow through not only the pilothouse, but the entire yacht. The counter space around the helm itself provides plenty of work area, but its leather upholstered surface negates the ability to add a pair of dividers to a chart, or a sharp pencil to lay out a course line. We’d rather a hard surface here, but an equally attractive one. That is an easy fix.
The sleeping quarters are accessed via a companionway from the starboard pilothouse. The guest VIP lays forward, and the master amidships beneath the salon and galley. The three steps down to the master, which mirror those above, between the pilothouse and salon, add to the master’s headroom. In the master, an island queen berth takes center stage with the usual storage underneath. Cedar lined hanging lockers, and en-suite head are ensconced in beautiful woodwork that enhances the luxury seen throughout the 54. Also in the master, are the washer and dryer, which we’d like to see moved to the utility room, or foyer at the bottom of the companionway -- anywhere that keeps guests out of the master stateroom. Privacy is a cherished thing on any yacht, perhaps because there’s always so little of it, and causing all the guests to intrude on the master stateroom simply won’t do. Unless presented with a rare owner that likes to do everyone’s laundry of course. (The builder will put the washer/dryer anywhere you want.)
The 54 Trawler is designed to run with either single or twin engine applications as the hull is equally comfortable running at 9 knots as it is at 16. The standard is a single 300-hp wet-exhaust John Deere, and Ocean Alexander will accommodate an owner’s preference for power. We’ve seen 54’s powered with twin 455-hp Caterpillar C7 ACERTs that also take advantage of keel cooling. The engine room is spacious with either twins or a single engine and all systems are color coded for easy troubleshooting. Engines are mounted to beefy stringers with the largest stainless steel engine mounts (with no less than seven through-bolts each) that we’ve seen. Large volume Racor filters and a commercial-grade fuel polishing system will aid in eliminating engine failures after fueling in distant ports from questionable sources. And of course, being full of opinions, why should the engine room be spared. We’d like to see the addition of sea rails around the engines as well as overhead grab rails, so the engine room checks while underway will be a safe and secure task.
Back Up on Deck
Let’s head back up above as we haven’t yet ventured outdoors and sampled the fresh air that makes an offshore passage so enjoyable. Not content with a simple Portuguese bridge at Ocean Alexander, this version can only be described as a Portuguese bridge on steroids, and it’s a unique feature that we love. Ahead of the pilothouse, yet still enclosed by the raised bulwarks, is a comfortable seating area. Just off center and forward is a door leading to the bow. We’d be surprised if this is not the most popular seat in the house as the views will be stunning. Particularly when running into a setting sun.
The flybridge has dual access, either from a set of stairs in the pilothouse or another on the aft deck. A hardtop extends to the aft end of the flybridge deck, but not over the aft boat deck. This will keep the occupants protected on rainy days and shaded on sunny days.
With so much going for her, it seems that the Ocean Alexander 54 Trawler will have little trouble finding an audience.
We think Ocean Alexander has done a good job with their new 54 Trawler in making it versatile so in a new build an owner can configure it pretty much to suit his needs – twin or single engine, two cabins or three, loaded for long range cruising, or not so loaded for coastal work. Pricing will range from around $1.3 million to $1.5 million depending on what you put in the boat.For example, there is a new 54 in Seattle which has been equipped very much the way that we would outfit the boat for long range cruising. She has twin C- 455-hp Cats with PTOs, hydraulic bow and stern thrusters, hydraulic anchor windlass, hydraulic stabilizers, a 25 kw generator, a complete Furuno NavNet package with a Nobletec computer, and 800-lb davit and much more. Taking our suggestion (before it was made) the washer/dryer was moved into the “utility room” abaft the master cabin where there is a sink and chest of drawers. Yet another work space is abaft that cabin with a work bench. In short, this boat is loaded for the long haul. Her price is $1,498,000 as she sits, and our guess is that she will be gone before long.
Standard and Optional Features
Full Warranty Information on this brand coming soon!