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ocean alexander 88 boat review
If you are not familiar with Ocean Alexander Motor Yachts you should be, they have been around since 1977 when Alex Cheuh gave the marque its name. He set the exacting engineering standards to adhere to and attain, and he desired to produce a high level of fit and finish that would see their vessels stand the test of time.
Now in its 5th decade, the lofty engineering principles set by Ocean Alexander have safeguarded its position as a manufacturer of luxury motor yachts on the world stage. They weathered the financial crisis that toppled several well-known brands. When you look into the company ethos, you discover the foundations are solid, and there’s a good reason they are well inside the top ten manufacturers building boats over 70 feet.
The companies principals have been not only about developing a luxury brand but also developing advanced building techniques for superior results. A considerable investment of time and money has gone into continual improvement of the manufacturing techniques and construction methods. Along the way, they have achieved milestones in the quality of the product, construction methods and engineered their designs to last longer and handle the big blue with vigour.
When Ocean Alexander designs a new model, they set out to build real ocean-going vessels, and they go about it in a way that sets the bar high for construction techniques. Every detail on their boats must meet to the high set principals of the company’s ideology. Engineering principles and design philosophies are the starting point for any new Ocean Alexander, and if it’s not robust and reliable, it doesn’t get off the drawing board. They know what works after four-plus decades, and there is a keen eye navigating Ocean Alexander’s course.
Currently at the Helm is Johnny Cheuh, he took over from his father, and he’s been there for 20 years. His story is an important one for understanding how Ocean Alexander weathered the waves of change that the GFC bought with it, and it explains why the course ahead looks steady.
The second-generation Cheuh has an impressive marine industry resume, and this no doubt has positively influenced the company’s current position. He’s worked in the factory, working with fibreglass involved with the very fabric of the boats, even now he is hands-on directly addressing improvements. His experience across many facets of the business, including the all-important sales experience gained from running a dealership, has given insight into the often disconnected aspect for boat builders. At the dealer level, you learn a lot about what does and doesn’t work for owners, you know quickly about issues and hear of improvement ideas from the very people who use them. There is a certain pragmatism about these boats that is a compound of progression and innovation, and it accumulates with each iteration.
The holistic approach from the factory floor to well after their boats leave the showroom floor is an Ocean Alexander strength. Johnny Cheu is involved and understands boat building, boat sales and his Economics Education in the United States have no doubt helped Ocean Alexander weather the global financial crisis that claimed other scalps. Still, it’s what the customer experiences that is the final testament, and this is a beautifully finished yacht with a high level of detail that is both palpable and subtle.
To appreciate the way an owner might enjoy their mothership, Alexander Marine Australia provided their smallest boat in the range the previously reviewed Divergence 45 as the fun-filled, high octane transport for the journey out to the Northern end of Whitehaven beach. Built to commemorate 40 years of production, this model comes from the ever-popular Ocean Alexander 85 with a few additions.
Sitting on anchor in picture-perfect conditions just off the entrance to Hills Inlet, the inviting turquoise waters and swirls of white sand are the perfect backdrop for feeling that this is how it should be more often. Built for discovery and built to a standard that ensures luxury envelopes your time aboard where ever you point the bow.
Approaching from a distance at low speed gives enough time to appreciate the impressively finished hull, at this time of day imperfections in the hull are easy to identify. If there are imperfections, I am struggling to identify them. The paint is no ordinary coating. This paint originates from the aerospace industry; it’s a robust finish. It is highly resistant to water and ultra-violet rays, so it will not quickly break down or turn yellow when exposed to sunlight, particularly suited to our climate. Another tick in the longevity column for Ocean Alexander.
Once the Divergence 45 is tied up alongside, stepping aboard the 88 Skylounge I am greeted by the crew who were the consummate hosts. Whereas we might typically spend an afternoon reviewing a boat, I am fortunate enough to be staying overnight. Rather than the supposition of flow and functionality of a vessel, I am getting to experience it completely, over an extended period. A couple of meals, the setting of the sun and the rise again in destination paradise.
The moment you pass through the custom boarding gate at the top of the aft deck stairs you notice the superior finish of the stainless work, a clear indication of the fine craftsmanship that goes into building these boats. There’s no needle threading of mooring lines through small fairleads at awkward heights. Instead, there are substantial integrated stainless sculptures on each stern quarter with rolling fairleads leading to warping winches and beautifully designed custom stainless bollards. All positioned at ideal working height with excellent sightlines.
The aft deck table is a cosy booth with fixed seating on three sides seating eight with additional occasional seating. For entertaining support, the bar forward on the starboard side takes care of this outdoor area without the need to head inside. Just above deck level on the inboard side of the bar is a subtle small black button which operates the electric actuated doors handsfree. Entering and exiting the saloon handsfree is a nice touch for when your hands are full and make a positive contribution to maintaining the interior climate control with automatic closing doors. The doors are worth noting too on how effortless they are to open. Often large custom stainless doors can require some effort to open due to the sheer weight of the frames and glass. Electrically actuated doors are not an issue; a subtle blue illumination around the button in the centre of the doors only requires a light touch for the doors to open safely.
Inside, the saloon has subtle grandeur blended with comfort and big views. The interior designers have managed to exude sophisticated elegance. They have finished it with some of the most beautiful finishes and blends of textures I have seen on a semi-custom vessel. The mixtures of high gloss coffee table, satin-finished walnut cabinetry, stand-alone furniture and modern fabrics of multiple textures and hues are masterful. It brings an elegant yet homely feel.
The beam of the vessel allows the formal dining table to be positioned athwartships for the view to be enjoyed by all eight diners seated at the exquisite high-gloss dining table. Opposite on the port side is the service bar with plenty of glass and drinks storage for self-service.
Just forward of the service bar is a nicely concealed day head negating the need to go below to the accommodations deck. Opposite this the country-style galley with dedicated casual dining forward, here is where the 88 differs from the 85, both the galley and the dining area ahead are bigger.
The galley’s design is for everyday living, and it’s got sizeable french door refrigeration with an excellent sized freezer draw below, marble inlaid bench-tops, full-size cooktop and under bench oven but what stands out is the homely feel about the space. Having the dedicated dining area forward gives it that everyday comfy feel as food can be shared and enjoyed in this area with the intimacy and interactions found in the kitchen of a family home.
Stairs on the port side lead up to the fully Skylounge, an impressive zone in its own right, another masterful and elegant blend of fabrics, textures and modern furniture with expansive views. Three magnificent Stidd helm chairs have excellent viewing forward, and Ocean Alexanders treatment of the dash is stylish and sophisticated with the Multi-function screens housed in a slim freestanding pod supported by three stainless posts, through which the hard wiring runs. It resembles a modern multi-screen video editing suite rather than a massive built-in moulded helm station.
The skipper’s central helm chair has complete Garmin grid controller of the three Garmin 24 inch screens with the left hand. The right side has full joystick control for maneuvering courtesy of the Glendinning Station Keeper system which combines the hydraulic bow and stern thrusters with the engine controls to give precise control here or via the wired control in the cockpit. The station holding feature is like a handbrake on the water, if you’re shorthanded it will maintain your position while you prepare the lines and fenders for berthing and handy for bringing a tender onboard off the anchor.
To head out to flybridge deck the same foot-operated kick switch used to enter and exit the saloon is found on the Skylounge level too. It’s not until you try it that you realise how useful this feature is, it’s as simple as carrying two glasses outside without the need to put one down to open the door.
The Flybridge aft deck is an entertaining venue of excellent proportions. The rear bulkhead protects an L-shaped lounge, providing further protection from the elements is the removable shade sails supported by the substantial posts that can shade the entire deck. The welcome shade in summer opens up the alfresco entertaining options, supported by an electric BBQ, wet bar and sink and more cool drinks storage makes this rooftop entertaining at it’s finest. Stairs from the main deck allow access to this area for anyone wanting to join in can come straight up from the main deck level or the water and allow them to jump straight into the jacuzzi with a view.
The full-beam owner’s cabin is a highlight the four-cabin arrangement of this boat, as soon as you step into it, you don’t feel like you are in the belly of the yacht, well lit in the day by light flooding in through the enormous picture windows either side of the king-size bed. The full-beam bathroom has his and her entries. Both sides have a vanity and a head each; they meet in the middle with dual access to the shower sporting a precisely cut marble floor.
Port and starboard cabins, with twin berths side by side, can be slid together for queen berths, both with ensuite. The VIP cabin forward is also with ensuite, and I can attest to the comfort of the beds; I had a magnificent sleep, albeit a bit short due to the desire to catch the early sun reflecting off the hull.
The crew accommodations are two cabins, a crew mess and a shared bathroom. The same fit and finish for the crew as it is for the guests, so this is perfect for guest overflow or as teenagers retreat when the crew aren’t onboard.
Engineering solutions are evidenced on the Ocean Alexander’s by what is not noticeable as well as those that are. To meet their ocean-going standards, Ocean Alexander has tackled strength and safety head-on by creating a very rigid hull structure. They do this by using aircraft-grade Aluminium I-Beams which have up more strength and less weight than wood or fibreglass. The hull and components are vacuum infused, a technique Ocean Alexander has mastered being one of the first adopters of this method in hull construction.
Power plants set atop unidirectional carbon fibre capped stringers. Noticeably smooth the twin 1600 hp MTU 10V engines have plenty of torque propelling the 88 to cruise speed quickly. Installed with plenty of working space around them and mounted in a well laid out, impeccably finished and expertly soundproofed engine room. All this results in the most important feature on the unnoticed list, a lack of vibration and noise.
The thinking behind the design of the fuel tanks is class-leading too. They emulate the military with the thickness of the aluminium used because they want them to last, which is an excellent way to go. There are still first-generation Ocean Alexanders plying the waters of the world over more than forty years after they first splashed down, so a plan for the long game makes sense. With a fuel capacity just shy of 9500 litres combined with the ocean-going structural integrity it’s designed for refined exploring. At 9 knots you could travel for five days around the clock and still have over 10% in reserve. At 12 knots you could head out the Gold Coast Seaway and make it to Noumea with over 25% in reserve. After two and a half days steaming, these speeds allow you to point the bow and make easy targets of discovery in the South Pacific Islands and South-East Asia’s archipelagos.
The Ocean Alexander 88 is particularly suited to the home away from home feeling, the tropical strength air-conditioning, effective insulation for both temperature and sound plus the enveloping comfort and luxury will have you wanting for nothing more than incredible views and inviting waters. It’s a vessel that feels reassuring that it will get you where you want to go and encourage you to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.