The Ultimate Fleming - PassageMaker

The Ultimate Fleming

Beautiful to look at, robustly constructed and meticulously engineered, Flemings have won the hearts and souls, as well as the minds, of cruising enthusiasts throughout the world.
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This review is the web extra to our 'BIG BOATS' round-up in PassageMaker's July/August 2014 Issue, on newsstands 6/24/14.

During the past 25 years, Fleming motoryachts have evolved into what many experts consider “the ultimate cruising yacht.” Beautiful to look at, robustly constructed and meticulously engineered, Flemings have won the hearts and souls, as well as the minds, of cruising enthusiasts throughout the world. The all-new Fleming 78 is the culmination of Tony Fleming’s original design philosophy and the forward thinking by the company’s new generation of management.

 The Fleming 78 is a sigh to behold on the water whether in motion or drifting peacefully.

The Fleming 78 is a sigh to behold on the water whether in motion or drifting peacefully.

“Our goal was to create a refined and dependable cruising yacht capable of taking her crew in comfort and safety wherever they might wish to go,” is Tony Fleming’s understated objective in designing the first Fleming motoryacht. Although the original molds were for a 55-foot yacht, the first Flemings were 50 feet. A 53-footer followed, but soon the company settled on what has become a legend in its own time – the ever-popular Fleming 55. In the year 2000, the first Fleming 75 was launched, followed in 2005 by the 65. In 2011 the Fleming 75 was re-launched as the 78, and an all-new Fleming 58 is scheduled to make its debut in 2013. Having spent quality time aboard 55s and 65s, I was anxious to sea trial the new 78 to see if it was, indeed, the ultimate Fleming.

After a sea trial of 78-01, I was able to spend a day onboard 78-02 several months later, and while they both share the same design philosophy and construction techniques Fleming is known for, the accommodation layouts, choice of power and auxiliary equipment specified by their different owners highlight the level of customization and flexibility that Fleming’s yard is capable of.

All Fleming models share Tony Fleming’s basic design parameters beginning with a semi-displacement hull featuring a fine entry and hard-chined aft that allows speeds in the upper teens to be achieved. While most owners run their Flemings at 8-to-10 knots, there are times when the ability to run 16-18 knots can be greatly appreciated when trying to outrun a storm or reach a destination before sundown.

The outdoor elements, like this aft cockpit are just as finely finished as their interior counterparts.

The outdoor elements, like this aft cockpit are just as finely finished as their interior counterparts.

Additionally, all Flemings feature twin diesel power. Tony Fleming, who has cruised his own Fleming 65 to some of the world’s most fascinating and remote destinations including the Galapagos Islands, Iceland and Alaska, firmly believes in the added safety and maneuverability of twin engines. Tests have shown that Flemings can run at their normal cruising speeds with one engine with a 15-degree rudder offset. For added safety and directional stability, full-length keels extend below the rudders and running gear.

All Flemings also feature dedicated pilothouses that allow social life onboard to continue while the captain and navigator attend to the business of running the ship. This design separates the serious, long distance cruising vessel from less purpose-driven yachts where the captain is running the vessel from the forward section of the main saloon and galley, distracted by the activities of guests and galley hands.

And lastly, the Fleming pedigree displays both subjective and objective qualities with its low profile design. These sleek yachts are not only attractive; their low profile contributes to their stability at sea thanks to their lower center of gravity and less windage. Minimizing the vertical climbing of stairs and steps also makes moving about inside and outside the vessel easier and safer.

Construction Highlights

I was aboard Tony Fleming’s 65, Venture II, during his voyage from Scotland to Iceland, and at one point after falling into a trough from the breaking crests of 12-foot seas, feeling the entire ship shudder and hearing the sickening sound of 135,000 pounds crashing into walls of ice-cold water, Tony calmly turned to me and said, “Well, this is why we build them like we do.” At that moment I could only hope…no, pray…. that everyone at the Tung Hwa yard, where Flemings are built exclusively, had done their job. We made it safely to the island chain of Vestmannaeyjar, ten-miles off the southern coast of Iceland, where we discovered our only damage was a few broken light bulbs, a shattered wine glass and a cracked bottle of beer.

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Having been to the Tung Hwa yard and seeing first hand Fleming’s construction techniques, I can honestly say that if I ever find myself offshore in similar conditions, I hope I’m again on a Fleming. The hulls are hand-laid solid fiberglass and reinforced using a matrix of frames and full-length, box-section stringers. To resist water intrusion and prevent blistering, a vinylester resin is used below the waterline. It is also used on the rest of the hull to eliminate fabric print-through and create a flawless, mirror-like finish. The superstructure and decks are cored using a synthetic material, which will not rot if water somehow entered the core. The core reduces weight in these areas and helps to lower the ship’s overall center-of-gravity, enhancing stability.

A stainless steel shoe protects a full-length keel. In the event of a catastrophic grounding or impact, the danger of water intrusion is minimized because the keel, which is filled with a closed-cell core material, is sealed off from the hull. To further prevent water intrusion, Flemings feature a robust, two-point deck-to-hull joint, one point being at deck level and the other at the top of the bulwark. The joint is fastened, glued and then fiberglassed for good measure.

To eliminate worries of fuel tank corrosion, Fleming builds its own, pressure tested fiberglass fuel tanks featuring vinylester and fire-retardant resins. The tanks are then glassed into the hull structure for added rigidity and strength. Since the 78’s tank is located amidships and spans the hull’s full beam, it also serves as a massive sound barrier, minimizing engine room noise in the accommodations area.

Tony Fleming paid close attention when designing the vessel's sightlines and made sure to keep visability to a maximum for ease of use.

Tony Fleming paid close attention when designing the vessel's sightlines and made sure to keep visability to a maximum for ease of use.

Reducing engine noise and vibration have always been top priorities at Fleming, and the crew at Tung Hwa, which includes Adi Shard, Tony Fleming’s nephew, have gone to great lengths to make the 78 one of the quietest and smoothest running motoryachts on the market. Standard is AquaDrive’s anti-vibration system, which uses thrust bearing brackets to transfer shaft thrust to the ship’s stringers rather than the engine itself. These brackets are bolted to stainless steel bars that run the full length of the vessel’s massive engine stringers. The engines are floating on soft engine mounts, minimizing vibration from reaching the hull. In addition, the 78’s extra-thick bulkheads and extensive use of sound-deadening material throughout help to keep sound at a bare minimum as shown in the accompanying charts.

Like all Flemings built for the U.S., all 78s are NMMA Certified and comply with American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) standards. The 65 different categories of ABYC standards include inboard engines, marine heads, LPG and CNG systems, galley equipment, AC & DC electrical systems, fuel systems, steering systems, thru-hulls, ventilation and exhaust systems, capacity, buoyancy, flotation and bilge pump systems. Since Fleming sells many of its yachts throughout Europe, all Flemings are also built to achieve the IMO CE Category “A-Ocean” rating, the most stringent rating for pleasure boats. Although not all Flemings built for the U.S. are CE certified – that would require different electrical systems – owners can take comfort knowing their Flemings meet the offshore performance characteristics and construction requirements of this rigid certification process.

The Birth of the 78

 The 78's engine room is designed for easy access to all the motoryacht's vitals.

The 78's engine room is designed for easy access to all the motoryacht's vitals.

The length of the waterline of the Fleming 75 was increased by extending the hull beneath the swim platform and adding a bulbous bow. As a result, fuel efficiency of the 78 has been improved by 10% or more over the 75 and her range has increased by 500 nautical miles. Fleming’s 78-01 was designed and built for an experienced yachtsman who wanted to maximize fuel-efficiency by running almost exclusively at speeds between 8 and 10-knots. Instead of the standard MAN V12-1550 hp diesel engines, Fleming installed MAN’s V8-1000 hp engines. Additionally, 78-01 was fitted with a bulbous bow that was specifically designed for these speeds. According to Duncan Cowie of Fleming Yachts, “A bulbous bow has an optimum performance range of just ± 3-knots.”

The design helped achieve a respectable fuel burn rate of 8 gph at 8.6 knots – not bad for a ship displacing more than 165,000 lbs. Even with these smaller engines, 78-01 was able to achieve a top speed of over 16 knots.

The next two hulls, 78-02 and 78-03, were equipped with the standard MAN 1550 hp engines. Because higher cruising speeds were desired, these yachts were also equipped with a different bulbous bow than what is on hull 78-01. Cowie points out that these bows are in essence “attached” to the hull and are not part of the actual hull mold, making it possible for a later refit should a new owner want a different optimum speed range. The bow attachment could also act as a sacrificial appendage during an accidental collision with an underwater object.

Customized For Their Individual Owners

My inspection of each of these yachts convinced me that Fleming is willing and able to create a highly individualized boat that fits the specific needs of different owners. 78-01’s interior, for example, features a custom layout that provides access to the master stateroom via a spiral staircase from the pilothouse, not down a straight stairway from the main saloon, which is the standard arrangement. 78-01 Also features traditional V-berths instead of a centerline island berth in the forward guest stateroom. Not only does this design create a very spacious, roomy guest stateroom, it provides more flexibility for visiting guests and family members.

The flying bridge is flanked by a fine outdoor setting area that features a grill and refrigerator for entertaining.

The flying bridge is flanked by a fine outdoor setting area that features a grill and refrigerator for entertaining.

Aside from the MAN 1550 hp engines and conventional interior layout, Fleming 78-02 is anything but standard. Indeed, building it took 16-months, and the commissioning process by Fleming’s West Coast dealer, Chuck Hovey Yachts, took a full three months of testing and calibrating factory installed gear as well as installing and testing the vast array of electronics and special equipment specified by the experienced and very exacting owner. Not only, for example, did he request a particular type of auxiliary light switch, he specified what font size and style to be used for the switch labels.

While some builders might recoil at such detailed requests, Cowie appreciates them. “The majority of our owners are extremely experienced, and they know what works and what doesn’t work. In the case of 78-02, the owner encouraged us to go the extra mile with systems and electronics, and as a result, we built the most technologically advanced Fleming we’ve ever built. With 78-01, the owner was focused on maximizing fuel economy and minimizing engine noise. The owner of 78-03 wanted a more basic, standard yacht, and he wanted an expeditious delivery to enable him to make his pre-scheduled Mediterranean cruise. Hopefully in each instance, we were able to meet these different expectations.”

Room for Owners, Crew, Guests and Gear

The 78 is a large yacht displacing 80-tons, and her ample size provides luxurious accommodations for owners and guests as well as offering separate crew quarters. Both inside and out, there are a variety of areas for running the ship, socializing, dining and lounging. And when one seeks a bit of solitude during a long cruise, there always seems to be a comfortable spot removed from the activities of others.

The master suite take full advantage of the 78's wide beam and offers owners access to a private head, storage and shower.

The master suite take full advantage of the 78's wide beam and offers owners access to a private head, storage and shower.

The master stateroom is amidships and takes advantage of the vessel’s full beam. Forward, the standard layout features a guest stateroom with a queen-sized island berth and en-suite head and shower. A second guestroom with a queen-sized berth and ensuite head and shower is to port. The crew quarters, which features a separate entrance from the aft deck, sleeps two and has ample room for a desk, microwave, refrigerator, TV and a head with shower.

The capacious main saloon features a dedicated dining area adjacent to the gourmet-equipped galley. Both 78s I inspected were equipped with sophisticated home theater systems with large screen TV monitors installed on mechanized lifts. Typically, each stateroom is equipped with its own flat screen TV monitor.

The pilothouse is separate from the main living area, a feature that speaks to the serious voyager. Twin Stidd helm chairs, generous chart workspace with deep drawers and enough space to assemble a commercial-like array of today’s most advanced electronics will satisfy the most demanding captain and navigator. A day head, a settee with a dining table and a drop down pilot berth allow the on-watch crew to tend to business without disturbing off-watch passengers. A look behind the electrical panels reveals properly harnessed and identified wire runs and meticulously dressed connections.

The dual-level flying bridge provides an upper helm area elevated for good forward vision, and there is a forward-facing double seat on each side of the helm chair, ideal for those who want to join the captain while underway. Tony Fleming tells an amusing story of how, during the development of the original 75, he hobbled up a series of rickety ladders while on crutches (he had broken his ankle days before) to see first hand if his drawn sight lines were accurate. To his dismay, he discovered that he couldn’t see the bow from the helm. After climbing on wood blocks and crawling his way forward, he realized he needed to move the flying bridge forward on top of the pilothouse instead of keeping it aft. Thankfully, Tony fully recovered from his broken bones, and the Fleming 75/78’s upper helm is a model of functional design. Four steps down is the lower bridge area complete with wet bar, BBQ grille, refrigerator, icemaker, freezer, dining table and settee. Owners can choose different configurations of these appliances to fit their cruising style. A dual-level hardtop and glass curtains protect both bridge areas. Further aft is the boat deck where up to a 16-foot tender can be stowed and launched via a fully adjustable hydraulic davit. An aft control station takes the drama out of backing into a slip.

The main saloon is a true testament to Fleming's high level of finish work.

The main saloon is a true testament to Fleming's high level of finish work.

Below on the main deck, and aft of the entrance to the main salon, is a protected lower deck area with dining table and settee – an ideal place for guests to gather, enjoy an outdoor meal and watch the world go by. Wide, walk-around decks are a Fleming signature, as are multiple opening gates on both port and starboard that allow easy and safe boarding from docks of different levels. A wide transom door provides access to the swim platform from the cockpit. Teak decks, another Fleming signature, are standard and continue to be a strong personal preference by Tony Fleming, who views them as part of a proper yacht for their appearance and non-skid properties. Forward of the pilothouse is a proper Portuguese Bridge where one can perform lookout duties while protected from spray or boarding seas. Port and starboard gates open to the foredeck area where a double anchor windlass, complete with a built-in, fixed washdown system and two 175 lb. anchors are located. Each is attached to 400 feet of chain.

When it comes to luxurious accommodations and amenities, Fleming…and especially the Fleming 78…. can be said to be among the best of the best. But it’s the attention to systems engineering, engine room organization and the installation of auxiliary equipment that clearly separates the Fleming brand from the Fleming wannabes. A close inspection of the 78’s engine room and her separate machinery space shows the level of attention given to the serious side of this yacht. I’ve been aboard luxurious, “high-end” yachts where these areas seem more of an afterthought than a pre-planned, properly engineered space. One project manager even told me, “Well, we hope our owners don’t have to spend much time down here.” Call me weird, but I like spending time in engine rooms, especially before I go to sea. Engine rooms tell me a lot about the builder and how much thought has gone into being able to maintain and troubleshoot all the gear that modern yachts are being equipped with.

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The 78’s engine room features stand-up height, and there is a virtual hallway, or main aisle, between the two MAN engines. Critical components like fuel and oil filters, pumps, through-hulls, gauges, valves and emergency switches are all well-marked and accessible. Upon entering, the typical reaction of a mechanic or technician sent to service the yacht is simply, “Wow, this is really nice.” I’ve always found it helps to have your mechanic in a good mood when he’s working on your boat.

Creating the Ultimate 78

Duncan Cowie, who is now part owner and manager of Fleming Yachts, has a keen engineering mind, so he especially welcomed the requests of the owner of 78-02 to incorporate many of today’s most technologically advanced systems. To begin with, this 78 has the most comprehensive ship’s monitoring and alarm system Fleming has installed to date. The German-made Boening system monitors the vessel’s fuel, water and waste tankage, electrical circuitry, engine and generator status, bilge pumps, door and hatch status and 13 different security cameras. Controlled by a total of five 15” touchscreen monitors – two in the pilothouse and one each in the upper helm, crews quarters and owner’s stateroom – this particular installation utilizes nearly 150 sensors that are measuring and monitoring virtually every essential data point on the yacht. While it takes several days for a trained tech to calibrate and adjust this complex system’s software to the yacht’s exact specifications, once set, the user never has to go back in and make adjustments. For utmost redundancy, each of the five monitors utilizes its own computer processor, so if one goes down, there are still four functional units. An added advantage of the system is the elimination of dozens of electrical circuit breakers that normally crowd electrical distribution panels. Separately, a special remote fuel filter vacuum monitor displays a digital readout of the filter’s status and warns of increasing vacuum – an indicator of a clogged filter and problematic fuel.

The guest stateroom can come as a queen, providing guests a private escape aboard.

The guest stateroom can come as a queen, providing guests a private escape aboard.

For the ultimate in stabilization, 78-02 features ABT’s TRAC-Star “Stabilization At Rest” system. While anchored, the generator-driven hydraulic pump powers the ship’s 16-square-foot stabilizer fins, and they actively “swim” back and forth to keep the ship stable. During an initial test, which proved their superb effectiveness in an ocean swell, we did discover the tendency for the yacht to slowly swim up on its anchor because of a total lack of wind and current. I’m sure adjustments will be made during the commissioning process to prevent the fins from inadvertently causing the anchor to drag in extremely calm conditions. Of course, in these conditions, the at-rest stabilizers probably wouldn’t be engaged anyway. While running, the yacht was hardly affected by the gentle six-foot ocean swell. To minimize user error, the ABT system senses shaft rotation and automatically switches the fins from “Center” to “Active.”

Cowie proudly pointed out a number of other technically advanced systems, including the yacht’s own sewage treatment plant, a custom mast that lowers hydraulically to reduce air draft, heated windshields (the owner plans on cruising in the Pacific Northwest), an ultrasonic antifouling system and powered hatches for easier access to the lazarette and bustle, and a CCTV system that features docking cameras and full pan/tilt/zoom cameras for coverage of the exterior and interior machinery spaces. An 1800 gallon-per-day watermaker will ensure plenty of fresh water for a boat full of guests. Two 32 kW generators provide more than enough power for all this equipment plus redundancy.

Fleming takes pride in offering owners the latest and greatest in navigational technology.

Fleming takes pride in offering owners the latest and greatest in navigational technology.

The ship’s electronics system rivals that of a commercial liner, and it’s obvious the owner wants to stay in touch with the world while cruising. Two sat phone systems and three different cell phone networks are employed as well as three permanently mounted VHF radios and a SSB radio. The cell phones are hardwired to onboard amplifiers for extended range. Redundancy – and more redundancy – seems to be the theme of this electronics package. In the pilothouse, three Nauticomp 19” screens provide a variety of radar, chart and sounder displays, and two separate Furuno radars, one with an 8-foot wide scanner and the other with a 6-foot scanner, attest to the seriousness of this installation. There are at least three independent GPS receivers onboard, not to mention a number of obligatory iPads and laptops with independent receivers.

I joined the owner along with his captain, Lee Stevens, Brain Hovey, Duncan Cowie and a virtual army of technicians for a sea trial along the Southern California coast. This short cruise was all part of the complex commissioning and training process, as both the captain and owner were familiarizing themselves with all the technological magic that Fleming had bestowed on this fine yacht. It was a perfect day in the ocean, and while the techs were scurrying around flipping switches, checking monitors, zooming and panning cameras, chasing down false alarms, measuring and recording data, and searching instruction manuals for answers, I sat out on the aft deck and marveled at the beautiful scene before me. After all, I was on the ultimate Fleming.

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Fleming 78-01 Sea Trial Results

Date: October 22, 2011

Location: Pacific Ocean off Newport Beach, CA

Fuel: Full

Water: 250 Gal.

Black water: Empty

People onboard: 3

Conditions: light wind, flat seas

Sound levels: In pilothouse, all exterior doors and windows closed

Reciprocal courses steered and measured. Speed adjusted for current and wind.

RPM SPEED KTS dBA Fuel GPH (both engines)

600 (idle) 5.2 < 58 2

800 7.5 < 58 4

1000 8.6 < 58 8

1250 10 58 16

1500 11.5 58 30

1750 13 58 46

2000 14.6 62 64

2250 (WOT) 16.1 66 106

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Fleming 78-02 Results

Date: August 11, 2012

Location: Pacific Ocean off Newport Beach, CA

Fuel: 800 gallons

Water: 350 Gal.

Black water: Empty

People onboard: 9

Conditions: light wind, flat seas

Sound levels: In pilothouse, all exterior doors and windows closed

Reciprocal courses steered and measured. Speed adjusted for current and wind.

RPM SPEED KTS dBA Fuel GPH (both engines)

600 (idle) 5.3 < 58 3

800 7.5 < 58 6

1000 9.2 < 58 12

1250 11.2 59 28

1500 12.5 61 48

1750 14.3 61 72

2000 17.9 62 106

2250 (WOT) 22.0 65 160

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