Rumor had it that the Italians had built a trawler, and not just any Italians, but the respected Azimut-Benetti group, builders of contemporary luxury yachts up to hundreds of feet in length. Can a company known for its megayachts really build anything PassageMaker readers would recognize as a trawler?
When I first saw the Magellano 43, she lay stern-to beside her euro-styled cousins at the Azimut U.S. headquarters in Pompano Beach, Florida, I picked her out immediately, and that’s when I knew my visual vocabulary would need to be refreshed to think of this 43-footer as a trawler.
Her hull was sophisticated and broad shouldered, with a couple of long oval portlights on each side. Yes, like a megayacht. The flat sheer was topped by a black-glass observatory and an overhanging bridge-deck reminiscent of a 1949 Hudson Commodore’s windshield visor. A mirror-finish teak and stainless steel passarelle protruded from her haunches—passarelle being a fancy word for a gangway hung from the stern. (Instead of a pasarelle, optional dinghy davits or lifts can be installed at the swim platform.)
The Magellano 43’s aggressive styling suggested a heady combination of power, strength, fashion and originality. This, I was told, constitutes a new direction for a European craft, let alone a trawler for the American market.
Welcoming us aboard was Giovanni Bogetto, Azimut’s press guy from Avigliana, Italy, and Federico Ferrante, president of Azimut-Benetti USA. Their stylish appearance and Italian accents reinforced the notion that we were not standing on the deck of some Downeast derivative. They introduced the 43 as “the new Italian long-range cruiser.”
Bogetto demonstrated the quiet, smooth operation of the hydraulic pasarelle, a must-have option for med-mooring in European harbors. “We felt there was an opportunity for us, as builders, to enter the trawler market. We spent a great deal of time in market research on existing successful brands, such as Kadey-Krogen Yachts, Grand Banks, Beneteau and others. Most of the trawlers on the market present either a traditional displacement hull or a semi-planing hull, ” Bogetto says. “Our goal was to present the advantages of a real semi-displacement hull, yet offer an enjoyable top speed, combining economical operating costs with comfortable operation in offshore conditions.”
To achieve this, Azimut enlisted the talents of two internationally renowned design firms. Dixon Yacht Design of Southampton, England, was selected for the hull design. The team has been involved in creating or collaborating on both power and sail yachts for more than 25 years. Dixon’s genius was a marriage of the traditional rounded bilges of a trawler with a modern V-bottom to improve sea keeping, handling and efficiency at lower speeds with the ability to top out at over 20 knots.
Bill Dixon calls his company’s creation a ‘dual-mode hull.’ “The hull shape is a hybrid of a planing and a semi-displacement hull, designed to give more efficiency for a given weight in the 16-- to 21-knot range than other hull shapes. The hull features a convex bow shape, which nearly eliminates the slamming of planing boats, without some of the undesirable effects of normal concave bow semi-displacement hulls. This hull shape marries really well with a vertical bow design where the buoyancy of the bow shape aids sea keeping and stability.”
Azimut selected Cor D. Rover, a design studio in Nieuwpoort in the Netherlands, to provide the overall styling and design concept for a line of production trawlers ranging from 40 to 80 feet. As of this writing, three models (the 43, 50 and 76) have been launched. “When you compare the Magellano 43 with a car it would be an exclusive SUV. A go-anywhere yacht. A yacht with excellent sea-keeping abilities but also very luxurious,” says Jan van der Pas of Cor D. Rover.
By combining sturdiness and elegance, a whole new look and style emerged. Another exclusive feature is the option of buying the boat without a flybridge, giving unlimited access to inland waterways. The design won the 2011 “Golden Compass Award,” the highest award for Italian design.
The generous aft cockpit features a leatherette covered L-shape seating area to port with a high-low table mounted firmly to the teak and holly sole. A section of the seat easily moves out of the way to use the passarelle on those boats that have them. Behind a weatherproof hinged door in the starboard bulwark resides a beautifully laid out electrical panel. Besides the circuit breakers, this space houses the master electrical shutoff switches for the engine room.
Access to the engine room is by way of a substantial hatch in the deck of the aft cockpit supported by gas struts when opened. All wiring, plumbing and cable runs are neatly and securely installed in conformance with ISO 8666 standards for marine construction. The twin 355hp Cummins QSB5.9 engines were readily accessible as were all filters and service points. I liked the large LED torch that was removable from its ceiling bracket on the end of a stretch cord to provide light wherever it might be needed.
A molded-in stairway leads from the cockpit to the flybridge. The forward half of the flybridge has a generous settee and table to port, opposite the helm station with a second set of instruments and controls to starboard. The view both forward and aft is unobstructed, making docking a breeze, particularly with the Xenta VMA Plus joystick control system. The aft half of the deck provides additional open space for deck chairs and a built-in fair-weather galley with a sink and refrigerator.
Our test boat had no sun protection over the flybridge. Ideally, the builder would design an optional fiberglass hardtop shade that would cantilever forward from the mast. Or a canvas maker could fabricate a custom bimini that would complement the design of the boat.
Moving from the cockpit to the foredeck is safe with single-level sidedecks port and starboard and stainless steel rails running the length of the boat. The forward cabin top supports built-in sunbathing pads, which can be adjusted to provide a backrest. Operating the windlass and handling docklines are done from a small but secure space at the bow. Deck hardware again reflects the excellence of Italian design, from the mushroom-style bollards to the exquisite folding cleats, which would make a sculptor proud.
As we headed out for a sea trial, Ferrante of Azimut demonstrated how the Xenta VMA Plus joystick control system uses GPS. We were waiting for the opening of the bridge with two other boats at Lighthouse Point. Despite wind, current and prop wash from other vessels, the joystick control system held our position as it calculated all forces acting on our boat and applied thrust from the engines and the bow thruster to compensate.
Exiting the inlet, we found the ocean quite welcoming with a moderate breeze and seas of 2 feet or less with a slight chop. We put the Magellano through her paces, running right up to her 22-knot max. I was impressed by the sound levels taken at the lower helm. At the normal operating range, sound levels increased from 61dBA at idle to 75 at 14.5 knots—quiet enough to allow conversation at normal levels. The sound-absorbing fabric surfaces Azimut put into use were doing a fine job.
Once at the helm I went off in search of wakes from larger craft in the area. I accelerated the boat from idle to 1500 rpm, which seemed like a comfortable displacement cruising speed of 9 knots. At this speed the boat was using a total of 6.5gph. As I eased the synchronized throttle forward, we increased our speed up on plane so smoothly that it was difficult to tell when planing began. I found two additional comfortable cruising speeds: 2100 rpm produced 14.5 knots using 19gph, and 2400 rpm produced 17.5 knots using 24gph. The boat was rock steady at all speeds, even when she was taking the wake of a large motoryacht crossing our bow.
Steering the boat through turns of different radiuses, I was impressed by the responsiveness of the steering system and the minimal amount of heel, even in the tightest of turns. We only took a few significant waves from the stern quarter, but the dual mode hull seemed to obviate the necessity of active stabilizers—at least in the conditions of the day. As far as bluewater, you can see from the performance data that the Magellano 43 is not intended for crossing oceans—she lacks the range—but she does carry enough fuel to cross from New England to Bermuda and then on down to the Caribbean at displacement speeds, a feat that could be accomplished with fair weather forecasts on either side of a layover in Bermuda.
Our last opportunity to observe the 43’s performance came as we reached the Azimut dock on the ICW. An incoming tide was generating a current across the face of the docks that may have been more than 3 knots. The water was roiling around the wood pilings. Ferrante stopped upstream from the slip he was to occupy and made small clicks using the joystick, making precise corrections as he backed the boat into the slip. We never touched a piling until the docklines were being secured.
Webster’s Dictionary defines “postmodern” as “relating to, or being a theory that involves a radical reappraisal of modern assumptions about culture, identity, history.” I think we can be comfortable about adding or trawlers to the definition as it relates to our subject, the Magellano 43.
Is the market ready for such a departure? Time and tide will tell. Many, if not most trawler people have come from a sailing background and are former owners of traditional production boats such as the Catalina 30, the Sabre 36 or the Tartan 41. These people have now transitioned into equally traditional trawlers built by the likes of Monk, Grand Banks, Kadey Krogen and others.
Now consider this: Sailors from the 1990s onward, who have grown up with newer European-style sailboats by Beneteau or Jeanneau, may well find much that is familiar in this Italian trawler. If so, the Magellano 43 and her larger sisters may also find themselves in a transition of their own—from postmodern in 2013 to the next generation’s normal.
For full specs and images, pick up the July/August 2013 issue of PassageMaker.