BOAT REVIEW Elite 15.8m Sport Sedan Bliss

June 2024 Launch Reviews
Words by John Eichelsheim. Photography by Bryce Taylor.
Build Quality
MODEL Elite 15.8m Sport Sedan
DESIGNER Bill Upfold/Elite Marine Design Ltd
BUILDER Bluefix Boatworks
LOA 15.8M
ENGINE 2 x Cummins QSB 480hp
Maximum Speed 30 knots
Cruise Speed 20 knots
ACCOMMODATION Up to 8 in three cabins, plus the saloon
  • Superb build quality
  • Good performance from modest horsepower
  • Custom features make the difference
  • Open plan layout great for entertaining
  • Laid out for all seasons boating

Sandspit Marina is home to Bliss, a strikingly handsome 15.8m Elite sedan-style luxury motor yacht built to the highest standards by Bluefix Boatworks in Opua, Bay of Islands.

The pride and joy of a multi-generational family, Bliss resides on a pier that’s home to a couple of other Elite motor launches – Sandspit Marina is a hot-spot for the Bill Upfold-designed vessels, with several calling this small marina home.
Bliss featured at the Auckland Boat Show in March, where this stylish motor yacht was much admired. And for good reason – this is an exceptional vessel with a character that perfectly reflects the needs and desires of her owners, a father, son, and their respective partners, who also share a business together.


For her owners, Bliss is the culmination of years of discussion, reading, collecting magazine articles and online research. The family has an extensive boating background and had owned smaller boats together, so this collaboration was an obvious next step. After
several large trailer boats, they were after something bigger, but also easier to manage for the older half of the syndicate, who wanted walk-on, walk-off boating handy to their home.

Like most owners, they looked at several options, including production models, but with other family members having owned a Bill Upfold-designed launch, they were familiar with Elite motor yachts and found themselves always drawn back to their quality and style. An Elite AT43 was considered, then a 14m, but eventually they decided on Bliss, which at 15.8m overall, makes best use of their 16m berth.
While all the partners were intimately involved in the project, it was the father and son who drove it, working closely with designer Bill Upfold and the team at Bluefix Boatworks, particularly Tim Hight, in charge of the build.

“The owners were a dream to work with,” said Upfold. “They knew exactly what they wanted, presenting me with a comprehensive brief that included a 50-plus-page Powerpoint presentation! It made my job easy.”
What they wanted was a motor yacht that could function as a floating beach house – an apartment on the water they could escape to at any time. In addition, it had to be easy to operate and easy to live with. Indeed, liveability was a key requirement, along with sociability.

Bliss has both in spades. The layout, explained Upfold, is quite different from other boats he’s designed. It’s based on the clients’ vision with an emphasis on open spaces and natural light. Huge stacking glass doors connect the saloon and galley with the large cockpit, the two zones merging into one for effortless entertaining. Even the galley blurs the distinction between inside and outside, the Amorini solid surface counter-top extending into the cockpit (a clever infill section drops in where the door closes) with a pull-out Weber BBQ underneath.

The galley is comprehensively equipped with domestic appliances and makes clever use of space under the benches and elsewhere – the owners leveraged their housing industry business knowledge and contacts to source many of the boat’s interior elements. Their experience is also reflected in styling – no overhead cupboards or lockers to detract from the saloon’s spacious feel and no mullions on the side windows. By raising the seating area in the saloon, Upfold has provided excellent sightlines through the unobstructed glass to the outside, as well as ample headroom in the ensuite bathroom below decks.

The boat is light-filled below decks as well, thanks to a large open atrium at the foot of the companionway stairs, side windows in the cabins, and decor that leans towards lightness and freshness. The vessel is configured with two large double cabins, so that both generations can enjoy the boat all together, as single couples, or with guests. Along with the owners’ cabins, there’s also guest accommodation in a cleverly realised bunkroom off the atrium, and in the saloon if required.

The atrium’s overflow guest cabin has bi-folding doors for privacy, left open during the day, making the space feel bigger. Bunks comprise a single berth below and an extra-wide fold-away berth above. During the day, the top bunk folds down, converting the bunk into a couch, the atrium providing another cosy seating area with the doors open. There’s a day head with separate shower opposite, more often used as an ensuite for the large cabin in the bow.
Taken together with the yacht’s tasteful furnishings and understated decorative touches, the boat’s interior gives the impression it belongs in a much larger vessel, especially with the rear doors open.

And the doors are open a lot: the cockpit can be completely enclosed, two air-conditioning units (plus an electric heater for the cockpit) ensure all seasons’ comfort, and both the cockpit and saloon tables are expandable for sociable dining – the saloon table converts from a coffee table to a dining table that easily seats six. On the day the boat was launched at Opua, 29 guests found seats onboard.
Bliss regularly functions as an office too, with Starlink ensuring connectivity anywhere, and unrestricted access to streaming services. The saloon has a large screen TV that pops up from the partition between the galley and the saloon. It rotates too, so it’s visible from the cockpit lounge, and it can display fish finder and navigation data from one of the Simrad MFDs – useful when fishing from the boarding platform.

There are lots of practical details instigated by the owners, and some larger design elements too. Little things like the handy hanging baskets in the underfloor cockpit locker for shoes and other items you want out of the way, but still at hand, and the comprehensive service room aft, accessed via a door from the boarding platform. It’s big enough for all manner of tools, fishing tackle (good quality outfits in horizontal rod racks), bait tables (x2), cleaning equipment, the water maker, a washing machine and much more.
There’s a dinghy garage as well, suitable for an inflatable or RIB up to 3.3m long. With its opening almost at water level, an electric door, and a simple block and tackle system with a jammer, launching and retrieving the dinghy is hassle-free.
Practicality extends to the boat’s engineering. Twin 480hp Cummins diesels on shafts are housed in a well-lit, spacious engine/machinery room amidships, accessed through the owner’s cabin amidships. The Cummins give Bliss a sprint speed of 30 knots and a comfortable cruise speed around 20-22 knots. Fuel burn is 93 litres per hour at 19 knots, both engines total, while at 8 knots the burn is a miserly 8lph total. At cruise speed, Great Barrier Island is only 1.5 hours from Sandspit.

Although there’s a perception custom boats mean long wait times until delivery, that was certainly not the case with Bliss. From pushing the go button to launching the boat took just 14 months – 18 months in total, including some preliminary work and delays with finishing the interior. That’s comparable to the wait time for a production motor yacht from many of the large international builders, but with much less scope for adding personal touches or making changes along the way.

During the build, there was plenty of valuable input from Bluefix, with the vessel featuring many innovations and clever solutions they came up with at the yard. One of the beauties of a custom build is the ability to personalise the boat, something these partners have done superbly, but which is impossible with a production model, at least to the same degree.
Although it was the first time Upfold had worked with Bluefix Boatworks, both he and Bliss’s owners were full of praise for the whole crew, from apprentices to office staff.
“They were great to work with, nothing was too hard, and the workmanship is second to none.” Stepping aboard Bliss, the synergy of good design, fruitful collaboration, and exceptional workmanship is evident wherever you look.
It’s no wonder the happy owners are completely in love with their new Elite.


Elite 15.8m Sport Sedan

The pride and joy of a multi-generational family, Bliss resides on a pier that’s home to a couple of other Elite motor launches – Sandspit Marina is a hot-spot for the Bill Upfold-designed vessels, with several calling this small marina home.


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