Market differentiators in the burgeoning cruising catamaran market can be difficult to find, yet this is what industry leader Beneteau-Lagoon has achieved with its Excess models, which deliver a livelier and more responsive range.
Maritimo’s fame comes from its highly refined flybridge cruisers which has put it on the global map – the new M55 is the very essence of what this premium Australian builder does.
Flybridge cruisers offer three levels of living space and commanding views from the helm but for the more adventurous there has to be a sturdy hull beneath, something that 60 years of building boats (18 years building Maritimos) has taught founder Bill Barry-Cotter and now his son Tom.
Barry-Cotter’s been crafting luxury motor yachts for decades, so there’s vast experience and a successful methodology that goes into every Maritimo, a fact noticed by the more discerning cruiser keen to tackle the 36,000 nautical miles of Australia’s remote coastline. Given these credentials, it’s no surprise that Australia is home to some of the world’s finest long-range, cruising motor yachts.
The M55 was launched at Australia’s Sanctuary Cove Boat Show in May – another sibling to the five-boat flybridge range of M51, M59, M64 and M70. The 56-foot M55 hits the sweet spot for a manageable two-person motor yacht.
The challenge with towering flybridge cruisers is avoiding making them ungainly and top-heavy for offshore passage-making. The M55 has tackled this challenge well by being beamier than most rivals and by use of a lightweight laminate schedule and patented structure system within the flybridge superstructure to manage weight.
Add to this some stylish aesthetics, including moulded bridge wings (a legacy from past Maritimo flybridge motor yachts), and you have a timeless profile on top of a solid GRP hull that will give no unpleasant surprises as the years pass.
The M55’s interior is all about elegance and free-flowing spaces.
Stepping aboard the M55 is easily done via the optioned ‘adventure deck’ – is a vast, teak swim platform with hydraulic aft section to float a tender and includes a full-beam wet bar. Handily, the entire transom deck hinges open on electric actuators to reveal a 2.8m tender garage with folding 250kg davit option.
Inside is the aft cockpit, completely shaded by the flybridge overhang, so ideal for diners around the couch and swivel table.
Do you watch the TV or admire the views through the massive windows? Views for me.
Beneath here, a teak-clad hatch gives easy access to the engine room. Yet more lounging space is found by walking along the wide side decks, their tall bulwarks guiding me safely to the bow where this first hull sported double sunbeds.
Prolong the time here with an optional Euro Awning. However, a dinghy and davit can also be installed. Beyond, on the bow is an oversized foot-operated Muir windlass/capstan combined with an equally large Bruce anchor. It should handle all anchoring duties comfortably. The other mooring essential, sturdy cleats, are handily placed all around and mid-ships.
This M55 is powered by twin 800hp Volvos that drive her to around 30 knots.
Climbing down into the engine room reveals a spacious area, dominated by the Volvo power plants and Onan 17.5kW generator. If desired there is also space for a gyro such as Seakeeper. The direct-shaft drives within this M55 were powered by upgraded twin Volvo Penta D13-800MHPs (twin Volvo Penta D11-670MHPs are standard). Other options are Volvo Penta D13-1000MHP or Scania Di13-925MHP power units.
The fuel system comprises three moulded GRP tanks designed to lower the vessel’s centre of gravity and further increase stability. Service points on the inboard and outboard sides of the engines are accessible, as are the Racor fuel filters. Electrics and batteries are high above any water incursion points. Traditional tinned wiring is used throughout the M55.
Key features – a deep vee hull, long keel, modest deadrise and flat aft sections for planing – combine to give the M55 good offshore characteristics. Additional directional stability comes from moulded spray rails. Inside, a tall structural GRP grid creates deep bilges in this solid-laminate, hand-laid GRP hull and balsa cored deck.
Maximising outdoor living space is what Maritimo understands, given Australia’s mild year-round climate, but it also knows that interiors have to be functional rather than fussy. So stepping inside the saloon I’m come to the island galley, the floor clad in ultra-hard-wearing Karndean. I confess to not trying this material when wet but it matched the classic gloss Walnut interior well.
Extensively fitted, the galley is a bluewater model thanks to a large upright refrigerator (plus drawers), microwave and separate oven with a three-plate electric hob. All by Miele. Other key white goods are a small dishwasher and, downstairs, the option for a combination or split washer-dryer. Usability is apparent in the galley, with several cooks easily gathering around the island bench and reaching victuals from the custom pantry racks.
A step-up on the woollen carpet gives the ambience of a much larger vessel, thanks to that generous beam and tall windows placed ideally at eye height when resting on the couches or at the fold-out dining table.
Australians being avid cricketers, the saloon can house an entire team and the front located television can be elevated to satiate their viewing. A couple of Ottomans give flexibility and casualness to this relaxed area. Forward is the staircase down to the three cabins, naturally lit by the overhead front saloon window.
Nestled deep and using the entire 17-foot beam, the owner’s suite is, for me, best in class. It’s a huge rectangle with more than 6’4’’ headroom and there aren’t any impinging bulkheads around the king-sized bed.
Elongated hull windows provide light but the two opening portholes could be more generous (or even numerous) to increase air flow. The ensuite bathroom is another spacious and easily cleaned area on the M55, with natural ventilation and a spacious shower cubicle.
Also pleasing is the bow cabin because instead of the usual bed set fore and aft, this one is offset to starboard, giving walking space around it. Overhead are two large opening skylights. With a similar bathroom that has dual doors, this is an excellent suite.
The third cabin, with its bunks and large portlight, completes this excellent accommodation layout. The bunks can be moved together to create a double. Add to this an optional bed in the flybridge for a visiting skipper or noisy teenager, and you have a versatile family boat in the M55.
The M55’s layout, her covered aft deck, and the spacious engine room.
The business end of the M55 is up the wide internal staircase to the flybridge to another very liveable space. At the starboard-set console, the look is fairly basic yet functional, reflecting the use of straight shaft drives with simple fore and aft joystick controls. Inexperienced owners may well option a Twin Disc or Yacht Controller joystick system.
On hull one, the essentials included manual tabs, the hydraulic wheel, and Garmin smarts (glass screen, radar and autopilot) – all ergonomically laid out. In addition, the aft cockpit can house a second control console on port, ideal for docking either side.
Viewed from any angle, she makes a statement – and especially at speed.
The clever use of technology and new materials is another feature of the company. Throughout the three-cabin layout on hull number one, for example, there is an impeccable grain-matched enviro-veneer, hand-sprayed by Maritimo craftspeople. The advantage of this new manmade veneer technology lies in its resistance to UV light. Also, any surface within the boat’s CNC kit-built panels can be replaced with an exact match, should any damage occur. Clever and stylish.
Gold Coast Cruise
The shallow waterways of the Broadwater on the Gold Coast are challenging but much less so when viewed from the towering flybridge of the M55, allowing me to discern the colours of shallows from deep water.
As I accelerated the graduated wheel required only a mere twitch to adjust our course. No discernible feeling of transitioning to planing – it was all one movement from wow-to-go and done without the need for tabs as we reached a comfortable cruising speed of 22 knots.
Beyond, I clicked the tabs a few percent to drop the bow a tad and simply enjoyed the drive. The GPS stopped climbing at 29.7 knots. Sadly, stormy weather prevented us going offshore so I replicated waves by doing doughnuts, which revealed a tight two-boat turning circle and no groans from the M55.
Finally, with lunch on our minds, I slowed and backed us into a cove, using the simple combination of the engines and a touch of the fore and aft thrusters. Predictable and without drama, which indeed sums up this Maritimo.