Author: BoatingWorld Staff
No bells and whistles, or even whiz-bang gadgetry, are required on the new SonShip 68. It doesn’t need them. This remarkably well-built boat puts practicality at the fore and encases it in soft, modern styling. Plenty of curves and sweet lines hide the fact that West Bay’s new SonShip 68 is an accomplished, sturdy motor cruiser. Based on West Bay’s popular 58 series and the company’s much bigger 78, this no-nonsense hybrid version has the same full 20 foot beam of the bigger boat, giving it a copious arrangement; with all the easy maneuverability and intimacy of the smaller vessel. West Bay SonShip has been producing boats specifically for the Pacific Northwest for over 30 years. The company is owned by the Vermeulen family, whose traditional Dutch heritage is apparent. The focus at West Bay has always been to increase the quality and value of the boats. The new 68-footers are no exception. You Asked For It Seeing a need for providing a step up from the 58 for many of their loyal West Bay customers, Seattle-based brokers Randy and Maureen Cowley of Venwest Yachts made the commitment to build their first 68 SonShip. They called the vessel Epiphany, and it was to be our test boat. As a semi-custom yacht, many of the features on Epiphany are optional. The yard offers a basic fixed price for the tunneled hull, superstructure, bulkheads and general systems. For the most part, the interior and electronics are owner options. The 68 can be entered from a wide swim step that offers access not just to the aft deck via curved stairways, but also to the crew quarters and the engine room. The SonShip 68 has the great advantage of having separate crew’s quarters for an extra pair of hands during long passages. Safety at sea is key, and elements such as the heavy Freeman doors, watertight bulkheads, heavy-duty stainless steel railings and pop-up cleats are evident throughout. There are also more subtle but equally thoughtful items, such as the escape hatch from the engine room concealed in the aft deck seating; removable port covers in stateroom heads; or the fold-away wing station on the aft deck (with an option for two), for docking. Good-sized, skid-resistant walk-around decks lead to the pulpit far forward. A 4 inch trough around the windlass keeps mud from the decks, and together with the saltwater and freshwater washdown systems forward, maintenance is low. Windlass controls are accessible either at the bow pulpit or in the pilothouse. Going Inside One of the most appealing things about this boat is the ample 20 foot beam, which allows for generous accommodations. The interior is primarily created in-house by West Bay, but Maureen Cowley has worked closely with the company over the years, to help develop a standard interior layout and dÃ©cor that is both practical and elegant. There are some particularly nice design features throughout the 68, such as rounded corners, ceiling moldings that disguise air outlets, cedar-lined hanging lockers, and curved Corian surfaces. Oak is the suggested wood for the interior, but optional American cherry burl and veneers were used on Epiphany, giving it a warm, cheerful atmosphere. From the comfortable saloon to the circular seating in the pilothouse, the 68’s interior is extremely livable, with an efficient use of space. The vessel has its high-tech features, too, such as the plasma screen television rising from a saloon cabinet at the push of a button. The open galley is located a few steps up from the saloon and to port. A wide counter provides a spacious work surface behind the pilothouse seating — and because it has no support pillars and is open to the saloon. The bridge offers a 360-degree view. Everyone loves to be with the captain on the bridge. Rather than push people down into the saloon and other reception areas, West Bay has embraced this fact and made the pilothouse the pivotal point of the 68. The command bridge structure has soft wide radiuses with excellent viewing from the high helm chairs and raised seating area. When this area’s table is expanded, you can swing the helm chairs around for dining. First and foremost though, this is a functional vessel, and the helm console accommodates the latest navigation electronics. Practicality is further apparent in the convenient layout of the adjacent electrical breakers and AC/DC panels. The flybridge repeats all the pilothouse equipment on its main console. With a fixed wet bar and barbecue to starboard, it is a great place for entertaining. Forward is a broad staircase leading to the lower deck staterooms. Sleeping accommodations are provided in a full-width aft master stateroom and a forward VIP stateroom, both with en suite heads; plus a twin-bunk stateroom that uses a separate day head. Optional accessories in Epiphany’s heads include the heated towel bars, and a bidet attachment on the heads, introduced by Headhunter last year. Excellent locker space, standard on all SonShips, includes a suitcase locker below the berths. Full laundry facilities are also standard. Easy Access Access to all systems has been made as easy as possible throughout. The stabilizers are accessible from the engine room, where a sensible layout allows the walk-around capacity of a considerably larger yacht. The well-ventilated engine room has been configured for a number of engines — including, as here, the rubber-mounted twin 700 hp Detroit Diesel/MTU 8V2000 Series powerplants. Upgraded Northern Lights 20 kW generators are provided, along with a series of battery banks located in the utility area off the engine room. A separate compartment encloses heavy-duty electrical panels. The 8 inch bulkheads and floating ceiling provide enough noise insulation that the decibel reading in the saloon is in the low 60s. It was certainly quiet enough to allow us to talk in conversational tones in the engine room while we were under way. Put to the Test The day we tested the boat, Bas Vermeulen, the company’s vice president of design/operations, was our pilot. We boarded the 68 at Venwest’s dock on Seattle’s Lake Union, and Vermeulen took us into the calm waters of Lake Washington for testing. It took a while to come up to speed, but once the boat’s deep-V hull rose to the average 16 degrees, it became quick and responsive, and then continued to run quietly and determinedly. Exuding stability, Epiphany proved to be as solid as it looked. The boat displaces 100 tons, but it was quite suitable for two people to handle easily — particularly when equipped with the dual power steering pumps and roll stabilizers. The boat’s design enabled it to bank like a speedboat, throwing nice tight turns, but its weight showed that it could cut through wakes with very little disturbance to passengers. In cruising at various rpm, we found minute differences in the speed going from salt water to fresh water, until we remembered that we were running with a less than half-load; whereas the boat was fully loaded during sea trials. Either way, our testing, taking this weight differential into consideration, resembled official sea trial numbers. We cruised at 17 knots, at 1,930 rpm, but, at this rate, the 68 would use at least 50 gallons per hour. Obviously, the best and most economical range is at a lower speed. At 9 knots, we consumed a more economical 8 gallons per hour â “ with range of 1,600 nautical miles. At wide open throttle, we effortlessly reached a top speed of 23 knots, at 2,330 rpm. With seaworthiness and seagoing capability only arrived at from years of building experience, this new SonShip also offers formidable luxury and comfort. It would make a very appealing family coastal cruiser.