Aussie input boosts this imported long-range cruiser’s local appeal.?
It was one of those days, about 5 knots of wind blowing, the sea was calm and the air temperature was around 24 degrees, another perfect Queensland day. And it was a perfect day to drive the latest Alaska to arrive in Australia, the 54 Sedan. This vessel is a classic long-distance cruiser and the owner plans to do just that with his new boat.
Since Leigh-Smith started importing Alaska cruisers about four years ago, the brand has been a success for the Gold Coast City Marina brokerage. Leigh-Smith has injected a lot of its own ideas into the Alaskas, which has greatly improved the fit-out. So much so that each one is virtually custom-built to suit Australian conditions and they just get better. As Dean Leigh-Smith says it’s a work in progress.
The fit-out has lifted the 54 Sedan into the same league as boats costing a lot more. Starting with the boarding platform with rails to mount the barbecue, the Euro-style transom and the lounge with a big table for al fresco dining under the cabin top extension, the 54 Sedan has a lot to offer.
The hardtop continues over the walkways either side of the cabin and a wet bar with a sink and a deep freeze are placed either side of the bifold, mirror-finished, stainless steel cabin doors. The sides of the cabin are moulded to suit a human body, so there is plenty of room to walk forward without having to turn sideways. This moulding has also added another 15cm to the interior cabin size.
And while we are on the walkway, the diesel filler is amidships and has been designed so that any overflow is contained and flows back into the 4800lt tank. The transom door consists of a couple of stainless steel gates and there’s access to mount a yacht-style emergency steering tiller through an access port in the cockpit floor.
But it’s when you step through the cabin doors into the main saloon that the Leigh-Smith influence becomes evident. The main living area and the galley are all on the one level with the helm station raised slightly.
With the doors open there is nothing to impede the view from the cockpit right through to the windscreen. The rich cherrywood and burl finish in the saloon and around the helm station is not overdone and with the boxed curtains and Roman blinds it sets the saloon off nicely.
All of the soft furnishing in the saloon and the accommodation has been done by Identity a specialist boat interior decorating company at the Gold Coast City Marina. In most cases the wife or partner of a new owner sits down with the ladies from Identity and they will design a complete package to suit the boat.
The two lounges in the saloon have been finished in more durable macro-suede.
A finishing touch is the inlaid highlight in the table and the inlaid feature set into the roof lining of the saloon. Where a draw or locker can be fitted there is one there’s no waste space on this boat.
The L-shaped galley is up front opposite the helm station and is neat and clean with Corian benchtops and a cooktop. The fridge freezer is under the benchtop and there are draws and lockers everywhere; all with double acting push catches. Opposite, behind the helm seat, is a bar fridge and small bar. Another nice touch is the standard 10-place dinner setting.
At the helm
The helm station is business-like, with a big yacht-style, wood-rimmed wheel. There’s full headroom and the driver can see through the plate-glass, three-panel screen without having to bend down or having to drive sitting down.
The standard sea door opens onto the walkway for access to the bow and the entire walkway and the cabin top on the bow have been finished in non-skid. Up front is another innovation. The mounting for the anchor winch is moulded, so that mud doesn’t wash all over the deck when the anchor is pulled up. The teak cappings on the gunwales are gone as well. Dean Leigh-Smith says that the boat has been built to enjoy, not for spending time maintaining. And as anyone who has a boat with teak decks or rails knows, it looks good but needs constant attention.
As I turned around from the bow, I noticed a small ladder stowed on the cabin top. “What a strange place to put a ladder,” I thought. Then I saw what it was for. It clips to the front of the windscreen for access to the cabin top and the 350kg dinghy crane manufactured at GCCM by Southern Stainless.
Back inside and down the stairs to the accommodation. The first door on the left opens into a very small cabin that is just big enough to take a single bunk. It can be used for sleeping or leave the bunk out and it becomes a big storage area. Forward of it is the washer/dryer hidden in yet another locker with storage for linen and towels above it, and forward of that again is a hanging locker.
The master cabin is fully panelled with cherrywood and burl highlights. It has a walk-around double bunk with an Australian-made latex mattress and more storage. The mood lighting around the base of the beds adds to the warm ambience in the cabin. Up front is the guest cabin also fully panelled; the guests get the mood lighting around the base of the bed but they don’t get the burl highlights. There are two heads the owner’s ensuite and a day head.
Performance & handling
The Alaska 54 Sedan is powered by two Cummins QSC, 8.3lt, 540hp diesels housed in an engine room that is so big they looked small. The fuel tank is mounted forward of the engines, almost in the centre of the vessel with two freshwater wing tanks to balance the boat. Between the tanks and the engines are moulded pods for stabilisers if an owner wants to fit them at a later date.
Outside, off Surfers Paradise, the Alaska felt strong. She’s a heavy boat but she still cruised along easily at 17.4 knots and 2300rpm using 160lt of fuel per hour total. On a long cruise 1700rpm will see a speed through the water of around 10 knots and a surprising fuel usage of only 80lt per hour and that’s a serious cruising range.
At a full throttle of 2550rpm the speed over the ground was 20.9 knots.
The boat runs quietly, due to the insulation in the engine room and the underwater exhaust system. In the cabin with the back doors and the side helm door open, the sound level meter recorded a low 77.3dBA. Close the doors and it is even quieter just 74.7dBA. And that would be very easy to live with on a long cruise.
The Alaska 54 Sedan is designed for comfortable, long distance cruising and she does it well. We were tempted to turn left at the Seaway and head up the coast.