Issue: June 2003
Over the course of the next few weeks, as the boat show circuit kicks in, the team at Modern Boating will spend a lot of time in some of the best boats in the world. The fact that we love ’em all goes without saying. And we make no bones about enjoying our job. But having said that, it’s still rare we get a bout of I want one of these, like the bout we got from the Alaska 42. The Alaska 42 has classic style, was built using contemporary materials and fitted out with modern equipment. But it was after we’d inspected the Alaska 42 thoroughly ‘ spending time in the cabins, poked around the engine room and opened the service hatches ‘ we admitted to ourselves we had the ‘I want one of these’ real bad.
The Alaska 42 is an Italian design built by the Shanghai Double Happiness Yacht Company, needless to say in China, and imported into this country by Leigh-Smith Cruiser Sales on the Gold Coast. Italian design means it’s a boat suited to our antipodean climate, because, as Editor Macrae found when he visited last year, parts of Italy are remarkably similar to parts of OZ, climate wise anyway. In fact, the Alaska 42 is a suitable cruiser for all Aussie conditions. Cool temperate to steamy tropical is a big ask, but by opening and closing the hatches and doors, or adjusting the climate control on the aircon, frying in the tropical heat or freezing your buns off in Tassie, isn’t really a big issue.
Then there’s the boat’s engineering. Upon opening the engine room hatch and poking your head in the first thing you notice is the size of the inspection ports bolted to the freshwater tanks. Go into the engine room and you can see it was put together by an engineer. And no, he wasn’t a dwarf, there’s room plentry of room for routine maintenance, which is not always the case with Asian boats. Build quality continues in the same practical vein and it’s backed by the Alaska 42 having obtained the highest classification, a ‘CE Examination Certificate’ from the international shipping registry the RINA Society.
This quality of build is also back up by the quality of service offered by the Australian importers Leigh-Smith Cruiser Sales, based at the new Gold Coast City Marina at the northern end of the Gold Coast. The Alaska 42, yes 42 does stands for 42 feet, or 12.7m, comes in two and three stateroom versions. The test boat had three, a double-berth master stateroom in the bow, twin singles in the guest stateroom portside and a single-berth smaller cabin to starboard. Each layout has two heads, one being an en suite for the master stateroom. To decide on the layout for you involves accessing individual needs, or more correctly your family and friends situation.
Basically, the two stateroom Alaska 42 gains space in the heads and to a lesser extent, space in the staterooms themselves. The three-stateroom version we looked at was not cramped, but the third room to starboard was smaller. This boat is so well suited to holiday style cruising. But if any owner wanted to make longer coastal voyages, the starboard stateroom could be easily converted into a storeroom, probably including the clothes washer/dryer, a necessity when spending long periods onboard. All of the cabins and both heads are well lit by natural light and well ventilated even without relying on the air-conditioning thanks to big hatches and portholes. All the hatches have timber blinds to keep sunlight out if desired and insect screens. Only the en suite head has a separate shower stall. Upstairs in the saloon the look is all timber, but the test boat did have its beautifully polished timber floor covered with carpet, because this boat’s destined for the boat-show circuit. The helm station is located at the front of the saloon to starboard and there was a three-seater forward facing seat to port. Surprisingly, for some reason the designers hadn’t given the helm seat a backrest. Next to the helm and passenger seats was a big sliding door.
These are a tradition in trawler-style cruisers like this one and are an arrangement that has considerable merit for ventilation and for vision from the helm when docking. Not that vision from the helm was any problem, the huge three-panel windscreen, each panel with an individual wiper and washer and similarly huge side windows make sure of that. The side windows in the saloon were fitted with timber-slat roller blinds, which enhanced the warm timber ambience of this living area. These slats were set into timber uprights on each side to stop them rattling about.
Tiny Kobelt electronic shift and throttle controls look innocuous beside a large diameter timber rimmed stainless helm set vertically. Engine monitoring and Raymarine Tridata instrumentation took up all the available space on the instrument panel, but there was another empty panel above the main dash for other electronic displays and instrumentation. Manual control-override was standard on this boat and if things start going wrong, there’s a special port set into the aft deck where by disconnecting the hydraulic steering ram a manual tiller can be quickly brought into play. A Raymarine Tridata ST60 comes standard with the Alaska 42, as does a Side Power bow thruster, a Maxwell 2200 power anchor winch with remote switching and a stainless steel anchor.
There’s even a freshwater wash down to the clean the ground tackle as it comes aboard. With a price tag of around $640,000, Leigh-Smith Cruiser Sales have worked up this boat to include the Marine Air reverse-cycle air conditioning, a 7kw Westerbeke genset and the entertainment system. The only exception is the navigational electronics. The galley is sited along the portside of the main saloon with the dinette on the starboard side. There’s a twin ring electric cook top and a microwave. The bench top has plenty of room for food preparation, the single sink is adequately sized with a single lever hot/cold water tap and there are cupboards and drawers aplenty.
We liked the dinette table, which can be folded to reduce its size, or fully extended for plenty of table space while eating, but fell in love with the triple opening doors out onto the aft deck. Virtually the entire aft end of the cabin opens onto this back deck when all the doors are open. There is a locker on each side of the cabin doors. The port locker contained a chest-type icebox, which can be easily refrigerated if the owner so desires. The starboard locker on the test boat was for storage, but we understand that future Alaska 42s will have an outside sink and mixer tap fitted here. A freshwater shower unit stows away into the centre of the transom.
Teak decking covers the aft cockpit floor and the 900mm wide swim platform. A bimini shade top extending from the cabin roof sheltered the aft deck. More teak decking has been used along each side of the main cabin up to the foredeck. A high stainless steel bowrail, with a pair of fender holders on each side, adds security for the journey to the foredeck. All exterior fittings including the hatches and portholes, mooring bollards and the neat fairleads through the boat’s hull beside each of them, are all top quality stainless steel. Another small addition made by Leigh-Smiths for Australian conditions was a locker on the bow to stow mooring ropes in.
Back at the Gold Coast City Marina, the team very reluctantly disembarked from the Alaska 42 after running it down through southern Moreton Bay for a too brief foray off Main Beach and Surfers Paradise. The test Alaska 42 was fitted with a pair of 330hp Cummins diesels. These are a $30,000 upgrade from 220hp Cummins motors and we suggest any potential Alaska owner should seriously consider them. The bigger motors add a full 10 knots to the boat’s top speed, but there’s more to more power than just that. Because they don’t have to work anywhere near as hard, the bigger motors can be expected to cost less to service in the long term.
Unfortunately, we weren’t in a position to access comparable fuel consumption data. Nevertheless, we recorded a top speed of more than 24 knots with the 330hp motors, while the factory claimed 16 knot top speed for a pair of 220hp motors, indicates that the smaller motors would be running at close to wide open throttle, while the larger donks would be literally purring at cruising speeds around 12-14 knots. Other options are a single 220hp Cummins or a single 330hp motor. Factory figures for single motor installations are 10 knots for a single 220hp motor and 16 knots for a single 300hp motor.