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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Thu, Jul 28, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff



It is early on a Thursday afternoon and I am in my sailboat approximately fifteen nautical miles off Point Fermi, at the very tip of Palos Verdes peninsula. The engine rumbles at a steady 2800 rpm, and the boat moves at its maximum speed of six knots. We started from Marina Del Rey in the morning and there are still twelve miles to go, all in all a trip of over six hours for an extended weekend in Avalon.

At a time like this, with plenty of open water and a lot of time to ponder things, I fondly recall my, oh too short time at the helm of Sunseeker Portofino 53. When moving about the waterways of Southern California it is nice to have at one's disposal twin Caterpillars with the combined power of fourteen hundred and twenty horses. In the Newport Beach channel, going to the open ocean, a dead idle on a single Cat C12 16 engine already pushed the forty seven thousand pound boat to six knots. Once past the breakwater, I brought the engines to steady 2500 rpms or so, lowered the trim tabs, and the Portofino 53 effortlessly reached its cruising speed of twenty-four knots. With this boat the trip described above would take ninety minutes.

Portofino 53 is built by Sunseeker Yachts, formerly known as Poole Powerboats, a British company based in Poole, England. The company that now employs over 1400 people began manufacturing yachts under the Sunseeker name in the 1980. There are several models in the Sunseeker fleet, ranging from a 140-foot long yacht down to a 34-foot long high performer.

Sunseeker Portofino 53's name belies its design and purpose, i.e., that of a powerful pleasure craft for plenty of lounging in the sun. She is a sleek express cruiser, built on a hull that has evolved from racing. A three-hour trip from the city of Portofino in Italy, after which the boat is named, will take you all the way to San Remo, or even Monte Carlo, if you step on it, covering quite a bit of Italian Riviera. Try the same approach in So. Cal, and you can easily start in Newport Beach, stop by for a lunch in San Diego, and be back home before sundown. From Marina Del Rey you would reach Santa Barbara, or have a quick swim on Santa Cruz Island. Portofino 53 appeals to a buyer whose priorities include attractively styled package, speed, and above all, luxury.

Attractive styling is evident from a long foredeck that provides plenty of open space for sunbathing and a high aerodynamic freeboard, which is made to look much lower by the beautiful blue and white livery. In plain English - the color scheme makes the boat look that much sleeker. The helm is on starboard behind a wrap-around windscreen, framed in stainless steel all the way aft to the radar arch. The helm seat is wide, and provided with a bolster for standing behind the wheel. One wishes that Portofino 53 had a retractable leg support extension when sitting at the helm. The dashboard and the wheel are walnut with all navigational accouterments. The installed VHF radio looks more like an early version of the cellular telephone and fits neatly in the dashboard. I had difficulty adjusting to the fact that the VHF shares speakers with a stereo system, which puts the radio sound at an odd angle. With engines at the cruising speed it was not easy to understand the chatter.

On starboard is a triple-wide companion seat with an acrylic chart cover on the dashboard. This luxuriously appointed cockpit then extends aft into another open area for sunbathing, providing plenty of seating and lounging space. The exterior extends aft behind the helm is a deck reefer/refrigerator to spare passengers and crew extended trips below for the chilled beverages. The wraparound settee to port and the large.

sun pad aft are covered in striped cushions. The cockpit deck is covered in teak as are two gangways on each side leading to a large swim platform which makes boarding easy.

If you wish more shade in the cockpit, or the wind at 35 knots becomes too much to bear, a simple punch on the button will slide the forward bimini-top on stainless-steel rails enclosing the entire cockpit. The after bimini hinges out of the radar arch.

Fifty-three feet is a lot of space for luxury, and this boat has it all. The teak gangway leads to a main saloon covered in the American cherry joinery with a high-gloss finish. The galley (kitchen) on the port (left) side is surprisingly small for the boat of this size. The two-burner cooktop is electrical, under the counter one finds a mini-fridge, and microwave is off to the left. The galley is arranged in-line, and not in traditional U shape that would provide stability for the cook in rough sees preparing meals. This galley best handles ordering in and catering. Moreover, with a top speed of thirty -five knots you will not be spending long time between romantic meals in exotic ports. The stove may not be much, but the drawers are felt-lined and the accessories engraved. As I said, ordering in and catering. There is a day head to port (a toilet on the left hand side of the boat).

The master stateroom is forward. In its center is a raised double berth with stowage underneath. In the boat of this caliber it is understood that a master stateroom will have a flat-screen TV and a DVD player bolted to the bulkhead. The suite has its own head with a beautiful blown-glass basin and exceptionally good-looking faucet. Two doors on each side of the companionway lead to two after cabins, each with two single berths. The one on port has the berths fore-and-aft; in the starboard cabin the berths are perpendicular to each other.

Portofino 53 has a transom garage where one can stow the tender with a rigid bottom. The garage even has a 12-volt socket for the inflator.

In the boat of this class details are what matters. Foredeck is lined with gorgeous stainless-steel rails. The anchor gear is carried on a stainless-steel bow plate with roller.

Our Portofino 53 was powered by two Caterpillar C12 turbocharged diesels of 710 hp each. Maneuvering around the Newport Beach harbor was made substantially easier with a bowthruster and a sterntruster. All power on the boat is electric thereby requiring seven batteries and a 10kW gensets. The Caterpillars can take the Portofino 53 on a 300 nautical mile trip before refueling, and I was told that our short jaunt outside the Newport Harbor required thirty-five gallons per hour of voyage. The needle on the tank, however, seemed to disagree. This twenty-ton beauty, despite its heft, draws only four feet of water, owing to half-tunnels for her direct-drive prop shafts. As we were leaving, a knock on the hand-laid hull revealed exceptionally solid construction. The core of the topsides and deck is balsa, and longitudinal top hat section stringers are tabbed into the transverse bulkheads and floors.

Sailing on Portofino 53 feels like a million dollars. Actually $1.3 million, to be precise. Add a thousand or more per month to have her docked, plus fifteen hundred bucks for a full tank of gas, and insurance. Did I mention taxes? On the other hand, as the saying goes, if you have to ask how much it costs. . . .

- Zoran Segina


With the yacht dockside at the wharf next to the Aston Martin DB9, it's difficult to pick which one to look at first.

When boarding the yacht, I knew this was going to be a fun ride. The Sunseeker is sheer elegance and functionality. The luxury sports cruiser's cockpit (the top deck) features a sliding retractable hard top, which opens up for sun and that cool ocean breeze. The cockpit also comes equipped with everything a "must have" may want, including a built in barbeque grill, refrigerator, full wet bar and top loading ice chest. A nice touch is the spacious aft sunbather and dive platform.

As the captain pulls the yacht from the wharf, we slowly make our way thru the marina going at five knots. With drink in hand, I decide to have a look below the deck.

Climbing down the stairs leads into the main cabin/saloon, which is beautifully decked with walls lined with opening portholes and veneer down to the fitted carpet. In the center is a large dinette table, with cushioned bench seats, position perfectly to watch the large flat screen television. This is getting better with every step. The main cabin/saloon also faces the modern galley, with our own drinks already chilling in the refrigerator. (If the Superbowl were on, I would be in heaven!)

Moving forward, I'm impressed with the master stateroom, this is a room to rival the Four Season's hotel rooms, albeit smaller. This is not to be out done by the master shower and toilet (head). Even though the head is compact, it has everything you need, from a toilet to a beautiful glass bowl sink seated above the counter, and the ultra cool cylindrical style shower compartment.

I'm astonished at all the features. When I exclaim, "This yacht has everything but a washer & dryer," I'm immediately proven wrong when the captain shows me the washer/dryer unit.

Another luxury feature this yacht has is the air conditioning throughout the entire lower deck.

After the tour below deck, I go to the cockpit and chill-out on the aft sunbather. Making our way out of the marina, the captain decides to open it up and let her go. This sports cruiser proves she has the muscle to match her beauty. I decide to get up and hang out with the captain at the helm console. I'm surprised by the full instrumentation and how easy it is to understand it all.

The captain asks me "If I want to drive," which could have become everybody else's worse nightmare. I take over the controls, with cigar in tow, ready to see how far I can take her. And the yacht once again has me surprised at how much raw power she has, and exceptional maneuverability and agility. Cruising at over 30 knots is not a problem in the open sea.

I ask "what will happen if we cut the wheel all the way hard at our current speed?" With that, the captain takes over the wheel and told everybody to hold on. The hard turn was smooth and tight. After performing the radical turn, we head back into the marina, once again at five knots.

We get waves from all the other boaters, as we pull up back to the wharf. There's a bit of sadness, knowing I have to leave this beautiful boat.

By day's end, the Portofino proves to be a choice yacht for total luxury amenities, with power and agility to match.

- Tom Grafman

Just look at the map.

Twisting all over the Southern California area is a network of freeways that curve every which-way like some overgrown rose bush. Endless streets seem to blanket every available stitch of dirt. Many miss the road less-traveled. No speed limits, traffic jams, lane markers, or lanes for that matter, delineate this from the typical transit route. The Thomas Brothers map has it, as well as Mapquest. That big blue mass next to the beaches, known to many as the Pacific Ocean, is the best and maybe last chance to enjoy the open road.

As the Pacific is the so accommodating, why not take advantage of it? And so LA Car opts out of the usual four lanes of smog and congestion of the highways for the clear air and boundless opportunities of California's vast waterway.

We set out in what some might deem the Aston Martin of the water, a Sunseeker yacht. More to the point, a Sunseeker Portofino 53. From the time we board to the time we disembark, we are dazzled. With a sporting shape that is as sexy as it gets, and a functionality that is easy to live with, I think we might have found our perfect off-road vehicle.

The Portofino is not just a pretty face. It's able to get from A to B both quickly and comfortably. The 53 provides goodies such as a retractable sunroof on top. The lower deck offers up two cabins and a master stateroom, as well as a saloon that offers enticing high gloss wood panels and cushy leather seating. Yes, we have all the niceties one can imagine, from flat panel screens throughout, to impressive stonework on countertops. Both of the bathrooms offer revolving shower enclosures, and fitments that would work just as well in a luxury villa.

While the price tag might not be for the faint of heart, if there is a will - there is a way. One of the creative options is a fractional ownership. This allows use of the boat for a portion of the time determined by the total number of owners, and the cost is as the name suggests, just a fraction of the overall price. For those who don't have the ability to use the yacht all the time, or simply like to live big on a budget, this is an attractive solution.

The list of equipment is very long, yet the yacht is more than the sum of its parts. Crafted in England, the Sunseeker brand provides a lifestyle that sets the lucky few apart from the pack. This is for those who have risen to the top of the heap and will settle for nothing less in their life. Why settle if you don't have to?

Fine automobiles are certainly welcome in anyone's collection. Yet I don't know many who can say their machine represents the upper crust in luxury, has a total of 1,420 horsepower and provides plenty of room for their numerous guests. Best of all, owning a Sunseeker tells the world here is someone who is both the captain of his or her own destination, as well as their destiny.

- John Grafman

For more on Sunseeker Yachts go to For more on fractional ownership go to


Length - overall (incl. pulpit): 17.04m, 55'9" Length hull (incl. platform): 16.21m, 53'2" Length - waterline (@ half load): 12.94m, 42'5" Beam (max.): 4.60m, 15'1" Height above waterline (incl. mast): 4.40m, 14'5" Height - overall (excl. props to top of hoop): 5.48m, 18'0" Draft to keel (excl. props): 0.93m, 3'1"Draft (incl. props): 1.23m, 4'0" Displacement (@ half load): 19300kg, 42500lb: Fuel capacity: 2000 liters, 528 US gals Fresh-water capacity: 400 liters, 106 US gals Propulsion: Twin FP props in tunnels Engine options: 2 x CAT C12 16 710PS (522kW), 2 x Volvo D12 16 715PS (526kW) Fuel options: Diesel Generators: Standard - 10kW @ 60Hz (US) Maximum speed up to 34 knots* Cruising speed: 25 knots* Range up to 300 miles

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