There’s something especially pleasing about an open boat when it advances beyond 40 feet. At lengths like this, most mainstream builders start elevating the structure with spacious saloons and fattening the foredeck with family cabins. The trouble is that, as the boat wraps itself around all the routine necessities of extended cruising (toilets, kitchens, lower lounges and upper decks), the raw elegance of the hull tends to be lost. And it’s not just about the decline of the external aesthetic, because as a powerboat becomes more complex, your ability to enjoy a sporting drive (or indeed the open sea) is similarly compromised. Plainly then, when you come across a powerboat of almost 50 feet that continues to prioritise open deck entertainment above all else, it tends to feel like quite a rare and gratifying novelty.
The essence of the Open line
When Norwegian builder, Fjord, introduced its first Open model back in 2007, the direction of the new line was very plain. As a 40-footer capable of exceeding 40 knots, this boat offered plenty of pace allied to a clear, uncomplicated modernity of styling that was designed to mark it out in the world of mid-sized cruisers. The equally streamlined 36 Open would later follow but it was the arrival of the new flagship 48 at the Dusseldorf Boat Show (see the First Look Video by Alex Smith on boats.com) in January 2015 that got us all particularly excited.
For a start, of course, it looks magnificent. And when you step on board, it is quickly evident that the increased scale has done nothing to compromise the Open line ethos. Although there are three deck layouts available on the 48 (mainly to cater for those who want extra dining space), the debut boat’s commitment to sunbathing platforms makes good sense on a craft of this nature. It all centres around a huge aft sunpad, butted up against a ten-man dining area amidships. This set-up means that when the tables and seatbacks are lowered, the sun lounger can expand to encompass around half of the entire deck area aft of the helm.
The other half, meanwhile, is equally dedicated to the needs of alfresco fun, with a comprehensive open-air galley directly aft of the lavish three-man helm, plus a hard top to offer a little shade and a network of broad teak walkways to enable free and uninhibited movement between each section. There is an additional sunbathing space ahead of the helm on the long, tapering coachroof, plus a three-man bench seat recessed into the front of that structure. But whichever layout you favour, the big deck and “semi-custom” approach of the party-ready 48 means that if you have more specific ideas than those encompassed by the standard model, design tweaks can be made.
Fjord style and design
However, if the purpose of this boat is clearly defined, then the style is every bit as well developed. In fact, with its elevated, straight-edged gunwales, its aggressive bow taper and its near vertical stem (not to mention its broad teak-lined deck and wide-open transom), the 48 has the look of the iconic Wally Tender about it. Given that the designer, Patrick Banfield, was closely involved in the Wally’s development, that crossover in form and concept is not altogether surprising, but neither is it unwelcome. On the contrary, the absence of complication in line, feature or application, makes this boat feel almost cleansing to look at and to use.
Even so, with its tapering bow, its flat main deck and its optional rig of triple inboard engines, you expect the cabins to be extremely ordinary, but when you step down below there are some surprises in store. True, the guest twin is quite limited but the main double suite enjoys a generosity of headroom and a sense of scale that is beautifully amplified by the tight, gleaming cleanliness of the materials. There is no claustrophobic carpeting in here; no superfluous decor, fake woods, frilly curtains or plastic puffery. Just a continuation of the upper deck theme, with a very pared back provision of hard white panels, dark, semi-transparent doors, low-profile teak linings, bright metal blinds and sparkling LED spotlights. In fact, the bulkheads in this peculiarly open-plan space feel more like windows or mirrors than partitions – and in tandem with the design, this clever use of materials gives the new 48 a starkly modern and wholly positive feel.
Of course, the unusual nature of this boat (essentially a fast, open, 50-footer with a couple of cabins) makes it quite difficult to place it in a directly relevant market context - but if you were to put it up against a boat like the 57-foot SACS Strider (which, although a RIB, is conceived along similar lines) the below decks spaces here are not just bigger, but notably slicker, brighter and more attractive.
Fjord might like to describe the 48 as a party platform for superyacht owners looking to downsize but for me, it’s a very gratifying study in the upsizing of simple open boating pleasures. Alfresco fun has been put squarely at the heart of the design process, and while the scale, exclusivity and price of those pleasures may have been ramped up, they remain identical in nature to the joys that compelled most of us to go powerboating in the first place. Throw clarity of design, fuss-free minimalism of fit-out and a couple of very attractive cabins into the mix and the 48 Open is plainly a winner. Of course, for those of us who go boating in Britain, none of this life-affirming chitchat changes anything. On the contrary, this engaging novelty of a boat will remain nothing more than a pleasant and rather exotic curiosity. But if your lifestyle buys you regular access to the Med and you have the finances to support it, Fjord’s flagship has the power to paint a very big smile on your face.
Specifications: Fjord 48 Open review
Dry Weight: 13,400kg
Total Power: 957KW
Engines: twin Volvo Penta IPS600 435hp
Optional engines: triple IPS600 435hp
Maximum Speed: 41 knots
Fresh water capacity: 800 litres
Fuel capacity: 2,000 litres
For more interesting comparison boat reviews, see: Windy 39 Camira review or Riva 88 Florida review.