Henri Amel was one of life’s perfectionists – even in the early 1970s he didn’t see why long-distance cruising should be a damp, uncomfortable or strenuous experience. The result of these convictions, allied to his extensive experience at sea on both yachts and ships resulted in a distinct blueprint for serious long-distance cruising vessels that the French Amel boat yard retains to this day.
All but the earliest designs feature a ketch rig that splits the sails into easily-handled areas. In heavy weather the boats will sail well with only the mizzen and staysail set. Similarly, all have a deep centre cockpit with a sheltered steering position. Amel also eschewed the low toerails found on most yachts in favour of deep bulwarks, plus a solid rail right round the vessel for the ultimate in security when working on deck. Unlike most other manufacturers, there is no external woodwork, which significantly reduces maintenance requirements.
In addition, his boats tended to be equipped to the very highest of standards, with much equipment that would be on most manufacturers’ extras list fitted to every boat before it left the factory. This enabled the firm to maintain a consistency of quality and to quickly learn what did and didn’t work. Installation procedures could then be tweaked to improve reliability and ease of servicing or, if necessary, suppliers could be leaned on to improve their products. The end result is a high level of reliability, allied to a body of knowledge that eased the repair process if anything did fail in a far-flung parts of the world – an important consideration in those pre-internet days.
Amel had already been building boats for a decade by the time this model was launched in 1971, but none of its predecessors enjoyed the sales success of the Kirk. Although lacking the sheltered steering position of later designs and their ketch rig, it embodies what became the yard’s other philosophies.
By today’s standards the hull is narrow, with a short waterline length, which significantly restricts accommodation volume. However, it benefits from a low centre of gravity bulb keel that increases stability – a feature that was not to be common on mainstream cruising yachts for more than another two decades.
The accommodation layout was very traditional for a yacht of this era, with two forecabin berths, separated from the saloon by a large heads compartment. The saloon features two settees that also make excellent sea berths. A large chart table and galley are located next to the companionway, plus a small twin-berth aft cabin with limited headroom.
After promising to personally deliver one of his yachts to a customer and friend based in Tahiti, Amel spent nine months in 1975-76 cruising, during which time he came up with the concept for a new design that would prove to be his company’s most successful to date and set a firm direction for the future: the Maramu 46.
First launched in 1978, this was a serious go-anywhere yacht with a high level of equipment and supremely spacious accommodation by the standards of its era. It also benefits from well thought-out stowage arrangements. The layout features en suite cabins at each end of the boat, making it one that two couples can spend extended periods of time aboard with a reasonable degree of privacy. The aft cabin is particularly large and includes a small settee and a dressing table/desk, and benefits from access via a walk-through from the main saloon.
This is a spacious area, with a huge table capable of sitting the whole crew in comfort, as well as providing two decent sea berths. There’s also a proper navigation station next to the companionway, plus a well-appointed galley that’s configured to be easy to use at sea.
To many this 54-footer is the archetypal Amel and it enjoyed an outstandingly long production run, with hundreds built from 1989 until the Super Maramu 2000 was superseded by the Amel 54 some 17 years later. Throughout this time the design remained very similar in overall style, although there were many detailed changes and it was updated for the new millennium with a revised model dubbed the Super Maramu 2000.
Styling is very similar to that of the earlier Maramu 46, which soon became dated compared to other recent designs, yet neither that nor the high list prices that reflected the level of craftsmanship and standard of equipment appeared to deter buyers. A huge number of Super Maramus were sold to sailors with concrete plans for long-distance sailing and it wasn’t long before examples could be found in numerous distant harbours across the globe.
Compared to the original Maramu, the extra length and beam, produced a significantly larger boat inside. Nevertheless, the standard accommodation layout remained very similar, but allowed for much more space for crew members to move around and a seriously impressive amount of stowage.
Despite the model’s long-running success, by the mid-2000s the traditional hull shape with moderate beam and narrow ends meant it was inevitably eclipsed by a growing number of newer designs. The new Amel 54 that replaced the Super Maramu offered significantly more internal volume, allowing for a much improved owner’s suite, more galley worktop and storage, plus a whole extra twin berth cabin.
Launched at the 2015 Dusseldorf boat show, the Amel 64 is one of two current models and is produced alongside the Amel 55 that was launched in 2010 (boats.com review). Some of the brand’s earlier defining features have been softened a little, reflecting advances in technology, materials and tastes. For example interiors offer the option of light wood veneers and a brighter design. Nevertheless, the original ethos behind the brand’s quiet success is still very much in evidence. The powerful sail plan is still divided into smaller areas by the ketch rig, and is further tamed by electric winches and furling. Below decks there’s a choice of three or four cabin layouts in either classic or modern high quality materials.
For an interesting comparison, check out some other quality blue-water cruising yachts reviewed on boats.com, including: Discovery 55 MkII and the Gunfleet 58.