Brief Back Story
The Altima 63 is a tried-and-true hull that has been around for a number of years, and is an expanded version of the Altima 55 – a true 55-footer (16.76 m) which didn’t count the bow pulpit and swim platform as most all builders seem to do now. A few feet were added from amidships to the stern of the 55 which was originally drawn by Frank Sciortino, the founder of the Altima Yachts company. Then Sciortino decided to do what most other boat builders were doing and added in the length of the bow pulpit and swim platform and -- viola -- the Altima 63! Our suggestion is to forget the number designation of this and most other boats and dive into the specs, particularly the displacement and beam, which will tell the real story. (Her displacement is about 70,000 lbs./31,818 kgs., dry, with a beam of 17'4"/5.28 m.)
The Altima 63 is a boat that can be easily handled by a couple, yet is large enough to comfortably accommodate three couples in three staterooms for an extended cruise. She can cruise at 18 knots all day long, as well as travel at 8-knot displacement speeds, powered with twin engines under 900 horsepower. That means she is fast enough to keep up with the smaller express cruisers on the annual yacht club cruise. This is important for boaters who will use their boat locally, cruising with friends for part of the season, before taking off on one long voyage alone.
We think the Altima 63 would be a good candidate to take on a long cruise to such places as the Alaskan panhandle, the coast of Labrador, through the Caribbean, down the Dalmatian coast, or through the Greek Islands, or most any other place you want to go – but not transPacific. (She actually does have enough range to go transatlantic via Greenland and Iceland at displacement speeds.) And, as we mentioned, to also go cruising in company around home with friends in smaller, fast vessels -- and not arrive at the watering hole just as everyone else is going to bed.
There are many boats on the market that have an MO similar to the one outlined above and which look remarkably like the Altima 63. The fact is that the raised pilothouse motoryacht design has been popular on the West Coast of America since William Garden, Ed Monk and Art DeFever started drawing them over 40 years ago. So what sets the Altima 63 apart?First, she was designed by Altima Yacht’s team and naval architect and boat builder Charles Chang. They took the raised pilothouse concept and refined it. Second, the boat is built in China by the veteran and respected Taiwanese boat builder Charles Chang (who formerly owned Hi-Star). These two combinations are important to the bloodlines of this particular boat.What doesn't separate her from other good boats in class is her equipment. She is equipped with the same top-tier equipment as the best-built boats in this size range. That is a good thing.
All of this means is that Altima is leveraging the low-cost of Chinese labor, its inexpensive infrastructure, and the undervalued Chinese currency to produce a well-designed boat, managed by a builder, Activa Marine, which is known for quality boat building. Since Altima is the U.S. importer owned by a knowledgeable yachtsman (Frank Sciortino), and his company has very low overhead, the price need not have to cover a lot of corporate economic sprawl. The result is that the consumer can get a lot of boat for the money built by people who know what they are doing and have skin in the game -- and, that is what sets this boat apart, in our opinion.
Accommodations Can Be Customized
The standard Altima 63 comes with three staterooms and two heads, plus a day head off the saloon, but since the yacht is highly customizable, she can have three en suite heads, or two staterooms and an office, or what ever suits. Buyers can’t make the hull wider or move the structural bulkheads, but other than that, the accommodations layout is very much a blank piece of paper.Customization is important when you are spending $2 million for a boat. For that kind of money, you should get exactly the kind of boat you want and need. Then, you won't have to buy another one in a couple of years because the first vessel isn't "quite right."
As mentioned elsewhere, the boat’s beam is 17’4” (5.28 m) and that pays off in extra space in the accommodations below, in the saloon, in the engine room as well, as compared with some other, faster motoryachts that are a foot or so less in width.
The boat is powered by the standard engines, Cat C-18s, rated at about 873-hp. We are told by the folks at Altima that the vessel has a WOT speed of about 21.5 knots and a comfortable best-cruise of about 17 to 18 knots. We haven’t tested the boat, but based on our own experience with boats of this displacement, beam and horsepower, we’d say those numbers are realistic.
We like diesel engines in the 850-hp range because at cruising speeds their fuel consumption -- while astronomical for the layman -- is, in fact, usually economically comfortable for the person who can afford this price boat. For example, at comfortable cruising speed these engines might burn something on the order of 65 - 70 gph.
Performance Estimates And Range
The Altima 63 carries 1200 gal. (4560 L) of fuel so at 18 knots we’d guess that she has a range of about 260 nautical miles with a 10% reserve. That gives an owner/operator 14 hours of running time on a tank of fuel.Crank her back to just over planing speed, say 14.5 knots, and you should be able to easily run two eight-hour days on a load of fuel and cover 285 nautical miles, or so. That is what she is designed to do, and that range will dictate where she can be cruised at planing speeds.For most veteran cruising powerboaters, the ability to cruise between 16 and 20 knots is the sweet spot – that is covering a mile every 3.75 to 3.0 minutes, which is fast enough for most boaters we know.
At 53’ 8” (16.35 m) on the water, her theoretical hull speed is just over 8 knots if we use a factor of 1.1 times the square root of the water line length. At that speed she should be able to cover well over 1,000 nautical miles with a 10% reserve. These speeds and fuel consumption ranges mean that all of the Mediterranean can literally be your cruising oyster by mixing and matching displacement and planning speeds to the geography and spots where fuel is available.
The layout of the Altima 63 on the main deck is like virtually every other pilothouse motoryacht built from 40’ to 80’ (12.12 m to 24.38 m): the saloon is abaft the galley which is abaft the raised pilothouse. But there are three distinct features that make this layout a little different-- First, it has a day head in the saloon. Second, it does not have the U-shaped settee that serves as a saloon and dining area as on most boats of this type; but rather it is all saloon exclusively. Thirdly, in the pilothouse, rather than putting the bench seat behind the helm with a table, Altima has put it along the port side and adjacent to the helm. This is clever. Essentially, Altima has given up a chart table for more room in the saloon.
Comparison With Other Yachts
When we compare the Altima 63 with other motoryachts in class built in the U.S. and in Europe – the popular brand names – we find that the Altima 63 carries a wider beam (by an average of 1’/.30 m) than all put one of five other yachts we compared. Moreover, all but one of the other motoryachts had far less displacement, ranging from 7,000 lb. (3,181 kgs.) less to nearly 20,000-lbs. (9090 kgs.) less. One planing motoryacht weighed 45,000 lb. (20,454 kg.) more. That comparison puts the Altima 63 in a very enviable position, we think. She is lighter than the heavy weight which means the 63 needs only about half the horsepower to cruise at 18 knots. On the other hand it is heavier than the more narrow motoryachts which are built to go 30 knots and are far lighter. The Altima 63 is squarely in the middle of the displacement spectrum -- not at one extreme or the other. Having cruised extensively in a boat with these basic specifications, we can attest to their good sea-going nature.
In the minds of many consumers most boats built in the Far East take a back seat to motoryachts built in Europe because of both exterior and interior styling. While it is true that the most contemporary designs are coming out of Italy, the question begs as to how long these styles will be in fashion. Because the Altima 63's design is more refined, more graceful, and perhaps a bit more delicate than other West Coast raised pilothouse boats, we think she has a bit of the "softer" look of a European boat. Nevertheless she is a classic design. That look has been around for at least 40 years and it will certainly be here 40 years from now.
Marketing -- East is East and…
Most European and Far Eastern boat builders go about marketing their boats in two distinctively different ways. European builders come to the U.S. and find dealers to sell their boats and then – typically -- advertise them with leggy blondes posing all over them. Asian boat builders, on the other hand, use North American importers to advertise and market their boats. Generally, it is the responsibility of the importer to advertise the boat, display them at boat shows, and interface with the customer…and take care of warranty claims.
This arrangement usually means that the builder in Asia pays for the design and tooling. The importer dictates the quality level and specs out the yacht and the builder quotes a price for the finished product. Typically, when the boat is shipped, the Asian builder considers his job complete.This tradition means that the importer of the Far Eastern-built boat is the key person as far as the consumer is concerned. Once the boat is shipped, it and the owner are in the hands of the importer.
Altima is the North American importer of boats built by Activa Marine, which is located outside of Shanghai, in China. Frank Sciortino of Montreal, Canada started Altima in 2001 as an importer of yachts when he found Activa’s manager and part owner, Charles Chang, and bought a boat.
Before Sciortino could take delivery a friend convinced Frank to sell the yacht to him. That's how Sciortino found himself in the boat business. Today, Sciortino outfits Altima the way he thinks is best, and one look at his equipment list told us that he is shooting for the high-end of quality. It also told us that Frank knows what makes a good boat.
Keeping it Simple
Frank also has his own ideas about what makes a good, low-maintenance boat and for that we applaud him, even if we do like teak cap rails and teak decks. They all can be added to Altima as optional equipment. His small importing company has an office in Montreal, Canada and is backed up by his administrative assistant Mona Roshke, who is a ball of fire. He told us recently that he has two men working in Ft. Lauderdale doing customer service and warranty work on boats that have been sold. That's it. This is about as small as an importing company can get. Again, we think that is a good thing. We can tell you from experience that the most important elements of a boat are the design, build strength, quality of the systems installations and joinery -- and the integrity of the people involved. And the fewer people who are involved, the fewer pay checks are larded into the base price of the boat you buy.
Sciortino says that Altima issues a one-year warranty on the boat covering everything except the engines, which are covered by the engine maker. That is a good warranty for this size and type of boat and not many builders of large yachts go far beyond that. To find out about Sciortino's claims process and the satisfaction of his previous customers, we recommend calling some of the 18 people who have bought Altima yachts since 2001.
Since all of his motoryachts are built to order, Frank requires 20% down when the contract is signed, then progress payments as the boat moves along. A payment must be made before the engines are installed, which is typical for these kind of builds in the Far East. Another payment is due when the superstructure is done and yet another when the wood work has been completed. The customer is kept abreast of the work on his boat on a dedicated web page which has pictures of the progress on that particularly boat, we are told. Frank says that when the boat is ready for shipment 75-80% of the boat has been paid for. Typically sea trials are conducted in Asia either by the buyer or his representative, who is often an American surveyor flown over for the task. Once the boat has been accepted and the final payment has been made, the yacht is put aboard a freighter and shipped to the destination port. That takes about a month.
The Buying and Building Process
Generally customers sit down with Frank and go over the boat they want and discuss the interior accommodations, the layouts, equipment lists, engine options and all of the major items to be incorporated into the boat. If a customer does not know what he wants in the boat, then Frank will give him a recommended layout or list of equipment. If the buyer does know what he wants, then he and Frank go over the details.Then drawings are made and Altima quotes a specific price. It is then that a contract is signed and the deposit is made. Build time from the moment the hull is laid up is about 8 months for the 63 we're told. All told, the process for the 63 takes a year or so, if work can be started immediately.
Where Are The Savings?
While the labor rate in China is lower than in other parts of the world, labor is only about 20% of the cost of a boat of this size. But because the labor is cheaper buyers tend to lavish the interior with lots of joinery, driving up the man-hours over what would have been done in the U.S. or Europe. This brings the amount spent on labor somewhat closer to parity to boats built in the West.
Resin and fiberglass are world commodities and cost the same in China as elsewhere. Likewise American-made engines and equipment all have to be bought in the U.S. and shipped to China, making these components actually more expensive than they would be stateside. The same goes for many fabrics and other items that must be purchased in Europe or the in U.S., shipped to China, inventoried, and installed as the boat is being built. So where are the big savings?The savings to be had by buying an Altima yacht have more to do with the cost of building and operating a factory, the cost of operating capital, amortization of tooling, and marketing. All of these expenses add to the cost of every boat no matter where it is built. But it is here where the savings lie in a boat like the Altima 63 which is built in the Far East.Frank says that the Altima 63 at $2,149,000 is about $100,000 cheaper than his competitors in the Far East. Well, that may be some of them. Many others will cost significantly more. To that you can probably add another few hundred thousand dollars for boats built in Europe or the U.S.
Getting More Boat for the Buck
Make it longer:
When building a semi-custom boat there are several ways to get more boat for the money. The first way is to add to the length of the boat in the stern -- simply making the boat longer -- if you can. In the case of the Altima 63, the mold that is used is actually 66' (20.11 m) long so Altima can make a 66' (20.11 m) long boat -- including bow pulpit and stern platform. Because an extra foot in the stern is really only the lazerette there is not much more involved than added fiberglass, resin, and labor. The added charge might be something on the order of $10,000 per foot. If a buyer knows how to use this space it can be a worthwhile exercise.
Make it higher:
A way to add valuable living space to boat of this type is to add an enclosed sky lounge where the flying bridge would be. In this way the helm can be eliminated in the pilothouse and this can be turned into a formal dining area, an office, a captain's cabin, or whatever. Altima will add a sky lounge to the 63 for something on the order of $75,000. Now you have two added spaces, the old pilothouse and the new area abaft the helm in the sky lounge. Typically in a sky lounge people put in a sofa, a couple of chairs and a coffee table, a wet bar and entertainment center. Building a yacht can be a lot of fun. Good luck.
Standard and Optional Features
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|Washdown: Raw Water||Standard|
Boats More Than 30 Feet
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