A Loyal Fol­low­ing

AN OVERNIGHT CRUISE TO THE KEYS ON THE NEP­TUNUS 650 RE­VEALS WHY OWN­ERS RE­TURN TO THE BRAND AGAIN AND AGAIN.

Power & Motor Yacht - - IN THIS ISSUE - BY LOUISA BECK­ETT

An overnight cruise to the Keys on the Nep­tunus 650 re­veals why this boat is a fa­vorite among owner-op­er­a­tors.

When I en­tered the Nep­tunus 650 Ex­press named Cap­tain High

way in her Marco Is­land, Florida, ma­rina at the start of our trip to de­liver the yacht to the 2018 Mi­ami Yacht Show, I stopped to ad­mire the color­ful build­ings, palm trees and sparkling wa­ter through her sweep­ing salon win­dows, wind­shield and aft slid­ing glass doors. Th­ese are the views that greet her owner dur­ing the winter months when he uses the yacht as his Florida “snow­bird” home. Then, each spring, he drives Cap­tain High­way back to his sum­mer home on the At­lantic se­aboard.

“Ninety-five per­cent of Nep­tunus boat own­ers are owner/op­er­a­tors,” said Nep­tunus Yachts Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Jan Willem De Jong. A na­tive of the Nether­lands, De Jong drew on the Dutch yacht­build­ing tra­di­tion to found Nep­tunus Yachts in Ni­a­gra-on-theLake, On­tario, Canada, in 1989. In 1991, the com­pany moved to St. Catharine’s, On­tario, a con­ve­nient 45-minute drive from the air­port in Buf­falo, New York. Since then, Nep­tunus has changed hands a cou­ple of times, but De Jong and his team, many of whom have more than two decades of ex­pe­ri­ence un­der their belts, are there to pro­vide con­ti­nu­ity for the brand.

To­day, Nep­tunus is fo­cused on build­ing yachts in a fairly nar­row size range, with just three mod­els from 55 to 72 feet in length, each of which is of­fered in en­closed ex­press and open fly­bridge ver­sions. Nev­er­the­less, about 75 per­cent of the own­ers who buy Nep­tunus Yachts each year are re­peat cus­tomers—in­clud­ing Cap­tain High­way’s owner, who is on his sev­enth boat and his third Nep­tunus.

“We have a very loyal fol­low­ing,” said De Jong, who ex­plained that it’s not un­com­mon for a Nep­tunus owner to build a new boat that is the same model as his or her pre­vi­ous one, in or­der to make a few tweaks, such as sub­sti­tut­ing an of­fice for a third head. “For a small com­pany, we do a lot of cus­tom work for our clients, even mak­ing lay­out changes,” he said.

The 650 Ex­press, an en­closed sport cruiser, has proved to be a very pop­u­lar model for Nep­tunus. Naval ar­chi­tect Tony Cas­tro de­signed the hull, a deep-V with a dead­rise of 19.5 de­grees at the tran­som, which gives the yacht both a seakindly ride and a top speed (with up­grade power) of over 33 knots. The hull also has pro­pel­ler tun­nels, which re­duce the draft to 4 feet, 8 inches, mak­ing it a great boat for Florida and the Ba­hamas.

Capt. Peter Selmeci of Florida Yacht Ser­vices, whom Nep­tunus hired for the de­liv­ery trip, found rea­son to be grate­ful for her draft not long af­ter leav­ing the ma­rina as he guided the yacht through a silted-up in­let into the Gulf of Mex­ico. The day was bright and sunny, with a 12-knot breeze and calm seas—ideal con­di­tions for run­ning about 100 nau­ti­cal miles south/south­west to Marathon in the Florida Keys, our first night’s des­ti­na­tion. We set­tled into a com­fort­able, eco­nom­i­cal cruise speed in the 24-knot range at 1850 rpm.

Selmeci and I spent the next four hours in the com­fort­able Pom­panette helm and pas­sen­ger chairs, en­joy­ing ex­cep­tional vis­i­bil­ity through the wrap­around wind­shield, which has only a sin­gle cen­ter stan­chion. Many yacht own­ers and cap­tains pre­fer to drive from an

open upper helm sta­tion (Nep­tunus builds the 640 Fly­bridge ver­sion for them), but I was happy sit­ting in the air-con­di­tioned cabin with a gal­ley full of snacks just steps be­hind us. The large helm on Cap­tain High­way was equipped with an op­tional elec­tron­ics pack­age that in­cluded a big ship’s sys­tem mon­i­tor, two 15-inch Ray­ma­rine Hy­brid Touch mul­ti­func­tion dis­plays, and a Sim­rad AP 70 au­topi­lot that is as fun to use as it is prac­ti­cal. Lo­cal fish­er­men tend to lit­ter Florida’s wa­ter­ways with crab pots, but all I had to do when one bobbed up in our path was turn the au­topi­lot’s knob-style con­trol slightly to steer around it.

Later in the af­ter­noon, Selmeci ac­cel­er­ated to wide-open throt­tle, and we saw a top speed close to 34 knots. The ride re­mained smooth and steady, even when we hit other boat’s wakes, and noth­ing rat­tled or banged be­low. “Nep­tunus boats are par­tic­u­larly known for per­form­ing well,” he said. “They are good sea boats.”

About four hours af­ter leav­ing the dock in Marco Is­land, we ran be­neath the Keys’ fa­mous Seven Mile Bridge, and I be­gan set­ting the lines and fend­ers for our ap­proach to Marathon Ma­rina on the At­lantic side of the bridge. The 650’s walka­rounds are nice and wide, which made the job an easy one. Dock­ing was also a piece of cake in this yacht, which has a stan­dard elec­tric bow thruster, op­tional stern thruster and Yacht Con­troller joy­stick. “Even with­out the bow and stern thrusters, it’s a very ma­neu­ver­able boat be­cause it doesn’t have a fly­bridge, so there’s less windage,” Selmeci said.

I was re­lieved to see that the ma­rina had been com­pletely ren­o­vated since tak­ing a hit from Hur­ri­cane Irma last Septem­ber.

Af­ter din­ner ashore and the sort of bril­liant sun­set that the Florida Keys are fa­mous for, we re­tired to the yacht. It is al­ways ex­cit­ing for me to be able to spend the night on a boat I’m re­view­ing, as it is only af­ter dark that they truly be­gin to re­veal their se­crets. The Nep­tunus 650 cer­tainly did not dis­ap­point in this re­gard. Push a but­ton and a large flat-screen TV low­ers out of the salon head­liner, for ex­am­ple. Open the set­tee arm­rests and you find hid­den stor­age for keys, glasses, binoc­u­lars, etc. Look un­der the cock­tail ta­ble and you’ll see stools nes­tled there for ex­tra seat­ing. It’s two steps up from the salon to the amid­ships gal­ley, which is de­signed with low-pro­file cab­i­netry and un­der-counter ap­pli­ances like fridge and freezer draw­ers (two of each) so they won’t dis­rupt the view from the helm. The gal­ley in our test boat had al­most ev­ery amenity you can imag­ine, from a dish­washer to a trash com­pactor to a wine cooler to draw­ers with ded­i­cated stor­age racks for the dishes, glass­ware and cutlery that comes with the yacht. “You buy it fully com­plete,” De Jong said.

Cap­tain High­way’s owner chose the three-bed­room, three-head lay­out for his 650, en­sur­ing lux­ury and pri­vacy for up to six peo­ple. The mas­ter state­room is full-beam with large hull win­dows on each side; in­set into each one is a small porthole you can open for a cross breeze. A king berth lies in the cen­ter of the state­room. To port is a bureau, but to star­board I found a gem—a daybed be­low the win­dow where you can sit, read and watch the waves race by. The mas­ter also has a large head, walk-in cedar closet and two ad­di­tional hang­ing lock­ers. Al­though this state­room is ad­ja­cent to the en­gine room, I recorded a low 72 dB(A) in there while the boat was run­ning at 1850 rpm.

The guest state­room to star­board is com­pact but nicely equipped with a TV and ex­cel­lent stor­age space un­der the berth, in a hang­ing locker and eight cab­i­nets. There is a door to a head with a stall shower that also serves as the boat’s day head.

I stayed in the VIP state­room, which fea­tures a queen berth, two cedar hang­ing lock­ers and a pri­vate head with a gen­er­ous-sized shower. LED light­ing is boun­ti­ful and nicely de­signed through­out the 650. At night, af­ter I turned off the main cabin lights, I found a switch for “mood light­ing” that back­lit the cab­i­netry around the berth. An­other good fea­ture is an es­cape hatch over the berth that is large enough for just about any­one to fit through.

Even though most Nep­tunus buy­ers are owner/op­er­a­tors, the boat had an­other se­cret to re­veal—crew’s quar­ters for two, com­plete with TV, en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem, head and shower—in­side the tran­som. If you don’t need it for crew, you can al­ways give teenagers a thrill by let­ting them bunk there.

A door leads from the crew’s quar­ters to the en­gine room. It is ex­tremely neat and or­derly with high head­room and good ac­cess to all the equip­ment. Cap­tain High­way’s owner had the fac­tory build a cus­tom rack for a fold­ing bi­cy­cle over each en­gine so he can ride to a café or gro­cery store from the ma­rina.

What is not a se­cret is the Nep­tunus 650’s ex­cep­tional ca­pac­ity for en­ter­tain­ing on board. Open the aft slid­ing doors and the huge elec­tric sky­light in the coachroof and you cre­ate an el­e­gant in­door/out­door space to host a crowd. An elec­tric sun­shade is in­te­grated into the hard­top that extends to shade the aft deck. Best of all, the cook doesn’t have to be left out of the party be­cause the gal­ley is cen­ter stage.

The next morn­ing, we pulled out of the ma­rina on a glass-calm sea un­der sunny skies to make our way north. The run was com­fort­able and un­event­ful; ex­actly the way life at sea should be.

Things are look­ing up in the salon, where there’s a huge elec­tric sky­light in the coachroof.

It’s easy to keep the party mov­ing on the Nep­tunus, since the salon is just steps away from the cock­pit, where there’s a grill, bar and din­ing area.

We like the low-pro­file cab­i­netry in the amid­ships gal­ley, as it en­sures good sight­lines aft for the cap­tain; a din­ing ta­ble is to port.

TEST CON­DI­TIONS: Tem­per­a­ture: 70°F; load: half tank fuel, 2 peo­ple on board. Speeds are a two-way av­er­age recorded by a Ray­ma­rine mul­ti­func­tion display. GPH taken via CAT en­gine display. Sound lev­els mea­sured at the helm. 65 dB(A) is the level of nor­mal con­ver­sa­tion. Range is based on 90 per­cent of ad­ver­tised fuel ca­pac­ity.

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