Set Sail Aboard The Beneteau Oceanis 55

What is a luxurious lifestyle? It isn’t high price tags, limited editions, or designer names—it’s something more. Perhaps our most tragic flaw is that many of us are so wrapped up in our lives and careers that we tend to forget to live life in the present. The true value of luxury is what it represents: the comfort and freedom of going and doing what one pleases, as often as possible. This is crucial to our sense of fulfillment. Every now and again, something happens to disrupt our day-to-day trance that serves as a reminder to take advantage of our limited time. One such realization came after my first step aboard Beneteau’s Oceanis 55.

The newly commissioned 2015 Oceanis 55 (the 2nd built in North America) was an unmistakably strong presence on the docks of Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City. Before even stepping foot onto the boat, the first thing I wrote on my notepad was “contemporary sophistication” due to its ability to appear both classic and modern. Then again, we should expect nothing less from Beneteau, which is the largest sailboat producer in the United States. Founded in 1884 in France, Beneteau began by manufacturing sailing trawlers (and later recreational boats) before building a U.S. factory in 1987. The 55-foot cruising yacht, designed for comfortable living at sea, is an outstanding example of the ingenuity of French Naval Architect Berret Racoupeau, a company that made its mark by designing the Beneteau First 35 in 1979. Many of Beneteau’s sailing vessels arrive to the U.S. in pieces and are then transported by truck to Haverstraw Marina, where they are put together at a private work dock operated by Great Hudson Sailing.

Great Hudson Sailing began as a sailing school in 1978, before quickly becoming one of the first Beneteau dealers in the United States by 1986. We were invited aboard by the company’s President, Larry Troyano and his son, the General Manager, Andrew Troyano. We eagerly jumped on board after impatiently waiting in the slowly abating rain for the transom to be lowered. As we explored the boat, Larry recounted spending his weekends on the water during his 20 some odd years in the catering business. He regards sailing as a completely separate entity from skippering anything else. “Boating is boating, sailing is a sport,” Larry told me. “It’s addictive.” Sailing in essence became his escape from work and daily life, eventually leading him to a career change in 1996 by joining Great Hudson Sailing and purchasing the dealership some years later.

Andrew, who was a dock attendant by 14, was obsessed with powerboats in his early years, until he began to do more sailing and realized that it required a much more diverse skill set. Although powerboats can go faster, Andrew says that using the speed of the wind can intensify the experience tenfold. “Sailing is extremely thrilling,” he said. “You might only be going eleven knots, but it feels like you’re going fifty. It [the Oceanis 55] has a theoretical hull speed, but a good sailor can get it over that.” Sailing in essence is about seeking that elation of adventure, while having the knowledge and prowess to embark. To sail is to be at the mercy of nature, but like a sailor of old chasing the horizon, we too can reach the pinnacle of human existence.

Today, with a bit more tech, sailing can be more comfortable and streamlined. On the deck of the Oceanis 55, for instance, I quickly noticed how much the lounge and cockpit area resembled the deck of a home, somewhere that you’d feel comfortable entertaining. Located next to the cockpit were the primary winches, which are not necessarily always in close proximity to the ship’s helm. On a standard sailboat, the primary winches are cranked manually in order to adjust the mainsails, however the winches on Oceanis 55 are electric. This feature allows one to adjust the sails with the push of a button right from the cockpit, making the 55-footer easily sailable by two people. DOCK&GO, another unique feature, is an intuitive system that allows one to pivot the boat with a joystick, ideal for effortlessly maneuvering the giant in the harbor. Once at sea, the ship offers additional peace of mind with its programmed autopilot system and a keel fabricated in iron, that will force the yacht to roll itself back to its upright position should it be knocked over by a 40-foot wave.

With the classic mainsail towering above us, we then descended into the ship’s interior. What caught my eye about the interior was how bright it was despite the overcast skies outside. The lighting can be attributed to the ship’s four hull portholes, two long deck windows, and two ceiling hatches. The yacht’s interior designer, Nauta Design, utilizes a modern style that includes Alpi mahogany and tons of white space. With headroom at about 6-feet-6-inches, Nauta’s layouts for the Oceanis 55 are also extremely flexible. The designs vary in order to accommodate three cabins and two heads (bathrooms) to as many as five cabins and four heads. This particular model accommodates a three cabin and three head layout because the owners chose to convert the would be crew cabins to lockers. The three cabin yacht, which comfortably sleeps six, included all of the household essentials one could think of such as an icemaker, stove, air conditioning, and washer/dryer, to name a few. In order to run these utilities off electricity, the boat generates its own power by pumping raw water (almost like a car radiator but instead of air it’s pumping water). Below deck, one can also sync an iPad to change the chartplotter and/ or install a dedicated Sat-Fi phone (an aftermarket add-on).

“It’s a lifestyle,” Andrew told me. “It’s like having your home go anywhere, and nothing beats traveling without airport security.” Depending on aftermarket add-ons, the Oceanis 55 can cost around a $1 million, but you’re getting more than just a boat. You’re getting a home, one that’s free from the concrete foundations that beset your landlocked residence. If all you lack is the skill, Great Hudson Sailing offers training with a captain in addition to other services such as concierge to reserve docking space and flexible financing options. While there are some popular local sailing destinations (Martha’s Vineyard, Long Island Sound, Block Island, etc.), Larry indicated that for someone who loves sailing, “It’s not the destination that’s important, it’s the trip.”