Reach for the Skylounge

The grand Hampton 700 is no mere boat but a prestigious home on sea, writes David Lockwood.

The grand Hampton 700 is no mere boat but a prestigious home on sea, writes David Lockwood.

It's cold on the Gold Coast, the sky is leaden, with visibility severely reduced. And we're going boating? No matter.

The airconditioned Skylounge atop the new namesake Hampton 700 keeps us dry, toasty and at ease as we sink into the leather helm chairs. It's a warm midwinter welcome; indeed, the 47-tonne Hampton 700 motoryacht is here to assuage retirees looking to sate their lifelong cruising dreams. A spot of rain matters not. Consider it pleasure boating Hampton-style.

The bottom line? You will need $3.35 million to own this serious cruising conveyance. Then again, the Hampton 700 Skylounge isn't just a boat. It's a home-away-from-home with all the comforts, mod cons and amenities for long-stay, live-aboard boating.

This 700 Skylounge is based on the Hampton 680 flag bearer, but it gains a foot in the cockpit, a foot in the saloon and a hardtop and enclosure around the flying bridge. This gives rise to the term "skylounge", which, due to its weather protection and amenities, negates the need for a lower pilothouse helm station. In its place, behind the saloon windscreen, is a galley traced by granite counters and replete with Miele appliances and Liebherr fridges.

Alongside is a dedicated, freestanding six-person dining table. The cherrywood joinery hints at the fact some 80,000 man-hours went into making this Hampton 700 in the Shanghai factory. Once the boat arrives at the importers, Leigh-Smith Cruisers Sales on the Gold Coast, the soft furnishing, electronics, tender and other kit are fitted.

There's a lot to contemplate on a boat like this. So we work our way from bridge to bilge. Besides weather protection, key features of the Skylounge include a second dinette for six, a flip-down television and AV system, a stand-alone WC and an outdoor amenities centre. The Brower hydraulic davit on the upper deck has a 725-kilogram capacity, meaning you can tote a tender big enough to launch a shore party. After which you are left with a massive outdoor deck on which to wheel out the barbecue and entertain the neighbourhood.

Stability isn't compromised, thanks to Wesmar stabilisers that have been enlarged from the nine square feet on the 680 Pilothouse to 12 square feet. The stabilisers are hydraulic, as is the Muir anchor winch, with two power takeoffs on the engines. This provides some redundancy, as do the back-up water pumps, fuel filters and spare generator. In fact, the boat is something of a city in respect of power generation, with 27kW and 13.5kW Onan generators and a 5000W inverter that runs the boat's fridges and entertainment systems when the generators are switched off. All the lighting is LED, so you can leave your boat ablaze all night. Guests get to choose between a VIP with island bed in the bow and the third cabin with side-by-side single beds. The shared bathroom has a home-like shower. But the full Grohe jet body wash in the owner's en suite is something else again. The full-beam cabin with king bed adds to the liveability, as does a walk-in wardrobe and separate vanity. Then comes the surprise: separate crew quarters with a bunk cabin, split shower and toilet, microwave oven, fridge and freezer, laundry with washer and dryer, and workbench-cum-tool shed.

Access leads forward into the impressive engine room, home to twin 930hp Caterpillar C18 ACERT diesel engines that rev out at just 2150rpm. The Hampton 700 Skylounge will hit 23.5 knots. But while it's nice to know you have the ability to outrun a storm, the cruising range of 1100-plus nautical miles at 11 knots is more impressive.

As the wipers swish on the glass outside, the radar reflects the Broadwater foreshore, but there's nigh another boat in our path. We glance out the seaway to the horizon. Alas, there's something missing: the superannuation payout. One day. More at Leigh-Smith Cruiser Sales, .au,


Hammo ahoy

Entries for the 30th Hamilton Island Race Week (August 17-24) exceed 120 already. The largest yacht on the list so far is the superbly restored 21.8-metre classic staysail ketch, Sir Thomas Sopwith, owned by Di and David Edwards from Sydney, while the smallest is the 6.2-metre high-performance SB20, Jump, sailed by local Dennis Winstanley. See The notice of race for the inaugural 10-day Sail Townsville festival, starting August 24, has been released at

Voyage of a lifetime

Carpe diem — seize the day — is what a Sydney couple have done, packing up their lives, selling their possessions and starting a boating trip of a lifetime in, wait for it, a modest 31-foot sportscruiser. Darren and Susan Whiteman bought the Chaparral 310 in 2011 at the Sydney International Boat Show as newcomers to

"big-boat" ownership. After some local cruising, they trucked the sportscruiser to Cairns and are now exploring the area before heading south. Follow their blog at ourbigbreak

Tall ship trip

The Australian National Maritime Museum is offering a once-in-a-lifetime 10-day voyage aboard HMB Endeavour to Jervis Bay, culminating in the famous ship leading more than 20 other tall ships through the Heads for the Royal Australian Navy's International Fleet Review. A limited number of crew berths remain. Voyage dates are September 24 to October 3. Cost is $3800, including hammock and tall-ship sail training. See

Licence grab

The jet-ski industry is doing it tough. The renewal for my PWC (personal water craft) licence arrived the other day asking for $168 for a year, $367 for three years or $575 for five years. Compare that with the general boating licence fee of $56, $148 and $233 for these same periods. PWC registration costs $303, with a similar-length boat costing $61.

Dead borer-ing

A sniffer dog was recently seen at a Sydney marina. The dog and its owners, quarantine officials, were boarding an imported American game boat. Apparently, a termite or borer of some kind was seen coming out of the timber interior. Quarantine holding costs are alarming, not to mention the resale difficulties of a termite-eaten boat. Just another reason to be wary of so-called grey imports.

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