Activa 5800

By: Norman Holtzhausen

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Buyers in the luxury end of the recreational boat market have traditionally been a little coy about Asian imports. But the tide is turning and the Activa 5800 will feed the change.

Activa 5800
Activa 5800
Although mass-produced goods have for some time now been produced better and more cheaply by factories in Asia (and especially China), the market for large, custom-built boats has generally remained the domain of local craftsmen. But local labour shortages (and higher labour costs), as well as increasingly restrictive compliance costs, have caused the market to look offshore.

Internationally, Taiwan has overtaken New Zealand in superyacht construction, and China continues to develop it's expertise in high-quality production of crafted, luxury goods.

When Adventure Bay Motor Yachts managing director John Winter went looking for a manufacturer of luxury motor yachts in the 32- to 80-foot range, he was looking for a well-established company, still run by the owner in a hands-on manner. He also wanted a company with its roots in Taiwan, even if its manufacturing facility was now in China.

He wanted a company with a limited production run of high-quality boats, that built to international standards and which used international specification fittings. Finally, he wanted an existing range of well-proven designs, but also a company that would be amenable to building new designs specifically to suit the New Zealand market.

After a comprehensive search and many visits to China, he chose two suppliers. One was Activa Marine, owned and operated by Taiwanese Naval Architect Charles Chang. Chang has built more than 450 boats since 1985 and his current factory, occupying some 33,000 sq ft, is located near Shanghai in China.

Freedom, recently purchased by Tauranga's Mike Lambert, is one of the latest versions of Activa's 5800 Pilothouse design. Not a common configuration in New Zealand, a pilothouse design has a raised helm station in the forward part of the main saloon area. The additional headroom this opens up below decks allows the master stateroom to be located on the midsection of the boat, the most stable and quietest position for sleeping.

The Activa 5800's basic hull is a stretched version of the company's proven, semi-displacement design. An additional mid section, together with subtle changes to the cabin and transom layout, provides extra space and more possibilities. Since every boat is a custom build, much can be done to fine-tune the interior to suit the customer's specific requirements.

First impressions of the interior of the Activa are extremely favourable. Teak is used extensively, and the quality of the woodwork and finish is equal to the best available anywhere. Small touches, like the paua shell inlays into the counter tops, indicate the local "flavouring".

We joined Freedom in Tauranga for an overnight trip back to Auckland for the International Boat Show. It was a stunningly clear day when we stowed the dive tanks into the extensive wet lockers in the transom. Lifting an oversize hatch in the cockpit floor gave access to a large storage area under the cockpit, complete with workbench, vice and toolkit. A walkway through to the engine compartment gives access to the two gleaming 775hp Volvo D12 diesels.

Without much ado we cast off and got under way. The quiet humming of the big Volvos was very effectively dampened, and only a gentle vibration was discernible through the hull. Once clear of the marina we opened the throttles and powered up to an economical speed of just under nine knots.

At this speed the engines are clearly audible but hardly intrusive. Outside the harbour we climbed to planing speed. At just under 17 knots the boat was stable, with the short chop not even discernible through the big hull. Again, engine noise and vibration was not an issue, and normal conversation was possible across the saloon.


Going down the curved companionway from the helm station to the lower deck brings one to three cabins. The forward cabin has a double bed mounted longitudinally, with easy access from either side. Just aft of that on the port side is a cabin with two single bunks, while on the starboard side the guest toilet and shower sits alongside the staircase and a storage cupboard. Exactly midships is the master stateroom, with a thwartships king-sized bed and ensuite bathroom. All bedrooms have air conditioning and CO2 gas detectors.

A soundproofed access door leads from the master stateroom into the engine room, which is clinically clean, brightly lit and well laid out. Headroom is good, and there is ample space to get all around the engines. Twin fuel tanks are positioned on the outside of the engines, placing most of the weight closer to the boat's centre of gravity. Of particular interest was the triple-stage filtration that the fuel goes through before reaching the big Volvos. Dirty diesel is not going to cause these engines any grief!

Passing through a further bulkhead door, you arrive at the stern of the boat, where the genset and workshop, plus large amounts of storage space, are located. The shafts pass through here to drive the big props, and the exhausts pass through mufflers to the outside. The previously-mentioned hatch up into the cockpit provides the second accessway to the engine room.

Up on the main deck, the saloon at the rear is separated from the cockpit by large sliding glass doors. With these shut, the engine noise is well-muted. No back draft of spray occurs into the lounge, although with a following wind the cockpit can get wet while underway.

The saloon is the main entertaining area, with large TV-DVD, a bar tucked into the corner, and a beautifully inlaid electrically-adjustable cherry wood coffee/dining table. Comfortable leather-covered chairs complement the built-in settee, and discrete lighting is everywhere.

Moving forward from the saloon and up two steps, you arrive at the pilothouse section. It contains a galley on the starboard side, a curved stairwell up to the flybridge on the port side, a saloon area seating six and the main helm position.

As well-equipped as most homes, the galley has full-size domestic appliances (including dishwasher) and a granite counter top. The helm station, which has a double-eyebrow layout, is dominated by twin 15" Simrad CX50 screens, one running the radar and the other with chart plotter and sonar displays. The rest of the helm is filled with the compass, displays and controls from the twin engines, autopilot, bow thruster, searchlight, capstan and chain counter and VHF radio. Although there are enough controls to confuse the unwary, everything has its place and is logically laid out.

An internal stairwell (left of the pilothouse area) gives access to the flybridge in all weather, and the wide stairs allow them to be ascended even while carrying a tray. Going up into the flybridge reveals a large lounge area, with stainless, gas-fired barbecue and bar fridge. The secondary helm station, while not as well equipped as the main one, also has a Simrad CX54 display with all the engine controls duplicated. A bimini top and clears enable the flybridge area to be opened to the sun and wind. A hardtop option is also available.

Behind the flybridge (on the cockpit roof) is a Zodiac RIB with 15hp outboard. An electric davit makes for easy launching over the side. Winter recommends that railings are not fitted on this section to make launching the inflatable easier, but it does mean you have to take care when out there.

A full staircase from the flybridge leads down into the cockpit, and this is where much time would be spent in the summer. This boat is clearly laid out for stylish and extended cruising, rather than game fishing. The cockpit is large with a settee and loose seats along the transom. A third control station is hidden away under a hinged cover on the starboard side.

The boarding platform is wide enough to allow safe fishing while at anchor, and a centrally-located guard rail holds the bait board and more rod holders. We had no difficulty in kitting up for diving on the boarding platform, and the fold-away boarding ladder makes it easy to get back onboard.

The boat abounds with features that reflect careful thought and exquisite craftsmanship. The saloon area has integrated lights (mostly LEDs) along the bottom edge of much of the furniture. In the stern are four underwater lights. They're blue and they create a surreal effect at night.

Freedom is a big beast, weighing in at around 33 tonnes fully laden. Her 3500-litre fuel tanks give her a maximum cruising range of around 1400nm. This means a trip to Fiji is easily possible if the speed is kept to around eight knots. Despite her weight she has a claimed top speed of 22 knots in light mode.

One concern often raised about luxury items from an offshore manufacturer is what happens when things go wrong and need attention. Owner Mike Lambert has had previous experience with Taiwanese-built boats and has no concerns about the quality of the build or the after-sales support he will receive. He is extremely happy with both on the Active 5800.

An unsolicited endorsement came from Bruce Goodchap, who runs the boatlift and repairs at the Bridge Marina in Tauranga. When a slight miscalculation by Lambert caused rudder to meet concrete, a new rudder post was required. Says Goodchap: "We could have had the part machined locally, but why bother – we had a factory-original replacement part landed in Tauranga just three days after we ordered it."

With all the extras ordered by Lambert, Freedom came in at around NZ$1.9 million. Winter says packages start from NZ$1.6m, and he is awaiting the arriving of the newest big baby of the fleet, the Activa 6400. Unfortunately, the severe storms in China in early February caused a delay in delivery of the new model, but the Activa 5800 can be seen at the International Boat Show in Auckland from 6 to 9 March.

Specifications Activa 5800 Pilothouse (Price as reviewed NZ$1.925m)

LOA: 18.25m (58' 11")
Beam: 5.28m (17'4")
Draft: 1.32m (4' 4")
Displacement: 25.5 tonnes light (33 tonnes heavy)
Engines: 2 x Volvo-Penta D12 775hp
Maximum: speed 22 knots
Cruising: speed 17 knots
Fuel capacity: 3500 litres
Maximum Range: 1400nm
Water capacity: 1000 litres

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