'The looks you get are absolutely crazy'

The $1.6 million luxury cruiser for those who want to stand out from the marina crowd.

Depending where you live, $1.6 million might buy you a smallish apartment with a water view. Equally, it could purchase a pair of salubrious Bentley Mulsanne saloons.

Or if you prefer to roll super-stylish transport, water at your doorstep and luxury accommodation into one sleek package, you can drop your cash on a boat.

Not just any boat, though. The 55-foot (16.5 metre) Van Dutch 55 luxury cruiser is unlike anything else on Australia's waterways.

Its taut, sleek lines and minimalist design ethic are the very antithesis of the curves and bulges sported by the current crop of watercraft in the same luxury-focused price range.

It is, says the owner of the only “55” currently in Australia, a boat so arresting that it's impossible not to get noticed.

“The looks you get are absolutely crazy,” says Dennis Van Damme, who along with his father, Dick, is the Dutch boatbuilder's agent in Australia.

“If you go to the (Sydney) boat show, every boat is the same. This is something different. It just catches everyone's attention and everyone wants to have a look.”

It was recently used a prop for a lads' mag photo shoot and it's not difficult to imagine a bevy of beauties gracing its opulent deck.

Is it a party waiting to happen? “Yeah, definitely. It's a different lifestyle,” Dennis says. “When you buy this boat you suddenly get a lot more friends.”


The father-son pairing has to date sold only one Van Dutch boat in Australia, a 40-foot version of the same design selling at half the price ($790,000). But Dennis says he has several solid expressions of interest for the newly released 55, which arrived in Sydney in mid-October from the company's US manufacturing plant.

The key advantage of the 55-footer over its smaller sibling is two bedrooms below decks, making it ideal for a couple or small family to take weekend trips. Converting a sofa in the living area to another bed brings the sleeping capacity to six.

By contrast, the 40 has only a table in the central living area that converts, caravan style, to a double bed. “If you need a place to stay then the 40-foot isn't quite enough, it's just a day boat. It has no generator, so it's not designed for staying on.”

Below decks there's an opulent feel to the central accommodation area, which easily accommodates adults up to 185cm without stooping. A kitchenette includes microwave, cooktop, coffee machine and a fridge, and the television is cleverly hidden from view behind the mirrored splashback until switched on.

A small bathroom includes a shower, and the entire below-deck area is airconditioned and has adjustable lighting and wi-fi throughout.

Above decks, though, is the place to be when the sun is shining. A large, removable canopy can provide UV and wind protection for most of the deck, which is made from a durable timber lookalike substance set with contrasting inlays. Comfy couches made from waterproof Silvertex are scattered around the deck and hide a pair of refrigerated eskies. A JL Audio system with four speakers and a subwoofer is fitted as standard. The cleats that secure the boat at mooring slide into the boat's sleek flanks at the touch of a button to maintain the design aesthetic, as does the arm that deploys the boat's anchor.

Despite appearances, the 55 won't stand accused of being just a showpony, with a pair of Volvo 900-horsepower (670 kilowatts) engines capable of turning the big cruiser into a speedboat that can purr along at 40 knots without disturbing guests' conversations or drinks.

The captain is equally well served. Conspicuously absent are analogue dials, with two digital screens teaming with a funky throttle lever to provide a minimalist helm. Electric power steering provides precise control while a tiny joystick controlling bow and stern thrusters makes child's play of crabbing the big 55 into a crowded mooring.

The $1.6 million buy-in includes all the standard equipment, plus delivery to the marina of your choice. The only decision to make for new owners is to pick the colour of the hull and the decking.

“The guy who designed it is Dutch builder, and he wanted the boat very minimal. Everything's there, nothing that you don't need. It's really easy and clean,” Dennis says.

“It's just a different boat and that's what we wanted. We know we're not going to sell a million of them. We've got a big love for Van Dutch, we absolutely love the boats and want to share them with Australia.”