So rarely do production pleasurecraft stray widely from proven formulae that boat testers often sweat the small stuff looking for degrees of separation, a nuance to hang their Press hat on.
Some don’t even bother to do that. Back when magazine copy clattered out of typewriters in smoke-filled dungeons, a certain boat tester was rendered perennially ‘high’ by the heady fumes of correction fluid, because with each review he’d simply blot out all mentions of the previous craft and type in the new model.
The galley position on ‘insert name’ might move from port to starboard if the creativity juices were really flowing but, otherwise, his narrative rarely differed from first paragraph to last. He got away with it because boats rarely differed greatly.
However, I have just been aboard a craft that does dare to differ: the new De Antonio 23 (D23). It’s a ground-breaker, a mould-shaker, a boat that would have the aforementioned scribe scurrying for a fresh sheet of paper – possibly even a new typewriter – and his thesaurus.
“The designer has taken his French curves and …” Nope, scrub that – the D23 is straight as a ruler. “Beneath the sunlounge is a 200hp sterndrive …” D’oh, wrong again – it’s outboard powered! Nonconformity seems to be the theme here.
From whichever angle you view it, the De Antonio is as fresh and cool as the Cierzo breeze that ruffles the Spanish waters from whence it came. It’s a genuine head-turner with a wow-factor usually reserved for low-slung European sports cars.
Designers Marc de Antonio and Stan Chmielewski apparently gravitated to the boating sector to express their technical and artistic flare in the most fluid of forms. With the D23 they strove to create an exceptional superyacht tender and, serendipitously perhaps, ended up with an extraordinary trailerable dayboat as well.
Paying homage to minimalist design, the topsides are high and flat, the bow is vertical and the gunwales hard-edged. With no hull-deck join to intrude, and in the absence of a rubbing strip, large coaming cushions reverse to become fenders.
A T-shaped hardtop, again bereft of curves, is borne on near vertical posts.
It’s the way of contemporary architecture – clean, straight lines working in harmonious symmetry, just as they give diamonds their lustre.
In the conservative boating world, though, the aesthetics will almost certainly polarise opinions. Functionally, too, it’s missing some of the features considered de rigueur for runabouts of its price and length. As tested, there is no accommodation, not even a chemical loo or an inbuilt icebox for, ultimately, the D23 is all about frivolous fun.
It will appeal mostly to busy business types with waterfront properties on the Broadwater/ Sydney Harbour/Swan River, who go boating regularly, but rarely stay aboard. With a choice of over 30 colours and a wealth of options, there is ample scope for customisation.
As specced by The Boutique Boat Company, the test boat was high-gloss black with red upholstery and teak flooring, making an immediate eye-catching impression at the dock. Carbon fibre sits comfortably with this colour scheme – it’s used for the T-top and smaller trim items like the sternlight post and mooring fairleads.
Yes, the D23 is a centre console, but not in the fishing sense we’re familiar with. The bow section is devoted to a sunlounge and the helm sports a bench seat for two, while a four-seat dinette resides on the cowling aft of the helm.
The table lowers via a hydraulic pedestal to create another sunbed. The cowling’s lid, in turn, rises on gas struts to provide full tilt range for an outboard lurking beneath. This ingenious piece of engineering streamlines the look and dampens the sound without compromising performance or ventilation.
Minimum horsepower is 115, but on this example we had an Evinrude 200 E-TEC V6, chosen for maximum punch when five or six people are aboard. It’s conspicuously quiet at idle, a fact confirmed as my decibel meter hovered in the 60-70 range – somewhere between an air-conditioning unit and a car travelling on the highway.
Plant the throttle and planing is instantaneous. You instinctively back off as the hull settles into its work, with 3000rpm bringing around 20 knots (37km/h) and 4000rpm close to 30 (55.5km/h). Flat-stick, you’ll get nigh-on 39 knots (72km/h).
The Evinrude burns around 25lt per hour at 20 knots, affording around four hours of playtime from the 110lt underfloor fuel tank.
As distinct from a deep-vee hull, the D23 confers a sensation more akin to a sailing skiff, treading lightly across the water with athletic ease. A 1.1-tonne displacement is a good starting point.
While the hull has a narrow entry and hard chines, the plumb bow runs high in a dignified manner, leaving the wide and relatively flat aft sections to do the work. The power trim function has only marginal impact – you can set it level and forget it.
In tight turns there’s no biting from the chines, just a gentle and sporty slide. Like a skiff, it can get a tad lively when confronting swells at high speed, but it’s nothing that some judicious driving can’t handle.
Barely a droplet of water was shipped during our drive on a sloppy Sydney Harbour, with the spray thrown well away from the boat’s hips. A small screen provides partial protection from the rush of oncoming breeze. Dry storage space abounds – there’s a forward locker along with room under the helm seat, which is where the battery sits.
Looking aft from the dinette you get a panoramic view framed by the square lines of the T-top and transom. Glass inserts in the hardtop allow filtered light to pass through – if it’s full shade you’re after, a retractable awning is being developed for the bow area. Until then, bring a hat.
Up to six people have been aboard the test boat – two at the table, two at the helm, two standing adjacent to helm – but people-moving isn’t core business for the De Antonio.
That said, by virtue of its interior space it is a versatile all-rounder. For casual tow sports, a bridle can be affixed to the transom and there’s a swimladder recessed into the starboard swimplatform. Ski/wakeboard supports are optional, as is a deck shower fed by a 70lt water tank.
If you’re planning to tow the D23 and store it in a garage, a stainless steel bimini can take the place of the hardtop. On the options list are a bow roller and windlass, an electric refrigerator, audio and electronics, underwater LED lights and more.
Alternative layouts are also available for the same hull – the Tender with aft helm, covered seating area and a raised foredeck, or the Cruiser, with a forward cabin housing two single berths, toilet and a nominal galley.
De Antonio, as a manufacturer, is going places. Further up the chain are a D33 that runs twin outboards and, coming later this year, a spectacular D43 that runs four outboards or twin diesel sterndrives.
The brand is a perfect fit for The Boutique Boat Company, which proclaims: “Every boat we stock makes a bold statement and follows through with exceptional engineering and innovation.”
The D23 fits that creed to a tee. It is boutique, bespoke and unashamedly upmarket … prices start at $140,000 with a 115hp outboard and rise to $216,920 as tested. Though unlikely to sell in mass volumes, as a cutting-edge café cruiser for two to four people, the De Antonio definitely thinks outside the square.
SPECIFICATIONS: DE ANTONIO 23
Hull length (LOA): 7m
Waterline length: 6.2m
Displacement: 1.1 tonnes
Carrying capacity: 6
Base power: 115hp
Power as tested: 200hp
Price as tested: $216,920
For more information, contact: The Boutique Boat Company, tel: 1300 777 879. Web: boutiqueboats.com.au.