2017, July; Sydney Harbour: There is a fascinating story behind this latest addition to the Fleming motor yachts fleet and, as well, there’s a tradition of more than three decades. Tony Fleming originated it all. He had a background in aerospace and marine engineering, including being production manager for the internationally renowned Grand Banks cruisers. He also had an enthusiasm for long-distance cruising.
The combination of his engineering and cruising experiences led Tony to create his own motor yachts. His objectives were safety, reliability, seaworthiness and ease of handling - to be achieved regardless of cost.
In 1986 he developed his first boat – the Fleming 55, and it obviously hit the spot. That same design, with refinements, is being built to meet current market demand. Larger versions have progressively joined the fleet and the current range comprises the 55, 58, 65 and 78 – all the numbers roughly indicating hull length in feet. The larger yachts were often developed to fulfil requests from owners who were up-sizing.
Tony sought out the Tung Hwa boat building company in Taiwan to meet his exacting standards, and a multi-decade association has ensued. The craftsmanship and attention to detail by that company has proven beneficial to both parties. The quality and suitability for purpose of each Fleming brings unstinted praise from its owner, and the resulting level of business has allowed Tung Hwa to be dedicated to building these yachts.
Tony cruises extensively himself. Including aboard his latest Fleming, the 65-foot ‘Venture’, he has accumulated over 60,000 nautical miles. He has experienced first-hand the finer aspects of what is needed to safely and enjoyably handle a boat in conditions from inland rivers to open oceans and from tropical to arctic environments. Some of his voyages have been across the North Sea, to the Aleutian Islands and a circumnavigation of Iceland. The lessons he has learned along the way are streamed back into the production line at Tung Hwa.
Perhaps production line is misleading though, as only about fourteen Fleming yachts are built each year. The goal is to build to an exceptional standard and not to any cost or volume targets. An outcome is that these cruisers cannot be judged on price alone. The Australian ‘base’ price (at time of review) for the 58 is AU$4.745 million with extensive inclusions. As seen, with a number of further significant extras, this particular 58 represents an AU$5.375 million investment. To appreciate the genuine value that a Fleming represents takes an eye for engineering and practical details, plus either an experience of long range cruising or a willingness to learn from an expert.
I was welcomed aboard the 58 by Sam Nicholas of Fleming Yachts Australia at its base on Sydney Harbour. Sam’s knowledge and enthusiasm for the boats he represents was immediately apparent. Sam works for Egil Paulsen who established FYA. Egil owned a 55 and took that, with Tony Fleming aboard, on its maiden voyage from Southampton to Norway. Egil and Sam have cruised extensively in Norwegian and other waters, often with Tony too, so there’s no shortage of real-world, hands-on experience when you talk with them about your own Fleming.
It’s impossible in the space here to do justice in describing all that the Fleming 58 offers, but it is genuinely outstanding in a number of ways. Firstly, it’s very practical. This 58 was a brand new boat being prepared for the 2017 Sydney Boat Show. It was immaculate, yet there was no need, nor request, to remove shoes before stepping inside. The carpets covering the glorious teak and holly floors were top quality, pleasing to the eye in colour and texture and comfortable to walk on, yet they were easily removed for cleaning and of a hard-wearing style that showed not the slightest imprint as I and others explored the 58.
The layout of the entire boat is practical too. Boarding is easy either from doors in the bulwarks each side at two different levels to cater for different heights of pontoons and jetties, or across a large transom platform with removable hand rails into a good sized cockpit. Passage onboard continues through wide-opening doors into a spacious saloon. A large galley, U-shaped for convenience and security in a seaway, is forward at the same level.
A few steps, large and straight, lead up past a handy toilet compartment to a wonderful wheelhouse with an exemplary, electronics-laden, helm. To port there is an L-shaped settee around a table where crew or guests could comfortably keep the skipper company. Or the skipper could relax there with a snack while on autopilot in open waters as visibility is excellent. Additionally, the area converts to a very comfortable berth.
Doors on both sides of the wheelhouse lead out to wide and deeply protected sidedecks, a Portuguese bridge and the foredeck. Just inside the starboard door, a flight of stairs leads down to the three staterooms, two bathrooms and the laundry. Centre-aft of the wheelhouse is an easily-traversed staircase that takes you up to a huge flybridge with extensive seating, a barbecue with other conveniences and another excellent helm position.
A key aspect of the 58 is its engineering. Back in the cockpit, a ladder gives access down to a large engine room with two MAN i6-800 diesels in immaculate surroundings. It’s worth an hour or two in this part of the 58 to check out all the systems, and it takes at least that long to begin to appreciate the attention to detail in the engineering. The Fleming has redundant redundancies to give back-ups to back-ups for those ‘it couldn’t possibly happen’ circumstances that actually can happen on long cruises away from any support.
One example is the hydraulic steering system which has back-up power and three hydraulic pumps – ‘just in case’. Another example of engineering thoughtfulness is the engine room air intake which originates under the side deck bulwarks where there’s little chance of salt contamination but, ‘just in case’, the air flows first into the large lazarette aft of the engine room where any salt spray that might get through would be contained. Fleming yachts with years of extensive cruising under their keels have immaculate engine rooms partly because of this intake air ‘filtration’ approach. The two engines have totally discreet fuel and electrical systems for resilience. The 58 can still do 10 knots on one engine.
Indicative of comfort throughout are the six separate air conditioning systems, including one for the engine room. The staterooms sleep six with optional layouts available. The master stateroom can be amidships or forward. On this 58, it was full-beam amidships with an island queen berth, capacious ensuite, a large walk-in robe plus side cabinetry, a settee to one side plus a vanity table or mini office on the other side. The guest cabins can be to port and starboard or with one forward and the other to port; they can have various layouts including an island queen berth or twin singles or a single and office space.
For Australian-delivered Flemings, all the electronics are purchased locally and shipped to the factory for installation (or are locally installed where appropriate) so that Aussie servicing is readily available. Extensive documentation and manuals come with each yacht along with as much on-water tuition and familiarisation as each owner desires. After-sales support and assistance is emphasized.
Aboard the Fleming 58, there was no mistaking the feel of luxury, but it is the sort of luxury that also exudes a comforting welcome and an intuition that you would relax onboard. There is apparent artisan care and skills in the cabinetry which is all in selected teak and built in-situ for the ultimate in perfect fit and long-life strength. Overall it creates an aura that everything would be easy to care for and to keep in top condition.
Details progressively become apparent as you tour the 58 such as the slide-out pantry, the separate wine fridge as part of the galley’s large fridge/freezer, the Royal Doulton china, the shaving mirror that opens to a convenient height, the heated towel racks in the bathrooms, the excellent labelling in the engine room, the deck hardware carefully positioned to avoid toes, ankles and shins, the lift-up cleats on the boarding platform to secure a tender, indeed the centre-console, outboard-powered RIB tender itself and its articulated davit on the flybridge, the dual anchor winches, the dedicated linen locker, the laundry with a stacked washer and dryer, the powered insect or block-out screens for hatches, the discretely concealed manoeuvering controls in the cockpit, plus so much more.
Those manoeuvering controls, at all four stations (wheelhouse, bridge, cockpit and aft boat deck), are part of a fully integrated system with extensive data displays in the wheelhouse and, to a slightly lesser extent, on the flybridge. Intuitive joystick operation takes the stress out of close quarter operation including berthing. The careful engineering and construction give quiet and smooth cruising.
Fleming has the catch phrase ‘The Ultimate Cruising Yacht’ which seems very applicable.
Overall Length: 19.94 metres
Hull Length: 19.10 metres
Beam: 5.33 metres
Draft: 1.52 metres
Displacement: 48,000 kgs
Fuel: 5,488 litres
Water: 1,211 litres
Power (as tested): Twin MAN i6-800 Diesels 800hp (597kW) each
Cruise Speed: 8-12 knots
Top Speed: 20.5 knots
Range: 2,200 nautical miles at 8 knots
Price as tested (at time of review): $5.375 million