Oyster 53 Review: New Zealand Built Cruiser

Oyster 53

Oyster Marine traces its roots to 1973 when Richard Matthews started the United Kingdom yard. The first yacht was a 34-footer by Holman and Pye. In 1979, they introduced maybe the first deck saloon cruiser, a style that has become their hallmark. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the yard introduced new designs every year or two by naval architects including Stephen Jones, Rob Humphries, and Holman & Pye. In 2000, the Oyster 53 was introduced as Rob Humphries’ second design for Oyster Marine along with a Holman and Pye interior and cockpit by the Department of Ergonomics at Loughborough University. She originally retailed for $1.75 million and was meant to be a smaller alternative to the Oyster 56. As of 2010, production is active in New Zealand by McDell Marine one of Aukland’s finest yards. The Oyster line ranges from 46 to 82 feet. The yard is planning 100, 125, and 125 Flybridge superyacht designs by Dubois Naval Architects. The Oyster Yacht Brokerage is a great resources for more information.

First Impressions
The Oyster 53 with her predatory deck saloon windows and gill-like ventilators just about swims through the water like a fish. In contrast to many modern cruisers, she has a blunt nosed entry that integrates a dual bow roller. This turns to a piercing foredeck with a modestly declining sheerline. Aftmost is really a traditional counter stern with as an afterthought a one level swim platform glassed on. This is a classic look that easily could omit the platform for a lovely CCA overhang. I previewed a white-hulled 53 with a thin blue cove stripe. Four portholes in the topsides decorate her along with a low slung cabintrunk and the large predatory doghouse. The decks are teak with a teak caprail. Aloft, she has a double spreader sloop rig supported by three forestays and a single backstay. The sail plan illustrates a double headsail sloop rig with 1,615 square feet of canvas for a sail area to displacement of 19.3. Underneath, she has a flattened forefoot, some softness, and an overhang aft. She has moderate length over beam ratio of 3.4 and a moderate displacement ratio of 231. The keel could be a deep 7.3′ fin or a 6′ shoal lead bulb.

The Oyster 53 is unlike other Oysters built under contract by McDell Marine in New Zealand presumably to outsource production costs. The McDell yacht is known for quality custom large sailing yachts so should be at home here. This outsourcing is somewhat of a trend as Oyster is using a Turkish yard for its Dubois superyachts. The hull is hand laid fiberglass with a cored deck and stand inner flange joint. The keel is lead external mounted on a fiberglass stub paired with a skeg hung rudder. Interior decor includes Avonite counter tops and Alcanara upholstry. Oyster is a semi-custom builder and allows purchasers to choose the interior woodwork between honey colored teak, American white oak, or cherrywood. Deck hardware is beefy and does not skimp on the quality blocks, cleats, and chocks.

On Deck
Forward most is a dual bow roller integrated in the rather blunt bow. Chainlocker access is via port and starboard hatches forward of the deck mounted vertical windlass. There are a couple nice large chocks on the teak caprail and cleats on deck. Mounted on the slanted forward end of the coachroof is a hatch. With the companionway closed wind nicely ventilates through the cabin from this open, angled hatch. The second outer forestay is available for a inner headsail or as removable forestay. There is a third, innermost forestay mounted on the cabin trunk. A single plastic dorade is forward which seems cheap in terms of the other deck hardward. A nicely polished chrome dorade would look higher class. Port and starboard are little ventilators paired with small stainless railings. Two more hatches port starboard lie on the cabintrunk. For the inner forestay, two short genoa tracks mount along the cabin trunk. The cabin trunk is teak lined.

Aft of the Seldon mast, the cabin trunk sharply rises for the hallmark Oyster-style deck saloon. The top has a non-skid surface and is the only non-teak lined deck space. Three doghouse windows cover the front and the port starboard ones open. On each side, two more windows are followed by gill-like ventilators and three portholes below. Along each teak side deck is a nice long genoa track behind the inner bedded chainplates. Oyster really adds all different size and type blocks for a flexible sheeting arrangement. They have loaded blocks on springs along the sidedeck and one on the cabintop. Aft of the cockpit the cabintrunk ends for a moderate aft deck. There is a propane locker starboardside, a molded locker in the aft cabintrunk, and a lazarette with hydraulic lifts centerline aft. The particular 53 I previewed had nice teak lined stern rail seats. The emergency steering fixture is just aft the cabintrunk. The swim platform has two semi-circular vertically inlined steps and a swim ladder that swings down.

The cockpit had an interesting bimini on tracks. This allowed for a slight forward and aft adjustment. The primary and secondary winches are slightly outside the lip of the cockpit. The traveller is aftmost for end boom sheeting. The Department of Ergonomics at Loughborough University designed the cockpit and did a wonderful job. The seats are a moderate width and long enough to lie down on, the footwell is a moderate depth, and the combings are just right in height. At the helm, you have many variations and a good view. The combings meander around with a thin cambered edge that makes for a curvacious cockpit. When you are sailing people like cockpit corners and this design sneaks out extra corners with its wavy combing. Two 2 inch scuppers are port and starboard and a secure companionway sill of 2 foot tall. The companionway itself slides downward like on Amels and has a screen door that can slide up.

Down Below
It is a long five step ladder down to the raised saloon. Portside is a settee and nav station while starboardside is a L-shaped settee dinette arrangement. This 53 had the light teak interior with parque flooring and white, airy headliner. Forwardmost is a queen centerline berth with a head and ensuite shower port. Starboardside just aft is a tight double bunk berth with room for 6′ tall people. This stateroom would be excellent for children. Aft of the saloon portside is a workarea and engine access under the cockpit. Starboardside is the galley along the walkthrough to the master stateroom. Portside aftmost is a head and separate stall shower. The engine is either a 88 HP or 100HP Yanmar later on, often turboed. Access is via the workroom, galley, and companionway.

The Oyster 53 is an expensive, quality built yacht. New she is upwards of $2 million while used come in from $700,000 to $900,000. They are built in New Zealand by McDell Marine with hull design by Rob Humphries. The best resource is Oyster Marine for more information.

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