IN THEIR WORDS
Two days and a night, running south along the California coast in a classic cabin boat. The twin diesels are ticking off the 180 miles from Oxnard to San Diego, with a stopover at Catalina Island. The weather is fine, the view sublime.
For Kevin Martin and Tom Kosciensza, the maiden voyage of their 1982 Uniflite 46 Motor Yacht wasn’t only a long time coming — it was well worth the wait. “We had such a great time,” says Martin, 40, a marine fisheries biologist from San Diego. “The water was so blue, and the boat handled so well. Tom and I both grew up on lakes, and we’ve owned [small] boats over the years. But we’ve always dreamed of living aboard a big boat some day. This was living the dream.”
They came across the Uniflite in Oxnard about a year ago. It had been tied up —almost unused — in a slip for four years. It was love at first sight. “It had all accessories we needed and more room than a 50-footer,” Martin says. The three-cabin layout was enhanced with wood paneling and teak cabin soles, and the main saloon was too much to resist. “When we walked on the upper saloon and saw the big windows looking over the harbor, that was it,” he says.
They paid $100,000 for the boat, “as-is, where-is,” as the new owner puts it. And that meant there was work to do, inside and out; it was time for a list. “Like work on a house, you prioritize your improvements based on importance and budget,” Martin says. First, the old wiring was removed and a new system installed. The interior woodwork was brought back with a total refinishing. A new headliner went up, and modern appliances replaced the old galley gear. Current projects include adding electronics — the latest is a GPS/plotter — and painting the hull.
“Let’s just say we have been giving all the systems on the boat some long-overdue attention, and she is responding very well,” says Martin, who calls the various refurbishing projects a labor of love. “We did all the work ourselves, which makes [the boat] feel much more like a part of our lives than it would if somebody else had done it.”
The payoff comes when the tools are put away and the lights of San DiegoBay start to come on. Then the two boaters may gather with friends in the Uniflite’s spacious main saloon (with wet bar, entertainment center and helm station) “for cocktails and a 360-degree view of the world,” says Martin. The flybridge is the boat’s “patio and observation deck, where you sit 18 feet off the water in a roomy area and watch the world go by,” he says. Then, it’s time to slip the dock lines and take a dinner cruise around San DiegoBay.
Power for the 40,000-pounder comes from a pair of turbocharged 420-hp Detroit diesels with 900 hours. Though neglected during the boat’s idle period, the engines needed only routine maintenance, says Martin. Now they power the 46-footer at a steady 15 to 17 mph. “At 2,200 rpm, she will stand up at a solid 22 knots,” he says.
The boat has showed what it can do in a Pacific swell, too. “She handles very well in rough seas; she’s heavy and very responsive when needed,” says Martin. “She’s a planing hull, so she tends to surf, and that’ll give you a tingle up your spine. I’m very happy with her.”
And that’s enough for what lay in store for the big Uniflite: more trips to Catalina, maybe a cruise to Mexico and, always handy, the waters of San DiegoBay and its environs. “I know she’s very seaworthy and a great [offshore] performer,” says Martin. “And she’s got lots of room, so she’s wonderful as a liveaboard. It’s a new home on the water.”
Designed by prolific naval architect David Martin, the Uniflite 46 Motor Yacht has a classic 1980s flush-deck profile, with an upright superstructure free of Euro-style curves. Author Ed McKnew, in the 2007 edition of The Powerboat Guide (American Marine Publishing, Traverse City, Mich.) calls her “one of the best-looking flush-deck yachts ever produced [with] graceful lines and a spacious saloon.”
She has a multilevel, triple-stateroom layout, and the standard twin-diesel power package (Detroit 671s) gives the boat a 15- to 20-knot speed and plenty of range. The master suite is aft, with an island berth and adjacent head with vanity and shower. Moving forward, there’s a smaller cabin (or den) with a single berth and a desk to starboard. The lower saloon is amidships, up three steps, and has room for the large, U-shaped galley down, to starboard. There’s a third cabin forward (with bunks or berths), as well as a full head with shower. The large upper saloon is aft and includes seating, a wet bar, entertainment center and the lower helm station. This area, popular with owners, is fully enclosed and can be climate-controlled.
The flybridge, reached by an aluminum ladder, has another helm station and additional seating. The 46 Motor Yacht has a wood-panel interior and soft wall coverings, with a teak sole in the heads, galley and forward stateroom. The master and midship staterooms are carpeted.
The hull and deck are built of solid fiberglass. The bottom is a modified-vee shape, with a sharply angled bow, full-length chines and just 4 degrees of transom deadrise, making it virtually flat aft.
The Uniflite 46 Motor Yacht is easily found on the used-boat market, generally priced from around $150,000 to just under $200,000. Boats can be found in virtually all corners of the country, with many east of the Mississippi. A “beautiful … turn-key” 1982 model in Maryland was listed at $159,000, with twin 410-hp diesels, air conditioning, flat-screen television, CD stereo system, refrigerator/freezer, washer/dryer and icemaker. A 1982 model in Florida was priced at $165,000, with twin 450-hp diesels (just over 2,000 hours) and such new additions as a generator, color GPS/plotter and carpeting. Around the Great Lakes, an “immaculate” freshwater 1984 model was for sale in Michigan, priced at $184,900 with a washer/dryer, air conditioning, surround-sound entertainment system and a 15-kW generator. In Virginia a 1984 model was listed for $199,000, powered by 410-hp diesels (1,300 hours) and with an array of electronics that includes a 48-nm radar, GPS/plotter, and autopilot controls at both the upper and lower helm stations.
When New Jersey-based Pacemaker Yachts closed down in 1980, the molds to its popular 46-foot cruiser were purchased by Uniflite. The boat was then reintroduced in 1981 as the Uniflite 46 Motor Yacht and enjoyed a strong four-year production run. In fact, when Uniflite went out of business in 1984, Chris-Craft bought the molds and produced the boat (previously stretched by Uniflite to 50 feet) as the 500 Constellation.
Founded in 1958 by designer Art Nortvedt, Uniflite was a well-known Pacific Northwest boatbuilder for more than 25 years. It started out building small fiberglass runabouts (the first a 17-footer) and by the 1980s had turned into one of the country’s biggest production builders, with factories in Washington and South Carolina producing express boats, sedans, convertibles and cabin cruisers from 15 to 48 feet.
In all, the builder turned out around 11,000 boats before going out of business in 1984. A factory fire in Washington in 1980 and a gelcoat blistering problem — reportedly caused by the fire-retardant chemical mixed in the fiberglass resin used in the building process — contributed to the company’s downfall.
LOA: 46 feet, 3 inches
BEAM: 15 feet, 3 inches
DRAFT: 4 feet, 4 inches
weight: 41,000 pounds
hull type: modified-vee
power: twin diesels
TANKAGE: 500 gallons fuel,
160 gallons water
DESIGNER: David Martin
BUILDER: United Boat Builders, Bellingham, Wash.