Your New Best Friend

Boundless Yachts has found your buddy

February 2016 Feature Trevor Mason

The Boundless 90 is a unicorn, a mythical beast that precious few mortals have had the good fortune to gaze upon with their own eyes. Okay, not really. Plenty of people have had the opportunity to witness this beauty firsthand, but this houseboat-yacht hybrid is quite the unique, different animal, and we’re here to tell you all about it. Dubbed the Migliori Amici (Italian for “best friends”), the boat really does want to be your best friend. By combining the best of the houseboating and yachting worlds, and a few more innovations to boot, it makes good on that moniker.

We spoke with RC Johnston, the boat’s architect, and Chuck Lovell, who oversaw the boat’s production at Custom Steel Boats in North Carolina, and came away with a fascinating perspective on their design philosophy and how they achieved it. According to RC, “They wanted the boat to handle a bit more water than a yacht. They liked the idea of going to the Bahamas; that’s what the boat was designed for, to breakfast in Ft. Lauderdale and then lunch in Nassau or somewhere, or for trips on the weekend, that sort of thing. She runs really nice; it’s like driving a sports car!” That kind of performance in a yacht can get quite costly. While upkeep and overhead are comparable, to get the amenities of this hybrid in a motor yacht it would possibly run 30% more, so what you get in this boat is worth its weight in well-being.

Smooth Sailing

Indeed, the Migliori Amici, despite her size, can run in much shallower water than your traditional yacht, while having much more living space than a typical houseboat. First, let’s focus on the former, then we’ll get to the latter.

Chuck was a wealth of knowledge for us, as he oversaw the boat’s production over the course of two years. He said, “You could pull it up on about any beach in Florida, as long as you maintain 3 feet under the intakes. It’s great for that type of relaxation. If you want to cruise the Intracoastal Waterway, you don’t get in trouble. You can stop right off of a channel and weigh anchor in the areas where you can. We brought it down from North Carolina in a 6-foot sea and we were just moving right along with it.”

If you’re unfamiliar with it, here’s some detail on the Intracoastal Waterway, and why it’s so impressive that the Migliori Amici can navigate it without issue. The Intracoastal Waterway runs along the eastern seaboard of the United States from New Jersey, where it connects to the Atlantic Ocean, down to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas. Federal law mandates that the minimum depth be 12 feet, but the practical reality is that there are numerous points along the waterway’s route that get as shallow as seven feet, which is potentially hazardous for larger ships. Migliori Amici only has a draft of three feet, and only needs about five feet to get up and running with its engines.

Those engines are smartly installed, as well. Acting as the propulsion system are three Yanmar 725 horsepower engines that are hooked into Hamilton jet drives. The advantage of the jet drive system is unparalleled maneuverability; seriously, this boat can spin circles that most houseboats can’t even attempt, let alone pull off successfully. Not only that, but if your day happens to be on the slower side of things, you can take the economical route by pulling the center jet out of the water and running on the two outboards. The boat’s no slouch when it comes to power, either. Using all three engines give you tons of it, so much so that you could even indulge in some wakeboarding, if it struck your fancy. As Chuck explains, “When it was new and running dry, we hit 30 knots. With everybody onboard and the furniture in it, it still gets up to about 25 or 26 knots. It gets up on plane, so you still have speed way beyond what you have in any houseboat.”

Speaking of versatility, the generators serving as the boat’s power needs have an intelligent design. Instead of two large generators, which would have added too much to the weight, they installed three smaller generator sets. The primary reason for doing so was fuel consumption. With one set dedicated to the house, that leaves another set free to power the AC system, and yet another to serve as a backup plan in case anything goes wrong. Keeping with the theme of system redundancy, the sewer system has also been segregated into fore and aft sections. That way, if something gets clogged, there’s always a head somewhere on the boat that you can use.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled

Now, enough about the nuts and bolts, let’s get to where this beauty really shines: the interior. We’ve seen plenty of gorgeous houseboats in our day, but the Migliori Amici might have them beat. You have to remind yourself that the accommodations you’re looking at are on a boat, because if you didn’t know better, you’d swear up and down that you’re actually in a house. I suppose the sound of the waves and the sensation of movement negate the illusion, but that just speaks to how well outfitted this ship is.

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According to Chuck, the main design conceit was a combination of livability and entertainment. As for the former, “All the staterooms were built with big people in mind. The original owners were all professional basketball players, and part owners in Sumerset Houseboats where all of this started,” he says. As you might imagine, that requires a lot of headroom: we’re talking eight feet of head room on the main deck and seven and a half feet on the lower.

He continues, “The main suite has a California king bed in it, and the rest of them have California queens. One room is bunk beds and it has the regular twin mattresses. We can sleep eight easily. In the pilot house we also put a fold-out couch that is a queen, as well as a fold-out couch in the main stateroom. We’ve had parties on her and had as many as 12 to 13 people standing around in just the pilot house and you look around and you wonder where all the people are. It’s that spacious.”

Every stateroom has a full bathroom, with a sink, toilet and shower. No tubs, though, because the requisite water use would be too excessive, in addition to increasing the boat’s weight. There’s also a laundry room with a sink and a freezer, and a guest closet that’s large enough to hold visitors’ luggage so they don’t have to keep it in their rooms.

I Sat By the Ocean

Hopefully entertaining guests is in your wheelhouse, because you’ll need a lot of them to fill this baby up; it might get a little lonely otherwise. The main dining table in the galley can seat up to 10 people, and there’s even a pop-up flatscreen television in the countertop that can swivel in any direction. The galley looks like they went into a house, cut out the entire kitchen—sink, stove, oven, refrigerator and all—and surgically inserted it in the center of the main deck. Once you’ve finished dining, can head on up to the fly bridge for some outdoor entertainment where there is a completely functioning bar on each deck. The space on the swim platform at the stern is plentiful. It’s about 5 feet by 19 feet and big enough that “you could have a dance on it.” Chuck recalls, “We had a party at Christmastime and went up to the Lauderdale Christmas parade and there were about 75 people on it. Honestly, everybody was scattered all over the boat and nobody was crowded. Everybody said, ‘Man this is a huge boat!’”

Like Clockwork

Entertainment really is a central pillar to the boat’s design philosophy. As previously stated, you can wakeboard, but in addition to that, the boat’s shallow draft allows you to pull into most beaches and get relatively close to the shore. So once your party has run its course on the boat itself, you can move things to the shore and continue your revelry.

In fact, the Migliori Amici is uniquely suited to a liveaboard situation. Its 1,500 square feet of living space are more than a lot of apartments.

“The liveaboard thing is the other unique thing about this boat,” Chuck says. “If you took the machinery out of it, it would raise it out of the water about eight to 10 inches. So you’d have a boat with less than two feet of draft. You could drag her around to anywhere you wanted to and leaving one engine onboard, you could place her wherever you need to go. You could live on it absolutely easy and wonderful.”

In most respects, the Migliori Amici defies expectation.

“She can easily dock and navigate without thrusters in any waters like a normal houseboat would,” adds Chuck. “She was designed for use as a houseboat hybrid for the larger rivers and lakes such as the Mississippi and Great lakes where the waves would wash the decks of traditional houseboats. She’s got speed to get to the islands and ample freeboard for large lakes, rivers and short ocean hops in waves up to eight feet. No one in a 100-foot Feadship is going to play in eight-foot seas.”

Truly, this is one of the most unique boats we’ve seen. Like the mythical unicorn, it’s a melding of two different worlds. Like the unicorn, it’s one of a kind. Unlike the unicorn, the Migliori Amici actually exists, and if you can wend your way to Bal Harbour, Fla., you can check her out with your own eyes. If you wait too long, though, she might slip from your grasp. To borrow a phrase from Chuck, down the road she’ll go.

Photography credited to Scott Taylor Photography, Inc.

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