You have to hand it to the Oyster marketing team. If you say "raised saloon" you almost immediately follow it with "like an Oyster." This reminds me of 20 years ago when it was: "You know, like a Swan."

The Oyster 53.

The Oyster 53.

Rob Humphreys designed the hull, deck and rig; Holman and Pye did the interior and structural design. The Oyster 53 is a handsome boat with contemporary lines. The Department of Ergonomics at Loughborough University did the cockpit design. Oyster has drawn on a wide range of talent to produce this boat.

The biggest challenge in designing a raised-saloon boat is not the aesthetics. The real challenge is integrating the heights you need for the raised saloon with the clearances required to extend the saloon seating beyond the perimeter of the cabintrunk. If you want to sit and look out the windows, you have to bring the settees inboard and raise them up two steps, not one. This works well for visibility, but chops up the saloon and reduces the available space.

The saloon layout of this particular model pushed the settees outboard. This layout is termed the standard layout, but variations are available to suit owner requirements. The big circular dinette is impressive, but again, I'd prefer to see corners. Adjacent to the galley and separated by the engine room is a small stateroom with stacked single berths. There is another small stateroom forward with stacked berths. This means that along with the two palatial double-berth staterooms for the adults, there is sleeping for four kids. I like this. I can't imagine many improvements to this layout. If the small stateroom aft was eliminated, it could be converted to a navigational/computer area, and you could add some additional useful space to the saloon settee to port. One way to judge a layout is to see if you can seat, at one table, the same number of people you can sleep. I can't see eight people eating at that small circular table unless they were eating noodles, on end.

One benefit of the center-cockpit layout is that you can get the mainsheet traveler aft of the cockpit and out of the way. The mainsheet is led forward, inside the boom, then brought out to lead aft to a winch on the cabintop. The cockpit itself is on the small side, but this is part of the center-cockpit equation. The well will intrude into the interior, so it makes sense in an interior-driven design to keep the well small. I'd like to see more deck hatches on this boat, although given the layout of the deck I'm not sure how I would place them. That's another problem with center-cockpit boats. There is an outside-opening port in the galley, and I would assume that there is an opening port into the cockpit well for cross-ventilation. Note the large deck access locker molded into the aft end of the trunk and the flush hatches accessing the lazarette.

The rig is a masthead sloop with a staysail for heavy weather. The spreaders are in-line and there is a babystay forward. Looking at the interior I can see that it would be easy to move the chainplates aft and to sweep the spreaders. This would do away with the need for the babystay and make tacking easier. But now you're back to impaling the main on the spreaders. As my pal Special Ed says, "It's always something, never nothing." SA/D ratio is 18.99.

The hull is moderately heavy with a D/L ratio of 242. Remember, this ratio range is not static. The light boat of yesterday is the moderate boat of today. The 53 is beamy and carries the beam aft to help with accommodations, deck space and boat speed. What more could you want? Draft is either 7 feet, 3 inches or 6 feet, depending upon keel choice. The rudder is a nonbalanced, skeg-hung type. Note how narrow the skeg is.

I always go aboard the Oysters at boat shows. They have a nice feel and usually show careful detailing and choice of hardware. I think this new 53 epitomizes what a lot of cruising sailors are looking for today.

An attractively detailed, well-laid-out, center-cockpit cruiser.

Draft7'3" (standard keel), 6' (optional shoal keel)
Displacement49,600 lbs.
Ballast14,010 lbs.
Sail Area1,602 sq. ft. (main + genoa)
SA/D ratio18.99
D/L ratio242
AuxiliaryYanmar 88-horsepower diesel
Fuel185 gals.
Water198 gals.


SAILINGlogo-115This story originally appeared in Sailing Magazine, and is republished here by permission. Subscribe to Sailing.