After our recent delivery of the Amel 54 we have been asked to give our impressions of the differences between the Amel 54 and her older sister, the 53 foot Super Maramu. We were only sailing aboard the Amel 54 for a week, so our impressions are not comprehensive. Also, it is just natural that we would prefer the way we have become accustomed to doing things onboard our Super Maramu, to the point we might look askance on things just because they are different. Hopefully I have avoided overt prejudice, and give reasonable rationales for my conclusions.
The Super Maramu was certainly Amel’s most commercially successful design to date. Introduced in 1988 and produced until 2006 well over 400 were made over 18 years. I would guess the gross sales of this model approached half a billion dollars, certainly one of the single most successful cruising yacht models ever built. When Amel 54 was introduced in 2005 as the successor to the Super Maramu it certainly had big shoes to fill. Although it had a shorter production run of 6 years, several people who know the Amel line intimately have described it as the best world cruising boat Amel ever built–strong praise indeed.
Right now, an Amel 54 in good nick will run about US$400,000 to $600,000. The prices for a Super Maramu will vary more, since they cover a wide range of ages, but for a well maintained example $230,000 to $350,000 would be a reasonable range to expect. Both of these boats share the same “DNA.” They have a similar visual design, and incorporate many of the same features that have always made Amel yachts stand out as premium world cruising boats. They share enough features, it would make a very long article to list them, so I will focus on those things that are different. Every evaluation I express is strictly my own opinion, and I am sure there is no one else who would agree with everything I write here. Hopefully, even in disagreement, it is helpful.
At first glance, not a lot distinguishes an Amel 54 from the older Super Maramu.
Both boats are ketches, and are more similar than different, but there ARE real differences. The largest and most obvious difference on casual examination is that the 54 was designed with an inner forestay that carries a staysail. Some Super Maramus have been modified to carry a staysail, but most of these modifications are weakly implemented. Our experience with using the staysail on the 54 in strong winds is that the boat balances nicely, and it is an improvement for heavy weather sailing.
The Super Maramu was not designed to carry a spinnaker, although it is easily modified so it can. The 54 was built to carry a spinnaker. We didn’t get to use one on our trip. The down wind poles on the 54 are longer and heavier than those on the Super Maramu, although the rigging of them has been well thought out and doesn’t require a lot of man-handling. Both boats can utilize the Amel twin headsail downwind rig.
One of the most significant changes we made to our Super Maramu’s sailing performance was the addition of cockpit control to the mizzen traveler. It means we can adjust the mizzen traveler without having to go out onto the aft deck. We use the mizzen sail a lot more, and get more efficiency out of it. Making such a modification to the 54 would not be impossible, but is more complex since the mizzen traveler is down on the aft deck, not up on the coachroof.
The sail furling gear for the mainsail and mizzen are essentially the same on both boats. The Super Maramu uses an Amel designed furler for the genoa that is robust and reliable. The 54 was built with Bamar fulers for the genoa and staysail that were very problematic, to the point that Bamar offered significant discounts for redesigned units. Different owners addressed this problem in different ways. The success of the alterations will vary from boat to boat.
The most obvious change in the deck arrangements of these two boats was the change to flush locker hatches on the 54. This is certainly better esthetically, and offers less opportunity for tripping and toe-stubbing for the crew. On the downside, the hatches have a much higher tendency to leak. You win some, you lose some.
Super Maramu #160 on the left, Amel 54 on the right. The changes in anchor handling from the early Super Maramus to later models and the 54 are significant. The early Super Maramus have a functional anchor handling system that handles a single anchor very well, but this is taken several steps up on the Amel 54. Twin windlasses, and a more flexible and robust set of rollers represent a significant upgrade. Unlike the Super Maramu, the chain lockers for the Amel 54 were designed with a removable bottom grate to enable easier cleanout of the inevitable mud that will accumulate. But nothing comes for free. The windlasses of the 54 are further forward to make more room in the bow locker. That means the space available for chain storage is shorter and narrower. While retrieving 100 meters of chain all in one go we had it pile up high enough that it jammed the chainpipe and needed to be manually cleared. This has never happened to us on our Super Maramu
The Super Maramu has twin bow storage lockers that are relatively shallow in depth, but useful none the less, easily holding spare sails, and other gear. The single bow locker on the 54 is certainly voluminous, but smaller items might get lost in the depths. It’s also a mixed use space with access for some electrical panels and bow thruster. If it is packed with sails and “stuff” access to those systems are compromised.
The Super Maramu has a passeralle that is 100% manual. It is stored on the starboard quarter rail , and put into place on the stern when needed. It doubles as the gunwale mounted boarding ladder. The 54 was optionally equipped with a electric passeralle that is very cool and awesome–when it works. It has a reputation for constant mechanical problems and serious corrosion issues. I haven't met anyone who was happy with it.
The engine rooms on these boats are very similar, and are truly one of the great features. Essentially identical, they are fully isolated from the living spaces, they are spacious and easy to work in.
Amel never really found the perfect engine for the 54. Most of these boats were equipped with the Volvo D3. These were early models of fully electronic engines which has been a source of trouble for some owners. A number of software and hardware upgrades from Volvo over the years has reduced the issues. On the Super Maramu both the Volvo TMD22 and the Yanmar engines have been reliable workhorses. Although as time passes more and more of these have been repowered as the original engines age into third decade of life.
The Super Maramu was equipped with a custom built retractable bow thruster of Amel’s own design. These were designed back when bow thrusters were still unusual on yachts of this size. Robust and powerful, they have been reliable tools–when well cared for. The 54’s bow thruster was built for Amel by Sidepower, and is even more powerful. If the forward locker where the bow thruster lives can be kept dry, it is a great tool.
The interior design of these boats is where they differ the most. The 54’s hull is a more modern design for a cruising boat. She is much broader in the aft sections than her older sister. This results in a significantly larger interior volume that the designers took excellent advantage of.
The biggest changes are forward and aft. The aft cabin on a 54 is much larger than on a Super Maramu, and the bed changes from one pushed up against the port side, to a full walk around bed. The head has also been reworked with a separate shower stall. Almost as dramatic are the changes in the forward cabin. Instead of the traditional v-berth, there is a port side pullman cabin and on the starboard side a pair of bunks. The head was moved to the bow peak.
I think of the changes as a bit of a mixed bag, but mostly better. The aft cabin is a huge improvement in utility and comfort. The heads on the 54 are much nicer at anchor with separate shower stalls, and more amenities, but we found them less advantageous underway. Fewer appropriate handholds and brace points, and a good deal less storage. Not a disaster, certainly, but not as easy to use as those in the Super Maramu while the boat is in a seaway. Since boats spend a much greater percentage of time at anchor or in the marina, this might be a reasonable compromise.
With the 54 Amel moved away from solid wood leeboards for all the berths, and went to lee cloths. Both are well designed, secure, and comfortable.
The Nav Station is much improved on the 54. Usable as a desk for routine work on paper or keyboard, where the ergonomics of a Super Maramu Nav Station doesn’t work for much more than plotting a fix for a few minutes at a time.
The 54 is equipped with much larger freezers than the Super Maramu, and they seem better insulated. On the downside, the circulating raw water cooling on the 54 freezer is a maintenance nightmare, for a quite small improvement in cooling efficiency. The 54 galley is set up for a wider four burner stove, instead of the smaller 2 burner model installed on most Super Maramus.
The 54 has many more opening hatches than the Super Maramu, partly because the space it divided up a bit more and more points of air intake are needed, and partly to improve the amount of air flow. Neither boat has any useful passive ventilation available when underway.
Here the boats are way more alike than they are different. Most of the utilities are served up in similar ways, sometimes even using exactly the same equipment.
The electrical system on the 54 is beefed up some, but the general philosophy is the same. Amel has moved toward a more modern setup for the electrical distribution in the 54, but still retained some of their unique quirks–for better and worse!
These boats are both very similar and very different. After a week aboard, we decided that we wouldn’t, ourselves, want to trade up to a 54. But we certainly understand why other people would. It’s a bigger boat, within almost the same footprint. It’s newer. Amel redesigned many parts of the boat, with mostly good results, although they swung and missed on a few.
It is a rule that no boat is perfect for everybody–and no boat is perfect for anybody. All boats are compromises. Is the Amel 54 a better set of compromises for you? Or the older, cheaper, Super Maramu? Only you will know!