Part express cruiser, part motoryacht, the EX 60 doesn’t fit any one category precisely, which explains why Tiara adopted the Adventure Series moniker.
A late-fall shakedown proves that Tiara’s flagship—the EX 60—has substance to go along with her style.
The October winds off Lake Michigan deliver a refreshing chill, like a deep breath after using mouthwash. Chicago beckons ahead as the Tiara EX 60 and her crew chugs ahead at a steady 21 knots into a steady three-foot chop. It’s a site that tugboats and cargo ships have soaked up for hundreds of years as they maneuver their wares towards the mouth of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers.
For centuries Ol’ Man River, The Big Muddy, Old Blue–and many other endearing and not-so-endearing nicknames for the Mississippi—has been the main artery for our country’s commerce.
Our trip, a leg of the delivery of Tiara’s EX 60—the builder’s largest boat to date—from Holland, Michigan to Florida would trace storied waters. It would be a trip not without challenges. The first foe the delivery faced was the epic fall winds of Lake Michigan. I grew up on the Atlantic and had not yet earned true respect for the fury of the Great Lakes. That changed when the forecast for our original departure date called for seas near 20-feet and gale-force winds.
This forecast reminded me of the story, and Gordon Lightfoot’s ballad, about the ill-fated freighter Edmund Fitzgerald. I pushed thoughts of the Titanic of the Great Lakes (Midwesterners love a good nickname) from my mind as I climbed aboard the EX 60 in the early morning hours. It was pitch black so I couldn’t fully appreciate the strong profile or high bulwarks of the new flagship. I could, however, appreciate the unbelievable amount of stowage the boat possessed as I helped to stowe K-Cups, deli meats, drinks and everything else a hungry crew could want. The crew and I joked at how every nook and cranny of the boat was filled with snacks, but truthfully, helping stow supplies left me with a respect for how this boat is designed to give every inch of possible space back to the owner.
I was also impressed with how incredibly comfortable the salon settee was as we idled towards the starless blackness of the lake. The initial plan was to run the 60 diagonally across the heart of the lake in a direct route to Chicago for a photo shoot. After 10- to 15-minutes of pounding through tightly packed 5- to 7-footers it became obvious: The boat was up for the challenge, but the crew, not so much. We pivoted and instead ran down the coast.
Prior to our departure the 60 had endured brief trials on calm seas but she had not yet been tested in angry, real-world conditions. It was thus, a shakedown of the highest order, made more intense because unlike other Tiaras, the topsides were secured to the boat at a partner facility located on the lake and not at their inland facility.
Despite hours and hours of abuse from the wind and short-period swells, there was only one failure: A single stubborn drawer refused to stay locked. A piece of tape solved the issue until a longer latch screw could be sourced.
The sunrise behind towering dunes on the shoreline brought welcome relief, for this crew member at least. Being able to really see the seas ahead offered a sense of equilibrium. The 60 has room for four unfamiliar adults in two bench seats to look forward. Capt. Tony Gillis and his wife Mary sat behind the helm to starboard and I stretched out on the seat to port and let my mind wander while occasionally swiping at the MFD before me. I thought back to a summer afternoon when I tested the builder’s 43 LE on the Lake a few years prior and seared the soles of my feet on a hike up the dunes. This was a different kind of day and a different kind of boat.
Oftentimes when a builder launches their biggest boat to date, you are left with a feeling that it was designed to be bigger for the sake of being bigger. Not so on the 60. It’s big and beefy but somehow maintains the aesthetic that I admired on the 43. With the windows and sunroof open and the fold-down gunwales deployed, the connection to the water feels similar in some ways to Tiara’s center consoles and certainly their smaller express boats. And on a cold, windy day in October, I was thankful for the option to be fully ensconced in climate-controlled bliss. I will admit, I felt awfully soft when we passed a couple of brave (some might say crazy) fisherman out in a small bow rider, but on this blustery day, I was happy to trade toughness for warmth.
As the day began to defrost and the seas lost a bit of their bite, we fell into a comfortable 21-knot cruise. The fasten seatbelt sign was off and we were free to move about the cabin, and maybe dip into some of those previously mentioned provisions.
Grabbing some fresh air in what I would call the upper cockpit, I stared at our wake for a while and imagined owning this boat and taking it to a quiet cove. The cockpit could easily serve as a party platform for a couple dozen people soaking up the sandbar life, but in my mind, this is every bit a multi-generational family space. Fold down the massive gunwales and you can watch kids jump and swim the day away. At the lower cockpit table, you could have eight or more enjoying lunch while avoiding the splash zone.
My favorite feature of this space is a high-lo table with loose furniture that would be the perfect spot to enjoy a sunrise cup of coffee with the newest issue of Power & Motoryacht, and in the afternoon, you could lower a television, raise the table to bar height and enjoy a cold beverage. This cockpit space fits what I would personally be looking for better than any other boat in this range.
Throughout the cockpit, salon and side decks, Tiara employs a synthetic teak from Teakdecking Systems that feels nice underfoot and gives the yacht a sophisticated look; it really is amazing how far faux teak has come in recent years. On the maintenance side, I’m told one coat of sealant a year will keep it protected.
Making our final approach to the Windy City, I was able to catch back up with Tiara’s Manager for New Product Development Chris Caropepe, whom I’d had the chance to meet along with his two sons on a previous Lake Michigan adventure. Not unlike in his actual role as a father, Caropepe carefully oversaw every stage of the 60’s development and boasts unmistakable pride in the new flagship. With the roughest stretch of the journey presumably in our wake, I watched him breathe a sigh of relief as he opened up about what it was like to see this model from concept to fruition.
“Our owner group came to us with a list and within that vision was that they wanted a boat that’s uniquely Tiara, has big water capabilities, pays particular attention to noise, vibration and harshness,” Caropepe said. “It’s got to be fast; it’s got to be nimble. So, we took all of that into account. At the same time our Coupe series has had quite a life. We’re becoming known for our opens, right? That was our bread-and-butter boat for years and years. So, we said, how do we blend those together to make what might be the next member of the family?”
Caropepe explained that they took everything learned from building their Coupe series and outboard boats and melded them into this all-new adventure series. “The lines between indoor space and outdoor space are a big part of that,” he said. “And then you can tell that by the flooring that we’ve used and how we’ve opened it all up—and in the cabin, got rid of any low hanging cabinetry so it just brings the outdoors in-, but still gives you a boat that you can close off with climate control and be comfortable and when things turn on.”
We pulled into a lock before entering downtown Chicago. Skyscrapers cast a shadow on us and the motley crew of a 30-something foot sailboat that shared the lock. I polished off a blueberry muffinwhile watching the sailors in their layers and foul-weather gear. They’d clearly just had an adventure. I guess the point of the Tiara 60 is that you can have an adventure while also being comfortable; I was happy to be on the boat I was on.
As we entered the city proper, we looked for a spot where Sales and Marketing Specialist Alex Slikkers and I could jump off and grab some photos and video of the boat. Thanks to a brave captain and IPS, we saddled up to the seawall and climbed over a railing. Amidst the lunch time hustle and bustle, no one seemed to notice us or care. Thankful to really stretch my legs, we ran from one side of the river to another looking for the vantage point. From these various angles I could now fully appreciate the Tiara’s aesthetics. She is indeed instantly recognizable as a Tiara but just seems bigger in every way. At one point, I carefully leaned over the side of the bridge and caught a bird’s-eye view of the 60. With twin radar domes and mast, she looked like a small superyacht.
I tried my best to soak up the sights of the city, but faster than you can say “Let me grab a slice of deep dish,” we had to get back aboard and underway.
We would spend the night at a riverside marina in Hammond, Illinois. With little to see but a sad, smoking-friendly casino, Chris, Alex and I found our way to a restaurant. It had a been a fun day, but a long one, and by the evening we had dropped the working formalities and chatted as friends. It was at this point, with my notebook tucked away, listening to Alex and Chris talk about bringing this boat to life that I could really appreciate how much pride they took in their work and in the 60. They’d spent years developing the framework for this model and seemed glad to be getting some early positive feedback ahead of its world premiere at the Miami boat show. I was reminded of the expression, “You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.” Luckily, as my time aboard proved, a first impression is all this boat needs.
Tiara EX 60 Specifications:
Displ.: 53,350 lb.
Fuel: 700 gal.
Water: 150 gal.
Cruise speed: 26 knots
Top speed: 38 knots
Power: 2/1,000-hp Volvo Penta 1350
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This article originally appeared in the February 2023 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.