Boat Review: Cavileer 53

The Cavileer 53 is an impressive fishing yacht with classic styling, an impeccable interior and excellent performance.

October 12, 2001

If the spirit really moved you, you could go out behind the CAVILEER factory in Lower Bank, New Jersey, and find the grave of John Cavileer, the company’s namesake. He’s been there since the 1700s when he was one of the highly regarded boat builders of his day. General George Washington reputedly visited Cavileer, who supplied the general with the boats he used to cross the Delaware River prior to the Battle of Trenton.
Today, ownership of Cavileer has settled into the capable hands of John and Gigi DiDonato, who have committed themselves to building boats with the same high quality as the company’s forebear.
Unlike many boat companies that use added luxury features to market themselves, Cavileer doesn’t boost the cost by adding stuff you don’t need. What you get with a Cavileer is an impressively equipped, dedicated fishing yacht with classic styling, an impeccable interior and excellent performance. If you want to impress your friends with flash but little substance, look elsewhere.


Chief among offshore yacht designers is Donald Blount, who most in the business admit (some grudgingly) has advanced the art of large performance yachts dramatically. Blount drew the hull for the Cavileer 53 and incorporated every bit of his talent into making its offshore capabilities second to none.
The 53’s solid fiberglass bottom affords excellent compression strength while the end-grain balsa coring from the waterline up lowers the center of gravity and reduces weight for a stable ride and better-than-average fuel economy. At the same time, using all vinylester resins adds to the longevity of the glossy finish and goes a long way toward preventing osmotic blistering of the laminate. And rather than mounting the engines on fiberglass stringers or on steel beams atop those stringers, Cavileer encapsulates steel beams within the stringers for the strongest engine mount possible.


I ran the Cavileer 53 on an average day off -ape May, New Jersey ? seas of 2 to 3 feet, heavy haze and little wind. The Cavileer 53 ran a top speed of 34.7 knots at 2,330 rpm. Sure, several boats run over 40 knots today, but how often do you actually get to run wide open at sea? And at what price? You can’bet that this’53 won’t fatten OPEC’s wallets the way the speed sleds will.
Despite its considerable bow flare, the 53 has excellent head-sea capability without the extreme narrowness found in the forward cabin of a typical Carolina boat. It jukes like Vince Carter for small course changes and carves wide, comfortable turns otherwise. No matter how hard I tried, I was unable to get spray up onto the flybridge in the calm winds.
The relatively flat running angle of the Cavileer reduces drag for better fuel economy, helps smooth out the head sea by lowering the bow to cut into the waves, and channels spray down and away from the hull rather than up the sides by the cockpit.


The flybridge provides’all the features you’d expect on a well-pla-ned sport-fisherman ? rod storage, loads of seating forward of the helm, plenty of space for flush-mounting instruments and a refrigerator. But several other things set the Cavileer apar’. For example, there’s loads of room to walk behind the helm and companion pedestal seats, so the helmsman will never have to move to let passengers pass. At the same time, the helmsman still has an unobstructed view of both the cockpit and the bow, making maneuvering a dream rather than a nightmare. Being particularly safety conscious, I appreciate the easy transition to the bridge when climbing the ladder as well as the double rails along the aft brow and the well-placed handholds. In fact, Cavileer does a great job with handholds throughout the boat.



Rather than enclosed, under-gunwale cabinets, I would prefer to see space under the side walkways left open. Providing that space for your feet would make leaning over the side more secure by keeping your center of gravity farther inboard.



As a staunch traditionalist, I love the Cavileer interior. To m’ way of thinking, it’s everything a proper offshore fi-hing boat should be ? teak joinerwork, perfect fit and finish, wall-to-wall carpeting accented by teak-and-holly galley sole, gloss finishes and rich fabrics.’ But tradition doesn’t get bogged down needles’ly. For example, you’ll find the latest in Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer drawers under-counter rather than an upright
refrigerator, and slick cabinet locks remain out of sight.
The Cavileer 53 offers a galley-up configuration, which allows a three-stater’om layout below. You’ll find an over/under double to port, an athwartship queen berth to starboard and a master stateroom with a large island berth amidships in the forepeak. Again, the warm teak trim and cabinetry in the cabins and heads are comforting in their familiarity. The forward and portside cabins share a head.


My first requirement of any engine room is simple: Can I get my considerable bu’k in there? Cavileer’s wide-open hatch makes it easy, and once be’ow, the features you’ll need in an emergency are close at hand. For example, the Y valve that converts the engine water pump into an emergency bilge pump is right inside the hatch.
Cavileer also makes a point of running clean, organized wire bundles and easily traced pipes. The entire space could be called stark in its cleanliness and organization. Scheduled maintenance will prove easy thanks to convenient oil change, battery and filter locations.
Certainly Cavileer as it exists today is a new company. But the dedication to quality, the philosophy behind the look and performance, and the attitude toward the customer is old-world. Old man Cavileer would be proud.




LOA 55’6″
BEAM 16’6″
DRAFT 4’6″
WEIGHT 52,500 pounds
FUEL 850 gallons
WATER 150 gallons
POWER T800-hp 3406E CATs
PRICE $998,850

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