A Kiwi couple's cruising adventures on America's Great Loop and around the coast of New Zealand

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Why a Silverton 453?

The AGLCA is currently running a survey on the “Perfect Looping Boat” and, while there is no such animal, it got me thinking about why we selected a Silverton 453 and Urban Legend (as she was back then) as our final choice. According to what I have seen and heard stated on various fora (plural of forum) before and since our purchase, many Loopers would consider her far from perfect. According to some, with a bridge clearance of 19’5” she won’t get under THE 19’1” bridge south of Chicago; the deeper draft will inhibit cruising  the more out of the way waterways; she has unprotected running gear so we will endure costly bent propellers and shafts when (not if) we go aground; she is too wide to fit many slips and we will finish up out on the end of some marina’s; and the two 480HP Volvos will suck enough fuel during the trip to cost us the equivalent of New Zealand’s national debt.

Let’s address those issues before we go on to why we settled on the 453: Everything I have read and researched and been told by people that have done it in similar vessels indicates that the 453 will get under THE bridge unmodified. In the event of us all being wrong in this respect, there are a number of possibilities ranging from the simple to the extreme. First is to increase the bridge clearance by taking some of the stuff off the top (anchor light radar etc). If that isn’t enough – make her lower in the water. Fill her up with fuel and water; add some ballast (I’m sure the offer of a keg of beer to 30 local big lads would give us plenty of that); and worst case is sink her a little and pump it out on the other side.
Cruising on the Loop will be so different from any other boating experience we have had that I am convinced we will enjoy every facet the entire journey without having to go up every skinny creek and tributary. I quite like deeper water and will be quite content to stay in it as much as possible. Every boatie runs aground at some time in their career, as I have. I don’t like it and will make every endeavour to avoid doing so and thus avoid damaging our running gear. I figure that following the markers, a bit of common sense and 35 years of boating will help in achieving this.
If we are stuck on the end of a marina because we don’t fit the slips we can either go elsewhere, anchor out somewhere, or just put up with being on the end of the dock. We probably could use the exercise anyway if we want to go ashore.
I believe that two engines will consume little more fuel than one at the kinds of speeds we will be doing on most of the Loop. Diesel in the USA is about one third the price as NZ, so we are already 3 times better off…….and when we have to get up and boogey (or just want to) I want to be able to!!

Cruising on the Loop and seeing that part of the USA in our own boat is what the dream is about for us – a journey, not a destination. Actually completing a Great Loop and “crossing our wake” to qualify for the AGLCA gold burgee (which you have to buy, anyway) is not a major driving force in our decision to do this thing. There is so much to see and do around the US waterways, so many side trips, that you could cruise around for years and still not experience it all. If all else failed and for some weird reason we could not get under THE bridge, I would have no regrets about turning round and going the other way instead. Then, if or when we got back to THE bridge going up the Illinois, we could always say, if we wanted to, that we had completed the Loop except for the width of a road. The cost of fuel, while significant, is only part of the overall cost. What price can you put on an experience like cruising the Loop? If the price of fuel doubled, would we can the whole idea or start looking to trade to a tiny sailboat? Not on your sweet Nellie!

Having got that out of the way – back to “why the Silverton 453?”
Our original (and very modest) requirements stated in the blog posting in May 2011 were for: “Low hours and freshwater use only; twin cabin with ensuite in each, separated by the salon; twin engines for redundancy; stairs – no ladders; and something newer and a bit posh”. All 13 models of boat on my original shopping list fitted these criteria, but what stood the 453 out in the end were these attributes:

  • The Admiral and I are Big folk. We like Big. The 453 is a Big boat.
  • It has a massive interior volume, 6’7” headroom and excellent salon layout with “up” galley where you can see everything that is going on.

  • A guest stateroom and bed that are, by far, the best in the class. In a room that rivals most others master staterooms, it has a walk around island guest bed which makes it easy to “make”. All of the others were in the forepeak and, other than another Silverton (the 43ACMY), to make them up you had to kneel on the bed or the decking beside it. It is also the most comfortable to lie on and I can attest to its comfort to sleep on as well. It goes without saying that the Master bed is just as comfortable.


  • The third stateroom is a bonus, but may come in useful with some visitors who don’t necessarily want to share a bed. Unlike the other models with 3 “staterooms”, it is actually a real bedroom – small, but not a crawlspace.
  • Both ensuites are large and the bath in the master makes for a very large shower. It is big enough that we could both shower in it together (to conserve water, of course). It also has a long seat in case we get tired while showering. We are unlikely to ever use it as a bath.

  • The exterior walkways are wide and the deck access easy from the bridge. There is also a pilothouse door for access to the deck from the salon/galley.

  • There are no more than 4 stairs between levels and a really wide landing board

  • Lots and lots of storage space – including for suitcases.
  • There is plenty of room around the engines to work on them (although how you would ever get them out if you had to is anyone’s guess)

Urban Legend particularly stood out amongst other 453’s because of her age and condition – described by the Surveyor as “Excellent (Bristol) Condition – a vessel that is maintained in mint or Bristol fashion – better than factory new – loaded with extras - a rarity”. I liked the fact that she had, in effect, spent over 5 years of her 8 year life tucked up in heated shed out of the water and weather. To all intents and purposes she is a 3 year old boat.
She has all the extras on our wishlist: Modern electronics, bow thruster, auto oil change system, Low hours (only 221), electronic engine controls, washing machine/drier, completely airconditioned, dinghy and outboard…..
…and also a few that weren’t: Central vac, trash compacter, underwater exhausts, flybridge airconditioning (the only one that had it!), and even the cute wee remote “yachtcontroller” for docking (Italian made, I believe). She also has a hardtop over the flybridge, however all the finalists on the shopping list had this as well. Another bonus was the glassed in (not plastic) aft sundeck and the new plastic clear (Issinglass) screens on the flybridge, courtesy of a wee tornado that had come through the Kenosha marina over summer and shredded a few boats covers.

These attributes are why she became the standard against which all the rest were measured.
The downsides were the 120VAC refrigeration, the undersized ground tackle and the water heater not being connected to the engine - all of which can be fixed with a little time and money.

From time to time since the purchase, a little doubt on the wisdom of our selection creeps in. Another blogger referred to it as “buyers remorse” and I think it is a very apt term. Even though it may be folly to do so, I have continued to look at other boats for sale on yachtworld by way of comparison, but I am pleased to say that I still have not seen anything that changes my opinion of Loopy Kiwi. I suspect that she would still be the Loop boat of choice even if we went through the entire exercise again. I also suspect the main reason for this posting is just to prove that to myself - hopefully nothing I have said in it will come back to haunt me at a later stage.

110 days to go

PS before anyone bombards me with the “news” that the Luhrs Group, which includes Silverton, has stopped production – I couldn’t give a hoot. The 453 was out of production anyway, and it was never one of our criteria that our boat should be a current model, as most of those we looked at weren’t.


  1. Fast forward to 2014. We have the same yacht and would like to cruise from Sandy Hook, NJ to either NC and back, or to FLA and back, and would love to hear about your experience. Our concern is the 453 may act like a sail or be top-heavy in open waters. What was your experience?

    1. The 453 is a tall boat and many people make the mistake of thinking that because it looks top heavy, it is. However the designers did a good job of locating the machinery (engines etc) to give a low centre of gravity, which stabilises the boat in a sea. The broker who sold us the boat said that the Silverton was a great sea boat, and we have not been disappointed. We had a few rough passages in the USA, particularly in Lake Michigan, but have had a lot more since we returned Loopy Kiwi to New Zealand, and have never had occasion to be concerned about her sea-worthiness. If you continue to read my later blog postings, you will see what I mean - in particular the posting June 2013 and those covering our summer cruising up the NZ coast in February and March this year.

      The high topsides can make for interesting berthing in very strong winds, but that applies to many boats, and we saw plenty of that during our Great Loop adventure. It gets easier with practice.

      Had it not been for the medical misadventure that made us abandon the Great Loop, we would have contiuned from Florida up to New York and beyond, and I'm certain the 453 would have taken us safely and comfortably all the way.