American Custom Yachts’ 90-foot C’est La Vie is the dream-fulfilling result of builder and owner.
By Capt. Ken Kreisler
“Hey Dom,” one of the guys on the open bridge of the 60+ foot, blue-hulled sportfish boat says as he calls out while steering his charge past the south dock of South Florida’s Sailfish Marina on Singer Island. The two companions flanking him nod in approval. Dom, standing in the cockpit of his boat, which is still tied to the dock for the moment, smiles and waves back.
“Dominic!” exclaims yet another mariner, this one at the wheel of a 39-foot, triple outboard, T-topped rig bristling with fishing gear, himself decked out with yellow skins as is his fellow angler. Again, Dom acknowledges the accolade.
And then one of those Downeast designs passes by with one older gentleman standing up and explaining to the three seated on the transom couch, if my reading of his body language was anywhere in the ballpark, just what kind of boat they were having a look at.
The word was obviously out. Dominic Lacombe, president of American Custom Yachts (ACY) was in town with the 90-foot C’est La Vie, the recently completed, and quite awesome, latest addition to the fleet of custom sportfish boats from the Stuart-based builder. Lacombe is a force of nature and no story about any of his boats can be told without looking at the man behind the iconic brand.
“For me, it all started when I was a kid fishing the offshore canyons back of Cape May, New Jersey. In those days, if you had an 18-knot boat and you were running 70 to 80 miles offshore, well, that was pretty good,” he remembered as I sat with him on the expansive flying bridge as her captain puts the big boat through a series of exhilarating turns and maneuvers, one of which involved backing down hard and watching the ensuing water drain remarkably fast out of the huge cockpit.
“I knew back then, that big, fast boats were the kind I wanted to be involved with. The faster you got to the fishing grounds, the more time you could spend there.” Never wavering from that principle, by the time he was 29, Lacombe was running the Monterey boat company. In June of 1992, ACY was born with the initial launch of a 58- and then subsequent builds of a 63-, and a 65-footer, all named Freedom. While Lacombe told me of a previous build that had as its central focus the need for an over-the-top galley, C’est La Vie’s owner, also the owner of ACY, had a much different focus. This boat would be built around a pair of massive MTU 16V4000M93L 9,200-hp engines.
As we pulled in the last of the lines that tethered us to our slip at the south dock of Palm Beach’s Sailfish Marina, someone watching from the quay as C’est La Vie’s captain began sliding the big boat out into the channel and free of the land, smiled and said, “Have a nice flight.” Within minutes of clearing the inlet, and with the calm open ocean before us, it was quite evident what that remark had meant.
I watched the bow rise a bit at first. I then heard the turbochargers kick in. And then I felt the big boat lift herself up out of the water as the engines spooled up past 1100; past 1500; and then settle in at 1750 rpm. And just like that, the 90-foot C’est La Vie, displacing some 190,000 pounds, and the latest build from Dominick Lacombe’s Stuart, Florida-based American Custom Yachts, was flirting with 39 knots and flying across the relatively calm waters off of Palm Beach Inlet. At 1950 we were just under 42 knots with a top end 2100-rpm speed of 44.6.
Constructing C’est La Vie, with her noticeably low profile for such a big vessel, required a fine and exacting blend of technology, vision, and lots of boatbuilding savvy. Having a boat of her size being able to get the kind of performance she was designed for is something else; and that is where Lacombe and his crew have dedicated their art to achieving.
“There is a period of time from when you start talking to a customer until the contract is signed. Our owners are seasoned veterans of the build process and when they finally decide on ACY, we’ve already gotten to know them very well and just how they are going to use their boat. We don’t try and tell them what they want; instead, we explain what we’ve done in the past and what will fit, and then we discuss what they are looking for,” Lacombe said. “A boatbuilder is only as good as its people; and we strive to offer the best talent in the business.”
C’est La Vie is a cold molded boat utilizing a steel jig and built with five layers of 12mm Acumi plywood on the bottom with Kevlar and fiberglass inside and out. From the waterline up, it’s two layers of the ply, again with Kevlar and fiberglass inside and out. To help save weight, ACY uses Divinycell composite coring in the decks and Nida-Core in the deck hatches. For the cabinetry and any nonstructural bulkheads, Tri-Cell is utilized in the cabinets and nonstructural bulkheads. And in the structural bulkhead, vacuum-bagged marine-grade plywood over balsa core is used.
Nothing has been spared to make sure she is rock-solid all around. Being able to handle the incredible weight and power of the main engines, each clocking in at 10+ tons and being able to develop the kind of torque to make your knees weak, meant that Lacombe and his crew would need to plan and build a special engine bed to handle the load.
“The motor mount system is all aluminum,” Lacombe said as he and I stood in the cavernous engine room before all that power came to life. “And the entire space here, from chine to chine and bulkhead to bulkhead is integrated with an aluminum engine bed system allowing the motors to not only sit on the keel but on every stringer and chine as well. “ In addition, V-drives are used to lessen the shaft angle resulting in a more efficient use of all the horsepower. “Backing down is also more effective as we’re not digging in.” Lacombe and his ACY crew even had to design and fabricate special air boxes to allow the monstrous powerplants to get the maximum amount of ventilation necessary for them to do what they, and this boat, were built for.
Given her length and beam, and that she’s all custom, the interior of C’est La Vie was designed and outfitted as per the owner’s demands and planned use of the boat as being both ultimate fishing platform and uber comfortable so as to accommodate his large family.
To that end, her main salon offers wide-open spaces with all galley appliances housed in below counter drawers and cabinets. There is nothing to block the spectacular views out of those extra large windows to either side or from the salon’s aft end as well.
With all the room here, the seating arrangements and dining space can be configured in several ways, all of which work within the given dimensions. “All the furniture and cabinetry you see here is done under one roof; the same one that builds the boat,” Lacombe pointed out as we took a turn around the interior. “The fabrics, leathers, and any canvas, are all done in house by American Canvas & Interiors.”
A centerline staircase leads down to a long hallway and the six stateroom—three over to port and three on the starboard side—five head layout. As Lacombe and I open doors and drawers and closets, I notice the more-than-ample storage areas in each room. Indeed, I found so much space aboard C’est La Vie—from cockpit to engine room to flying bridge as well—that once provisioned, and but for fuel considerations, she is quite able to accommodate her crew for an extended time away from any dock.
Of course, being a big, no-nonsense, not-for-the-faint-of-heart sport fishing machine, C’est la Vie’s flying bridge and cockpit are all business. To that end, Lacombe and his team have outfitted these areas with everything one could want in a deep water, horizon-chasing sportfisherman. The centerline helm offers plentiful room for a vast array of electronic, communication, and navigational equipment, installed by affiliate IMS American Marine Electronics. Forward seating is abundant and as well, there is space for any number of cooler and freezer options you may require for your needs. And don’t forget those 60’ Rupp, five-spreader riggers on that substantial Bausch-American tower, custom fabricated and installed by ACY. The teak-soled cockpit offers the fishing crew the kind of space and amenities that one would expect on a world-class tourney boat and as we banked on a gentle, controlled 40+ knot turn and powered our way back to the dock, I could only imagine all those trolled lines aft with cutting fish eyeing everything from the teasers to the pro-rigged goggle eye baits just waiting for a bite.
If you are thinking of competing in the rarefied air of a truly custom sportfish boat, you need to make a visit to ACY’s Stuart, Florida facility an absolute must. While the cost of fulfilling your dream is something you will need to discuss with Dominic and his crew, the result of having your hands on the wheel of one of his designs is guaranteed to be priceless.
Specs for 90’ C’est La Vie
RPM Speed (kn) GPH
500 9.3 14
1000 17.0 100
1150 23.0 130
1350 28.6 180
1550 32.8 270
1750 38.4 340
1950 41.9 400
2100 44.6 500
LWL: 79’ -3”
Draft: 6’-8” (half load)
Fuel: 6185 Gallon Capacity
Water Tank: 453 Gallons
-Water Maker: Village Marine 1600GPD PW1600M 220V & Village Marine: 1200 GPD PW1200M 220V Water Maker Capacity: 2800 Gallons per day
-Bow Thruster: 12” Trac 38 HP Bow Thruster
-Transmission: ZF9050V Gear Ratio 1.967:1A with trolling valves CL70
-Driveline: Centalink Drive Coupling System
-Gensets: 2 -38 Kw Northern Lights Generator M944T
-Miller Leaman Inc. Raw Water Strainer Filter System for Engines
-Custom Built K&N Air Filtration System
-5 Blade Veems; 47-571/2 Interceptors
-5 1⁄2 Propeller Shaft with custom stainless steel stern tube with intermediate strut system.
-Steering System: Custom built high performance swept back rudders with 5” rudder posts from ACY designs that the company has been building since the early 1990’s.
-Anchor System: Maxwell 4000 VW Windless with custom-built hydraulic fold out Anchor Deployment System.
ACY 90’ C’est La Vie Equipment List
2-17” KEP Monitors
1-15” KEP Monitor
1-Garmin GSD26 CHIRP Digital Black Box Sounder
1-Airmar R599LH 3 KW Transducer
2-Furuno Navnet 3D MFDBB’S
1-Furuno 25 KW Digital Radar
1-Furuno 12 KW Digital Radar
1-Furuno FA50 AIS
1-Furuno DFF1 Digital Sounder
1-Furuno B164 Transducer
1-Furuno CH300 Searchlight Sonar
1-Airmar 235KHZ Transducer
1-Furuno BBWX2 Sirius Weather
1-Simrad AP50 Autopilot
1-Carlisle and Finch Nightfinder Spotilght/IR Camera
2-Icom 504 VHF
1-Icom 504 VHF
KVH V7 V-SAT
3-Engine Room Cameras
1-Pump Room Camera
1- DVR for cameras
-Complete vessel has Savant A/V integration. This allows control by I-PAD in all locations inside and out.
-All locations have access to DIRECTV US, DIRECTV GLA, BLU-RAY, APPLE TV, NAVAGATIONAL Sources.
-Each State room has a full selection of audio and video sources with in ceiling speakers.
-Salon has a Sony LED 60” TV with complete Surround Sound.
-Cockpit has a 32” Sony LED that drops down from the ceiling for viewing while seated on the mezzanine.
-Cockpit has 10 -JL Audio 770 Speakers and 2- 10” JL Audio Sub-woofers.
-Flybridge has the ability to watch and listen to all sources A/V sources.
-Flybridge has 4- JL Audio 770 Speakers.