Samba spirit

Schaefer, South America’s biggest motor yacht builder, has sashayed into the Australian market with a range of innovative models, including the 510 GTS. On a Sydney Harbour trial, we find the newcomer packed with attractive features and more than a little bit of fun.

Written by Scott Alle

02 August 2023


It’s easy to love Brazil, or perhaps more accurately, Brazilians. They like to party, are exceedingly generous with their flavoursome skewered meats, and are generally good sailors and surfers. At least, that sums up my limited Brazilian interactions before I had the opportunity to spend some time on board the Schaefer 510 GTS, proudly designed and built in a state-of-the-art factory in Brazil.

I’d definitely noticed our test boat in its eye-catching Blue Paradise livery out on Sydney Harbour and appreciated its streamlined aesthetics, panoramic curved windows and array of entertaining/dining spaces.

What I couldn’t appreciate at a distance, however, was how quiet and assured the big sports coupe was underway, or the easy practicality of the fold-out cockpit balcony that adds to the already samba-floor expanse of teak in the cockpit, and the plush luxe feel throughout the staterooms on the accommodation deck.

Notably, the Schaefer 510 GTS was designed by Schaefer Yachts’ founder, naval architect Marcio Schaefer, in collaboration with Pininfarina, which has lent its stylistic wand to parts of the interior.


The 510 is clearly made for maximum fun, preferably in the sun, starting with the large two-section hydraulic lift swim platform ideal for water sports or cooling off. It’s an option, but I’d argue it’s a justifiable expense.

The aft section lowers into the water via push-button control, and a sturdy integrated swim ladder with wide steps can be deployed to get back on board. The platform, which has a load rating of up to 600 kg, is also the securing point for the 510’s tender – in this case, a Highfield centre console with a 20-hp Tohatsu outboard.

Raised back out of the water, the swim platform morphs into a sea terrace with an outdoor galley incorporating an electric grill and sink with insulated ice boxes on either side. There’s good storage for mooring ropes and lifejackets in the large galley lockers. You could pull out a couple of chairs for sundowners or head up into the roomy aft cockpit via two small steps – a lockable safety gate provides security if there are kids on board, both at anchor and underway.

A generous L-shaped lounge to port around an extendible pedestal timber table allows plenty of teak floorspace to starboard that’s boosted by a lowering side balcony. Extending the 510’s beam in this cockpit space to over 5 metres, it’s a pleasing feature that enhances the alfresco ambience.

A powered awning extends from the carbon-fibre targa roof, keeping the cockpit well-shaded on hot afternoons. Another entertaining/relaxation area on the huge bow keeps the good times rolling. If you have to retreat into the saloon, you’ll still feel connected to the outside thanks to three-part, sliding stainless-framed glass doors.

The well-situated aft galley, which boasts twin outward opening fridge/freezers behind crafted cabinetry, is quickly accessible from both the cockpit and saloon.

Stretching along the starboard side is a full-length solid-surface bench/countertop that folds to reveal bench space for food preparation, along with a cooktop and sink with a folding faucet. There’s also a built-in Panasonic microwave oven, an Ilve dishwasher, a pantry and tableware storage cupboards complete with nicely embossed Schaefer crockery securely housed in a deep drawer.

The dining/lounge area around an extendible timber table is relaxed and comfortable and, with the end sections folded, provides grab rails and holders for coffee mugs or other drinks. Just forward, there’s a vinyl-trimmed dash to port with a relocatable glassware storage tray and mobile phone/storage receptacle.

The main helm is located to starboard and reflects the boat’s underlying character – sociable, stylish and not overly complicated. The skipper gets adjustable seating in the extra-wide, hand-stitched padded chair and a clear view of three display screens. The centre one is for the Volvo Penta engine data, flanked by Axiom 9 multifunction navigation displays, which come with built-in GPS, wi-fi and Bluetooth.

The standard IPS joystick control is within easy reach to port next to the leather-trimmed, car-feel steering wheel, while throttle levers and other engine and trim switches are neatly organised on the starboard side. Docking proved fuss-free, aided by the inclusion of the optional cockpit joystick control.

For me, the stand-out feature in the 510’s saloon is the huge hydraulic opening sunroof, delivering an elemental open-top boating experience in all its glory with the ability to close the roof when necessary – you can’t resist crying woo-hoo out loud at 28 knots down with the open sky above.

Back in port or at anchorage, some sports cruisers lack desirable accommodations to insulate you away from noisy neighbours and ensure you get a restful night’s sleep, notwithstanding anchor alarms. However, there is no doubt the 510’s configurations for three or two staterooms achieve this admirably.

The owner’s full-beam cabin benefits from a sunken floor that creates extra headroom around the forward-facing king berth, meaning the headboard is up against the engine room bulkhead.

Three layers of soundproofing, including in the bulkhead itself, combine to cut noise levels to a minimum, assisted by plush carpet. A generous bank of large, soft-closing drawers takes care of storage needs, while a sofa to port under the opening port creates another welcome relaxation space.

The ensuite is located a step back up and adjacent to the private entryway on the port side of the boat. Premium appointments include a Deca wash basin, Docal fixtures and a separate full-size shower with non-slip timber floor, plus head, and an opening porthole for ventilation.

The VIP stateroom in the bow also enjoys generous space around the double island berth with steps that follow the contour of the hull. Storage is more than adequate thanks to full-length storage cupboards to port and starboard. The bathroom for the VIP could also double as the day head and has a circular shower stall, which saves space that is well-utilised elsewhere. There’s a third head back up in the crew or kids’ cabin via an entry in the cockpit.

The guest stateroom to starboard was configured with two good-sized single berths with an infill to create a double. Tactile furnishings create a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Like other quality boatbuilders, Schaefer manufactures all furniture and joinery in-house, and there’s a generally high standard of finish throughout the boat.

Access to the engine room is via a hatch in the cockpit; systems are well set-out and clearly labelled. There’s ample working room here thanks to the engine bearers being slightly inclined toward each other at their forward ends. The additional room also allows for an 11.5 kVA Onan generator – 5 centimetres of Rockwool insulation across the engine room ceiling and walls contribute to the boat’s muted output.

Though the 510 is designated as a sports cruiser, its performance is smooth rather than exhilarating. With some trim tab to keep the bow down, we managed 30.1 knots on a run in flat water in Sydney Harbour, consuming 215 litres per hour with the twin 550 hp Volvo Penta D8 IPS 700 six-cylinder (turbocharged and supercharged) diesel engines hitting 2,800 rpm – that’s a bit short of the advertised top speed of 33 knots.

At the nominated cruising speed of 24 knots, fuel burn dropped to 156 litres per hour, and that certainly felt like a sweeter spot for the deep-V hull that sports a conservative 17 degrees of deadrise, but its optimum cruising speed is probably around 20–21 knots.

The Schaefer 510 GTS’s hull is constructed from GRP, with the stringers, deck and other structural areas vacuum-infused with vinylester resin for stiffness and durability. Full-length strakes keep the boat dry – so dry, in fact, we didn’t feel the need to close the sunroof as we powered out through the Heads at 25 knots and then upped it to 27 knots, nor as we attempted to reel in Andoo Comanche that was loping north along the coast in the lead-up to the Pittwater to Coffs Race.

The Schaefer range, which spans 12 models from the outboard-powered V33 centre-cabin sports day cruiser to a 25-metre yacht, is a recent entry to the Australian and New Zealand boating markets. However, the company has been in business since 1992, producing over 3,500 boats exported to 20 countries, with a strong presence in the giant US market.

Schaefer has delivered more than 70 of the 510s since it first launched in 2017, so potential buyers here can be assured they’re getting a proven design from an experienced and reputable motor yacht builder. They’re also getting a distinctly Brazilian take on boating – big party spaces, generous proportions, and an undeniable style that attracts attention – and who doesn’t love that?



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