TUVA II, A New Concept for Cruising the Intracoastal Waterway

All Guide Posts » The Right Boat » Boat Design

February 16, 2013

Doug Hylan Doug Hylan


TUVA II is not (at least at this point) a finished design, but just a preliminary to a design that I would love to build for myself.  The purpose would be for cruising the coast of Maine and further north in the summers, and heading south during the winters for the US East and Gulf coasts, and the Bahamas.  She is a compilation of my musings during parts of such trips in a variety of other boats, so I am pretty sure of what I want this new one to be.

For many years I owned and cruised an old 32′ powerboat built by Gray Boats in Thomaston, Maine, in 1929.  She was typical of many pre-WW II powerboats: raised deck, plumb stem, and narrow.  She was originally designed as a day boat, but I modified her cockpit and cabin so that I could cruise the enchanting Maine coast with my three girls.  I named her TUVA after physicist Richard Feynman’s quixotic quest to visit that country during the cold war.  She had some great qualities, and we had a lot of fun in her.

TUVA‘s raised deck made a lot of sense to me.  Compared to a typical trunk cabin, it is easy to build, strong, requires lower maintenance, is less prone to leaking, and provides a much greater sense of space below.  In the mornings I loved sitting out on TUVA’s “back porch”—her full width stern settee—with a cup of coffee, watching another beautiful Maine summer day  unfold.  The pilothouse, immediately forward of the porch, provided a little shelter from the wind if it was breezy, and you could easily retreat there if a shower threatened, or the sun got too hot.

More recently, I have had the opportunity to do the northern half of the Intracoastal Waterway in DELIVERANCE, a 43′ fantail-stern, displacement-type power cruiser we launched in 2010.  DELIVERANCE confirmed my appreciation for the raised-deck configuration—her fo’c’s’le, which would have felt a bit cramped with the typical trunk cabin configuration, gives the impression of space beyond its size.  The galley, located in the pilothouse, is another particular pleasure in this boat.  Not only can the cook enjoy all the waterfront goings-on, but while underway, a lone skipper can prepare a decent lunch, the visibility from the frying pan being more than sufficient to keep a safe lookout while the autopilot does the steering.

Primarily under the influence of these two boats, with a host of others playing minor rolls, I made a list of my “required & desired” features, and came up with TUVA II.  While I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “perfect boat”, I very much believe in “dream boats” and for me, this is one.  The dream would start with a leisurely cruise south along the Maine coast, leaving in October, as the leaves turn and hopefully the hurricane danger has abated.  The schedule would be unconfined, so we could make short hops, enjoying the crisp fall weather.  With good heat aboard, we would be happy remaining onboard through inclement spells.

For reasons of pocketbook and personal conviction, my boat must use as little fuel as possible.  Light weight and low speeds are the keys to fuel economy.  At 18,000 pounds, TUVA II is as light as possible without resorting to exotic (and expensive) materials. With nearly 44 feet of waterline length, she should only need 40 horsepower to push her at 9 knots, a speed I find satisfying.  In flat water, 100 horsepower should give nearly 12 knots.

While I can’t help but admire the reliability and compactness of modern high rpm diesels, DELIVERANCE’s vintage low rpm Gardner is the only diesel engine that inspires any real fondness in me.  Any other diesel I have known makes me want to rush for the stop button at the end of a day’s run.  The stress induced by high frequency noise is not to be underestimated.

Although some may think me crazy, for my dreamboat I would have twin 50hp four-stroke outboard motors.  Fortunately, my youth was not scarred by exposure to the outboards of the period; I know only the marvelous, quiet, efficient and reliable outboards available today.  For me, this decision is mostly about peace and quiet, but it doesn’t hurt that, compared to an equivalent inboard diesel installation, outboard power would cost about $10,000.00 less and be lighter by some 250 pounds.

With two outboards, I believe there would also be an increase in reliability.  Even though a single diesel would almost certainly be considered more reliable than a single outboard, the redundancy of twin engines would more than make up the difference.  In the event of a complete failure of one of the engines, you could carry on with the other one, and probably replace the defective engine in less than a day. (Try that with a diesel buried in the bilges.)  Then add in the increased maneuverability, the ease with which a fouled prop can be cleared, and the abundance of qualified mechanics and parts.

Of course, many people would not consider anything but an inboard diesel in a boat like this, and the design can certainly accommodate this kind of power plant.  (Actually, if a free diesel landed in my lap, I would probably be singing a different tune.)  There are some undeniable advantages to diesel such as greater fuel economy and the ability to mount a large alternator for battery charging.  But diesel durability is a red herring, in my opinion.  It is the rare yachtsman that manages to wear one out; they usually expire from rust and the unavailability of spare parts.

Back to TUVA II, let’s consider hull form.  Below the waterline, she is very much like the early Maine lobsterboats, although certainly shallower forward.  Aft, the run rises nearly to the waterline at the stern, so there is very little of the transom immersed.  This makes her slide along more easily at low speeds and will help downwind handling in a seaway.  At 12′ 6″, her beam is midway between the lobsterboats of today and those of the 1950s, a compromise between easy powering and reduced rolling.  Finally, with a draft of only 30″, this boat will be able to go almost anywhere.  Along the intracoastal waterway and in the Bahamas, your choice of anchorages about doubles with each foot of reduced draft.  Shallow draft can also open up many shortcuts, and reduces delays from groundings in silted-in channels.


Let’s go aboard and take a tour.  You’ll come aboard by stepping onto the “back porch” where there is a wide settee with cushions facing forward.  Many a meal and sunset cocktail will be taken here, so the porch needs to be comfortable and somewhat protected.  The back of the settee forms the front of the outboard motor well, and there is storage for fenders and dock lines both under the settee and either side of the well.

You’ll come up two steps to enter the pilothouse.  The dinette to starboard seats four, although a couple more could squeeze in on the end in a pinch.  The dinette is on a raised platform so the diners can better enjoy the view, particularly when underway.  The tabletop drops to form a bunk—either a very luxurious single or a double for two close friends.  The galley is opposite the dinette with icebox, sink, stove, and two cabinets over the counter.  The dinette and galley are essentially the same as those on DELIVERANCE except stretched out a bit, so I know the ergonomics will work well.

Moving forward, we come to the heart of the pilothouse.  Generous “dash” areas allow for easy use of charts, and, of course,  plenty of room for electronics.  There is a seat for both the helmsman and a co-pilot, and lots of storage for chart kits and cruising guides.  A sliding door on each side of the pilothouse allows easy egress for handling dock lines, getting up on the foredeck, or just stepping out to enjoy the day.  This is not a common feature of boats of this type, but I think it is an important one.  More often, the skipper needs to trot aft to get outside, then sidle along narrow washboards, or else climb up onto the side deck through a cramped doorway.  Far better to step out into a secure area where generous bulwarks and lifelines make sure you stay aboard.  A singlehanded skipper can much more easily set fenders and handle spring lines from here than if he or she were crouched on a narrow washboard.  You will also appreciate this feature if you should need to climb up on the foredeck in snotty weather.

Going below, at the bottom of the companionway ladder you will find the head to starboard and a shower to port.  Keep moving forward to get to the master stateroom, with a generous double berth to port and a pair of dressers and a reading settee to starboard.  There is lots of storage here—drawers, shelves, and bins on both sides.  Further forward there’s “the bunkhouse” where up to four kids, or perhaps a smaller number of adult guests, have single berths and their own head.

Systems and tankage would reside below the pilothouse and aft cockpit.  I would keep things pretty simple, but I do require hot & cold running water, heat, and refrigeration.  With LED lighting and one of the efficient new refrigeration systems, a solar array on top of the pilothouse should take care of most electrical needs, but I would have a large battery bank to ensure that I could survive for a few days on the hook without the need of shore power or engine time.  An inverter that’s big enough to run a small 110-volt vacuum cleaner would be nice, as would an anchor windlass.  But if funds were running short, I could easily live without either.  Voyaging by boat should not be just like living at home, and cruising has plenty of other compensations that make up for minor inconveniences.

For my own boat, I would prefer traditional plank-on-frame wood construction.  Nothing beats it for the aesthetics below, and nothing yet has proven more long lasting.  But until this design is brought to the next stage, I am not certain that traditional construction can be brought within the 18,000-pound displacement.  I might have to resort to more modern construction, like cold-molded or sheathed strip.

So there you have it—my dream, and maybe yours as well.


Comments, Thoughts or Suggestions?
You can leave a comment or question for OCH and members below. Here are the comments so far…


Get Immediate Access,
Plus 10 of Our Best Videos

Your email is safe with us.
We'll NEVER share it, and we DON'T spam.