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Preview: The Joy of Having a Boat Built: An Outboard Cruiser Takes Shape

May 27, 2015

Yearning to cruise in style and burn only three gallons per hour? The joy of having an outboard cruiser built that’s exactly what you want may be too tempting to resist.

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– [Peggy] We’ve always had used boats. This is the first new boat we’ve ever had. For one reason or another, there’s always been something that wasn’t quite comfortable. Either they were too big, or too much work, or too exposed to the weather, and this one just really works well. It just seems very comfortable and we’re very happy with it.

– [Jon] My ability to handle it, I think is gonna be there. Peggy’s very comfortable with the wheelhouse, the shelter. We haven’t had it out in heavy weather yet but we will.

– Can you give us a little bit of reflection now that, you know, the boat’s two weeks old now, and what the process was like for you, finding a builder, going with an idea. Where did that start? The idea of, hey, let’s talk to someone about having a boat built.

– Go ahead.

– I think it started last year at the Eggemoggin Regatta, when it was pouring rain and we were in our skiff, and I said, you know, I am soaking wet, and I really would like to be able to get in out of the weather. And we’d always wanted a boat that we could overnight in.

– [Host] So you wanted a pilot house.

– Yes.

– [Jon] We wanted to be able to have overnight accommodation with basic cooking facilities, which we do. We have this galley in a box down here, which is nothing but a little butane stove that sits up on the mate seat there. There’s a sink and a cold water tank down below so we basically can brush our teeth and wash a few dishes. Really, simplicity was one of our goals in this thing, along with, you know, shelter from the weather and overnight accommodations. And something that looks good on the waters of Brooklin and around the coast of Maine. I had known Doug and known him well for 15 years, so I went over to talk to him to see what ideas he might have about it. And he had the design of a 26-foot weekend cruiser based on a Top Hat design of an open launch hull that he built eight or nine years ago, and had been sitting around on this desk for years, waiting for somebody like us to come along. And it just seemed to fit what we were looking for.

– [Host] It’s hard to believe that we’re on a 26-foot boat, really. You know, that raised shear gives you an incredible amount of volume down below.

– [Jon] Yes, volume down below with, the construction allows for a little more headroom because there are no framing members underneath the deck or the pilothouse roof.

– [Host] It’s a tall order, Jon, you’re 6’4.

– [Jon] Yep.

– [Host] And a 26-foot boat with a pilothouse you would think would be a challenge from a design perspective, but the proportions are–

– The proportions he had drawn are almost exactly what we’ve ended up with. But it was great going through it all because every time we came to a decision point on any of the systems, we could talk about alternatives. We live here year round, so we were over there bothering the guys almost every day.

– Well, there it was, it was winter. It was a miserable winter. Well, what are we gonna do today? Let’s go look at the boat.

– [Jon] And we did talk about a number of things early in the design process about what we would like in the boat, at least in terms of general direction for things. I think everything pretty much ended up the way we had–

– Well, it did, it just sort of happened. I mean, there were never big discussions, no I want this, or no you really should have that. I mean, it’s a perfect fit.

– No, as I tell Doug, we would always debate, he’d have his ideas, we’d have ours, and eventually we’d agree with him, so that’s what we did.

– [Host] Meet somewhere in the middle.

– Often. No, he was very good. Ellery and Doug were terrific to work with.

– Yeah.

– This design can really trace its roots back to the William Hand’s early V-bottoms from the turn of the century. Or the turn of the last century, I should say, 1910, 16, somewhere around there. He designed a whole series of chine-type V-bottom boats that made use of the early engines that were then available. And because horsepower at that time was very heavy and expensive, they had to be able to make good use of minimum horsepower. And that meant they tended to be very narrow. For powerboats that go faster than hull-speed, a chine is an asset as far as attaining that kind of speed. These Hand-type V-bottoms were resurrected by Harry Bryan and his really very famous Handy Billy designs. He bumped out the beam a little bit and then made them outboard powered with the outboard set in a well in the back so that they’re extremely quiet and for those of us who don’t care for the look of outboards, you didn’t have to look at them. And that’s a very successful and very good design. And we built three of them years ago and I was really quite impressed with the whole concept and have designed some larger versions along this similar lines since then. This was one of those.

– I wouldn’t have proceeded with a project unless I had a pretty good sense of what it was gonna look like. So it was terrific for me to have these really excellent CAD drawings that Doug does. I could visualize everything that was going to be inside it, what the hull looked like, what the profile looks like, and he mentioned the height on the top on the shelter and I could scale it off and it’s 77 inches and I’m 76 inches, so I knew I’d be able to stand up there with an inch to spare wearing just a cap like this, not a bowler, and be comfortable. And for Peggy, my wife, it’s equally useful to have all of the sections and we could look at it and determine what was going to be where and what the relative size was likely to be and how we would fit and how we would interact on the boat. So absolutely an important part of the process.

– And then, of course, the main work on the drawing board is the construction drawings. And those are usually construction profile and plan that shows structural members and some of the accommodations and plumbing and the engine and that sort of thing. And those are chosen to show details that the folks in the shop are gonna need to build the boat.

– The way this boat is built is composite construction. What you have is two layers of plywood make up with bottom planking, and then the topsides are strip planks with Dynel sheathing on the outside and the inside. So as you can see, there’s no frames. There’s no transverse timbers of any kind, really. And that has a lot of benefits. You know, frames take up a lot of space in an interior like this and they also make it difficult to install the joiner work. Doug designed the deck to be built without deck beams. The deck construction is actually two layers of plywood, top and bottom, and then there’s a sandwich, a core, of real wood. Throughout most of the boat that core is end grain balsa core. It’s very lightweight and it’s basically just filling that void. Wherever there’s a cutout, or wherever there’s any joinery installed above, toe rails, windshield, there’s cedar strips installed there because you need real wood to drill into. But the end result is a little extra headroom, savings in weight certainly, up forward, and just a pretty clean, comfortable space to spend time in.

– One part of the genius of Harry Bryan’s Handy Billy design was the idea of putting an outboard motor in a well. If you’ve never grown up with the outboards that we had when I was a kid then you don’t realize how marvelous outboards are now. They’re smooth, they’re clean burning, they’re efficient, they’re quiet, mostly they’re just amazingly quiet. And I can predict with confidence that I’ll get many inquiries about building this boat with an inboard diesel. And I say to folks, why would you do that? You have an engine that costs probably three times as much money by the time it’s installed, it’ll make an ungodly racket the whole time, it’ll be right there in the middle of the boat so you get to hear this racket all the time. If you come into shallow water, there’s no way you can tilt that propeller up. If you want to steer in reverse, those boats just don’t steer in reverse anything like the way an outboard does. And if for some unforeseen reason your motor should just die in the middle of the season, an outboard can be replaced in a day, whereas an inboard is quite an operation to replace. The motor bolts here and it will tilt up totally within this well so that if you get a line in the prop or something like that you can tilt it up and get a boat hook and get the line free. Well I think think that 12 knots is just about an ideal cruising speed. You’re going faster than you would in a sailboat, you know you’re in a power boat. Not having to beat to windward, you can cover a tremendous amount of territory in a day.

– [Jon] You know, it would not be the same to go out and buy a boat that’s been built and is at a dealer somewhere and put it in the water and start enjoying it right away. We’ve known this one from the stem up, so stem back, stem to stern. And it’s been a really enjoyable experience.



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