Massachusetts boatbuilder Chris Roth is back in the new-boat business, and he’s introduced a handful of new models under the Nantucket Skiff marque, from skiffs to a 30-foot New England bass boat.
After resigning as general manager of RothBiltBoats in 2002, Roth ran his own service yard in Plymouth, Mass., specializing in repairs and restorations.
Shortly afterward, he began construction of the 16-foot, 9-inch Nantucket Skiff, an outboard-powered vee-bottom dory. Last year he added the Tribute 30, an inboard fishing boat with a traditional style. Inspiration for the Tribute’s salty looks came from the old New England bass boats, Roth says, in particular some MacKenzie designs that first appeared in the area more than a half-century ago.
“We wanted to style something where function and form were better than what was out there,” says Roth, contrasting the Tribute against popular multiple-outboard center consoles. “You can basically go fishing all day in Buzzards Bay on 30 gallons of fuel. It’s really remarkable.”
Many local sport anglers demand speed from their boats for a day’s excursion, Roth says, which typically leaves them with the default option of a production center console. The Tribute, on the other hand, runs at a good clip while presenting classic lines and fuel efficiency to boot. “These guys are burning 60 to 80 gallons of fuel to do what we can do in 30 gallons,” he says of center console owners.
In essence, a boat like the Tribute bridges the gap between the modern deep-vee center console and the classic round-bilge bass boat. “It’s also an alternative to the old traditional-styled boats that go 16 to 18 knots,” says Roth, who is 50. “It looks like one of the old Down East-styled boats, but its performance is anything but. It’s a 35-mph boat.”
The first hull attained a top speed of 29 mph with a 230-hp Cummins diesel. A 300-hp Volvo Penta diesel likely will power the next Tribute, and other diesel options from Cummins and Yanmar will be available.
The diesel is married to a conventional straight-shaft setup, which Roth describes as a logical choice for the 30’s offshore application. He says locals near the Roth Boat Builders yard run 75 nautical miles in a typical day of fishing. Seaworthiness is the name of the game. “We cruise into a 3-1/2–foot chop at 19 knots, and you can take your hand off the tiller,” he says. “You can walk around the boat.”
Geoff Dickes, known for creating Wesmac’s popular Down East planing hulls (except for one round bilge hull), designed the Tribute hull. Roth describes the hard-chine, full-keel design as seaworthy and fuel-efficient. “There’s a lot of boat under the water [but] it doesn’t look like a very big boat,” says Roth. “It’s incredibly deceiving in its looks as to what it will do. We’ve actually run it 103 miles out to the canyons and 103 miles back on 70 gallons of fuel. It’s a remarkable little boat.”
The Tribute has drawn interest from owners of express-style sportfishing boats who find they don’t need the cabin space, full galley and other amenities those boats provide. Her layout comprises an open cockpit with an engine box, and a V-berth forward with space for a portable marine head. The simple layout is telling, in that the boat’s length is intended for seakeeping rather than amenities.
Indeed, the 30-footer’s 8-foot, 4-inch beam is narrow by today’s standards. That beam makes it the sea boat it is, and if Roth had any doubts about Dickes’ design, they were put to rest when they sea-trialed the prototype in spring 2008. “Once we were out on the water on her, I said, ‘There isn’t really much I’d do to change it,’ ” says Roth, who has been building boats for more than 30 years.
He describes the Tribute as a quick, stable platform that’s traditional-looking and elegant. She has a sweet sheer line that rises prominently at the bow, a tall windshield with a stout-looking frame, and tumblehome aft. “The fit and finish is right out of the Picnic Boat,” Roth says, referring to Hinckley’s iconic dayboat.
There’s teak on the foredeck, gunwales, cockpit, engine box and down below, as well as stainless-steel hardware throughout. “A guy can go fishing all morning in it and come home and grab the girls and go for a cocktail cruise — and it’s not like they’re in a fish boat,” says Roth.
Hull construction is fiberglass and composite. Although the prototype was built locally, production will take place in Poland, where Roth has made many boatbuilding contacts over the years. RothBiltBoats were produced there, as were other projects with which he’s been involved. He says building the boat in New England would have put the Tribute’s price in the $300,000 range. By manufacturing in Poland, the price starts in the neighborhood of $150,000.
More skiffs, too
Roth Boat Builders has been building the Nantucket Skiff for the last five years, but in the last year it has made a marketing push. This coincides with the release of the Tribute and the expected launch of a couple other skiffs.
“I’ve sort of come to a point where I thought it was marketable to the masses, and by masses I mean 15 to 20 per year,” says Roth. “Our emphasis is on quality.”
The original Nantucket Skiff is a 16-foot, 9-inch dory that retails in the $21,000 to $22,000 range, including an outboard and trailer. It’s available as a center console or as a launch with seating all around. A new skiff is due out this summer. It’s a little more boat in the same overall length as the original skiff, Roth says, and will come in under $25,000 with an outboard and trailer. Roth originally designed the new skiff for the European market, he says. Compared to the original, it has more storage, standard forward seating and a self-bailing deck.
Roth also has a 19-footer, fresh off the drawing board, that should hit the water next spring. He describes it as “something you can run with a T-top and a 100-hp outboard.”
LOA: 30 feet
BEAM: 8 feet, 4 inches
DRAFT: 3 feet
DISPLACEMENT: 7,200 pounds
HULL DESIGN: full-keel planing
TANKAGE: 120 gallons fuel, 20 gallons water
ENGINE OPTION: single diesel inboard to 300 hp
SPEED: 29 mph top, 23 mph cruise (with 230-hp Cummins)
CONTACT: Roth Boat Builders, Plymouth, Mass.
Phone: (508) 591-7327.
This article originally appeared in the August 2009 issue.