The quest for speed has long been a sort of Holy Grail in powerboating, and the stepped hull has played a role in that pursuit. Stepped hulls have been around since 1910 or so, when powerboat pioneers Gar Wood and Christopher Columbus Smith (founder of Chris-Craft), among others, used them on hydroplanes. The hydroplanes featured a transverse notch, or step, in the bottom amidships that reduced wetted surface at high speeds, thereby reducing frictional resistance.
Michael Peters Yacht Design in Sarasota, Fla., is well-known — and well-regarded by me — for its high-performance conventional and stepped-bottom hulls. Peters has been on my radar for a number of years, and I had a chance to ride on one of the firm’s stepped military designs last June at the Navy’s Multi-Agency Craft Conference in Little Creek, Va. The weather was favorable and seas calm, but this 70-mph 40-footer went through its paces, including hard high-speed turns, without surprises.
If you’ve been thinking about a traditional-looking, economical boat from 18 to 35 feet and appreciate a little intelligent engineering and 21st century construction, read on about Eastern and Seaway boats, based in Milton, N.H. The company — Seaway is part of Eastern and is a February 2010 acquisition — had a few pleasant surprises to offer when I visited its facility this summer.
Building a powerboat from a kit isn’t a project for everyone, but it can be a great way to go. You might take on the task because no production builder offers the exact boat you’re looking for. Perhaps you have lots of time on your hands, or you want to own a boat that’s bigger than you could afford if you bought a finished one from a reputable manufacturer. Plus, if you’re good with your hands, this may present an excellent opportunity to relive your high school days and have some revenge on the geeks studying precalculus while you were turning baseball bats on the wood lathe in shop class.
While my family and I were on summer vacation in Barnstable, Mass., on Cape Cod, I had the pleasure of encountering a veritable smorgasbord of recreational boats. On display from Pleasant Bay to the Cape Cod Canal, they were by turns provocative, charming and inspiring. Seeing them set me to musing about the evolution of boating as a sport. Boats I saw recently on Lake Champlain and that I noted in England also came to mind.
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