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.
Time was, you brought the family yacht alongside the dock and shipped the oars or doused the sails. Then people started putting engines in boats, mostly 2- to 3-hp one-lungers that moved you around at rowing speed — without the oars and sore back. Larger engines followed, and eventually they were light enough and powerful enough to get a boat up on plane, at which point hulls began changing shape to accommodate them. But safe docking was still very much a manual affair that required judicious use of the wheel, throttle and gearshift. And when the inevitable mistakes happened, there was plenty of entertainment for slip neighbors.
Of all the boat shows I attend each year, which sometimes is as many as eight, from Toronto to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the Maine Boatbuilders Show each March at the Portland Company Marine Complex stands apart for a number of reasons.
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