Jim and Carol Fetters have logged 25,000 miles through the years, cruising waters from Down East Maine to the Bahamas. They’ve owned all manner of vessels, from dinghies and dayboats to bluewater sailboats and, when they made the change to power, a 43-foot trawler. Each is remembered as being right for its time and purpose.
Now the retirees — he’s a Coast Guard Academy grad who had a management career; she was a mathematics teacher — are content to roam coastal waters around their home in Harpswell, Maine, making day trips or weekend overnighters.
They recently made a leisurely 12-day run up to Bar Harbor and back, enjoying their home state’s renowned cruising grounds. Once again, they had the right boat for the mission.
The General Marine 26 they found online couldn’t have been more at home in Maine waters. She’s a Maine-built boat, steeped in tradition, and has a workboat heritage. Cricket is a 1995 sedan model from the Biddeford builder, and the Fetterses found her in New Jersey in 2007. The price was about $45,000.
“We saw ourselves using this boat for fishing and day trips from our mooring at our home,” says Jim Fetters, 66. “And we felt that it was big enough to cruise in, too.”
Before buying the boat, Fetters made a few inquiries. “I corresponded with an owner on Cape Cod [Mass.] who does fishing charters, and he uses his 26 up to 20 or 30 miles offshore,” he says.
A Bar Harbor oceanographer also uses one in his work. “The discussions with these two owners indicated to me that these boats are real boats, with excellent seakeeping qualities. Carol and I both like the way Down East boats look, too. Their understated design really
appeals to us as attractive and just right.”
But Down East boats are about more than good looks. The General Marine rides a full-keel semidisplacement hull with roots to the vessels that work the rock-bound Maine coast. “The boat embodies much of the classic Down East philosophy of well-known designs here in Maine, such as those of Royal Lowell and Spencer Lincoln, to mention a couple,” Fetters says. “The boat does not pound and handles very well. She is predictable. Even in a following sea she behaves pretty well.”
Power comes from a Volvo TAMD 41D 200-hp turbo diesel, which gives a top speed of about 25 mph. Fetters says fuel consumption is about 2.5 gph at a cruise of 13 or 14 mph. “Being ex-sailors we’re happy to cruise at those speeds and sip the fuel,” he says. “But it’s nice to know Cricket can kick up her heels to over 20 knots if need be.”
Fetters also notes the easy access to the engine, wiring and other equipment. The deck plan is well thought out, too. “It’s comfortable to go forward because the cabin-top handholds and the large bow rail make one feel secure,” Fetters says. “We also like the anchor platform and the two anchor rode pipes and the anchor locker, which is divided.”
The cabin space is surprising for a 26-footer, the couple says, with an “ample and comfortable” V-berth, an enclosed head, a galley with a sink and hand-pump faucet, an Origo alcohol stove and storage under the cabinetry.
The wheelhouse is well-protected, and the cockpit expansive. In true lobster-boat fashion, the starboard side of Cricket’s house is open and the port side closed. “We had thought we would close off the starboard side, too, but … we have decided we really like the openness on good days, and the canvas [enclosure] matches the lines of the boat.”
And if you like to fish, Cricket can do that, too, Fetters says. “Last summer  off the Kennebec River, we were trolling by Popham Beach,” he recalls. “We had two different lures out and had a strike on one. Then the second line went taut and I assumed the first line with the fish had fouled the second line.” Instead, he had a 10-pound bluefish on each. “One got released, the other barbecued,” he says.
After five seasons, the General Marine 26 has become virtually a member of the family. “Cruising the beautiful coast of Maine makes us happy, and Cricket has been a large part of that contentment,” Fetters says. “The boat has more than met our vision of what she could be and what she could do.”
General Marine describes its popular 26-footer as a “classic Down East design with strong commercial heritage.” It starts with a solid fiberglass semidisplacement hull (coring optional) with a full keel to lend stability and protect the running gear. The traditional profile shows a tall bow with moderate flare and a gentle sheer that flattens aft to the transom.
The placement of the trunk cabin, with side ports, and the wheelhouse on the sedan version leaves room for a working foredeck. The helm station is to starboard, behind the triple-panel windshield, and a three-level molded fiberglass instrument console allows for large-screen electronics. Below, there is a V-berth, storage and a hanging locker. The enclosed head is to starboard at the foot of the companionway and comes with a stainless-steel sink and a standard portable head (a marine head is an option). The compact galley, to port, has a two-burner Origo alcohol stove and a stainless-steel sink with a hand-pump faucet. A freshwater tank is standard, and a hot-water heater and pressurized shower are available.
General Marine has been building boats in Biddeford, Maine, for more than 20 years, offering both recreational and commercial vessels, which share the same hull and general layout. The current General Marine 26 is a second-generation design based on commercial workboats - the builder offers a commercial equipment package - and comes in soft top cruiser and hardtop cruiser sedan recreational versions, with such features as additional accommodations and molded fiberglass interiors.
General Marine offers a series of boats from 20 to 36 feet, as well as custom finishing boats. Prices for early to mid-2000s 26-footers on the used market run about $80,000 to $85,000. A 1999 model was listed for $67,000.
LOA: 26 feet, 4 inches
BEAM: 9 feet, 6 inches
DRAFT: 2 feet, 6 inches
WEIGHT: 7,400 pounds (without engine)
HULL TYPE: semidisplacement
PROPULSION: single diesel (130 to 400 hp)
TANKAGE: 90 gallons fuel, 15 gallons water)
DESIGNER: Stacey Raymond, General Marine
BUILDER: General Marine, Biddeford, Maine.
Phone: (207) 284-7517.
This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue.