Frank Smollon had enjoyed his 29-foot bowrider for a few years, day-tripping and cruising with his family in the Chesapeake Bay waters near his Riva, Maryland, home. At one point the 66-year-old manufacturer’s rep joined the Annapolis Yacht Club and became involved with its cruising club. “We would pick a couple of trips where the distance wasn’t too great,” Smollon says. “It was a lot of fun, something we liked doing.”
As the club ventured farther, the open boat’s shortcomings became apparent. “We had a hard time with the weather,” Smollon says. “One time it was so bad, we had to cancel the trip. It was just too rough for a 29-foot bowrider. We realized we needed a bigger boat.”
In December 2015, Smollon took delivery of a nearly 2-year-old Back Cove 41, a power cruiser with two staterooms, two heads, a saloon and a galley. The family named her Watercolors, inspired by the title of a satellite radio station. “Contemporary jazz,” Smollon says. “You know, when the sun is setting and you get all these colors on the water — it’s very appropriate.”
It turned out the boat was hull No. 1, and Smollon was glad to have it. “I figured they put a lot of time and effort into it to make it right,” he says. The price was $600,000 and included a trade. “The man we bought the boat from took our bowrider,” Smollon says. “It worked out well.”
Smollon had the Back Cove name on his mind for a number of years. “I’ve always liked that Down Easter style,” he says. “I like the lines. The Back Cove can get up to speed, and I knew I didn’t want a slow-moving trawler. I wanted to get from point A to point B relatively quickly.”
The layout, both on deck and below, is well suited to cruising with Smollon’s extended family, which includes six grandchildren, and friends. “I like the roominess inside and the way the galley is up on the 41,” Smollon says. “It has a big cockpit area with plenty of space for entertaining. This boat is well built and well thought out.”
Power comes from a single Volvo Penta D11 diesel, delivering 725 hp at 2,500 rpm. (The power plant had only 130 hours on it at the time of purchase.) Cruising speed is 20 to 22 mph, depending on conditions. The top end is listed at just under 30 mph. “It’s a nice, powerful engine. The boat gets up and planes off right away,” Smollon says. “The engine area is very well sound-insulated, so it’s easy to have a normal conversation at speed.”
LOA: 46 feet, 6 inches
BEAM: 14 feet
DRAFT: 3 feet, 9 inches
DISPLACEMENT: 29,500 pounds
HULL TYPE: modified-vee
PROPULSION: single 600-hp diesel
TANKAGE: 400 gallons fuel, 160 gallons water
BUILDER: Back Cove Yachts, Rockland, Maine, (207) 594-8844. backcoveyachts.com
The galley-up includes a microwave and a refrigerator, and like a home kitchen it’s a center of activity. The helm station has a side door to the deck. “That’s handy for docking,” Smollon says. “The electronic throttle and gear system are very responsive and easy to use. I was worried about being able to maneuver this boat, but the bow and stern thrusters make it so simple.”
With a 41-footer, Smollon’s cruising destinations now include Kent Island and St. Michaels, Solomons Island, Rock Hall and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. And he has plans to voyage north on the Intracoastal Waterway. “In the bowrider, I couldn’t even think about going to some of the places we went to this [past] summer,” he says. “The Back Cove can handle the roughness of the Bay. If I go out in bad weather, I am confident in this boat, whatever comes at it.”
Watercolors is also an easy-to-use dayboat, perfect for a family outing. “We live on a creek off the South River, so we have a nice ride to get into the Bay,” Smollon says. “We can be into Annapolis in 45 minutes and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in an hour.” It’s an easy boat to use, too. “You pull into the slip, hose it off and walk away.”
For Smollon’s grandchildren, the Back Cove is a playground on the water. “What they love is to anchor,” he says. “We put the grill out, get out the water toys, and they swim off the boat. They jump off the bow.”
He adds, “I like to go into a creek, throw the anchor out and stay overnight. It’s beautiful, quiet, very peaceful. It’s a floating home, a summer cottage with [Sirius] XM Radio, satellite TV, a stereo system — all the comforts of home.”
In short, Smollon says, the Back Cove 41 has “been delightful, everything we wanted.”
The Back Cove 41, bred and built in Maine, shows the characteristics of the Down East style with its tall bow and even sheer, trunk cabin with eyebrow trim and prominent wheelhouse. Below, there’s a master stateroom forward with an island double berth (with a choice of optional mattresses), a hanging locker and shelf space. Three overhead ports and four side ports allow light and ventilation. The adjacent head compartment has a separate stall shower, marine head and sink.
The guest stateroom, just aft, has a double berth running athwartships and its own head compartment. There are steps up to the helm station and saloon, which includes the galley-up, equipped with a two-burner electric cooktop, a convection microwave and a refrigerator/freezer. The C-shaped dinette has a hi-lo table.
The helm station is to starboard, with twin Stidd seats and an L-shaped settee to port. There’s a molded panel for gauges and room for mounted electronics above. The aft bulkhead door opens to the cockpit, which is laid out with corner seating and cocktail tables.
Back Cove Yachts, a sister company to Sabre Yachts, was founded in the early 2000s to build small and midsize Down East-style cruising powerboats. The Rockland, Maine, builder’s first model was the Back Cove 29, and it set a standard for the approximately 500 boats from 26 to 37 feet that followed. The 41 is the largest offering. Kevin Burns, Back Cove’s vice president of design and product development, calls the 41 the “flagship of the Back Cove fleet.”
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue.