Among the pioneering powerboat designers of the 20th century, Frank Pembroke Huckins stands out as a fascinating personality. He’s been called an “irascible genius,” self-confident with what we might say today is a my-way-or-the-highway style.
Thank goodness because he was also a visionary who left an indelible mark on yacht design while founding a successful family-run company that’s still producing a distinctive fleet.
New England-born, Huckins left the lumber business in the late 1920s to build boats in a booming Florida. “I’d been flirting with the idea for a seagoing type of planing hull, there being no such thing at the time,” the self-taught designer wrote. His radical “Quadraconic” hull and the boat’s unique look made the initial 42-foot Fairform Flyer an instant hit. And the Huckins fleet it spawned remains distinct as ever, 84 years after he splashed hull No. 1.
You can bet this handsome Linwood, which dates from the 1950s, looked and ran exactly as its designer/builder would have intended. FPH had a vision for each model and he made sure others followed his lead. Workers got meticulous, detailed plans from which no deviation was allowed.
Boats were built to his exacting specifications, with no room for compromise. There was a reason: Huckins wanted his big power cruisers to be free from pounding, seaworthy at low speeds, quick to plane and fast on the water. He believed that his Quadraconic hull, with its deep forefoot and “four conical intersections,” produced the ride he was looking for.
“It is easier to keep your balance in a Fairform Flyer at 20 knots than a displacement boat at half that speed,” he wrote. “The chairs stay put; a highball glass placed on the chart table does not slide off.”
Huckins spent more than 20 years working 80 to 100 hours a week at “something I loved” before passing away in 1951 at age 65. He left behind a host of owners grateful for his obsessions. One had nine Huckins boats; another had six built.
Today, Huckins’ granddaughter, Cindy Purcell, is company president (www.huckinsyacht.com). The company logo still proclaims “Symbol of Yacht Perfection.”
It would be hard to argue.
Illustration by Jim Ewing
December 2012 issue