An efficient pocket cruiser is one of the most popular recreational boat types, right up there with the center console. It comes in a variety of styles and price ranges, and the propulsion choices run the gamut — outboards, I/Os, inboards, gas or diesel. Their size makes them ideal as dayboats, and the accommodations make coastal cruising and weekending comfortable and easy.
Larry and Marian Carson’s 1989 Bayfield 26 is a good example of the type. Built in Ontario by the Bayfield Boat Yard, it’s a single-engine, Down East-style overnighter with New England roots. The hull is the Wasque 26, which came out of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., in the 1980s and has a devoted following. (Bayfield Boat Yard also referred to the boat as the Bayfin 26.)
The Carsons, who live in Ivoryton, Conn., came across the boat three years ago while searching the used-boat market for a midsize weekender. “I knew nothing about the builder,” says Larry Carson, 68, a retired truck driver. “But I did know a little bit about Wasque boats from Martha’s Vineyard Yachts.” (C.W. Hood of Marblehead, Mass., currently builds the Wasque 26 and 32.)
After going boatless for eight years, the couple had decided to get back on the water. “We were planning on mostly cruising on the Connecticut River,” Carson says. “We had the time, and we wanted to introduce the grandkids to our beautiful river.”
With its single diesel, moderate speed and traditional lines, the Bayfield 26 seemed like the perfect boat. “We liked the pictures we saw, and we liked the style,” Carson says. “Then we met the owner and saw how he liked it. We took a very enjoyable sea trial with him up in Maine, and we fell in love with the boat.”
Working with Bill Full of East Coast Yacht Sales (www.ecys.com) in Yarmouth, Maine, the sale was made in time for the 2010 boating season. The price was $51,000. The boat had been well cared for and was in excellent condition. The Carsons, who keep the boat at the Brewer Dauntless Shipyard on the river in Essex, Conn., have had the woodwork revarnished — Carson calls it a “forest of teak” — and added a swim platform. New canvas is planned for the coming season.
“We mostly cruise in the river [and] moor at Hamburg Cove for swimming, which I love to do,” Carson says. “We also take the grandkids crabbing and have friends out for swallow cruises in the fall and summer.”
The large cockpit, wide side decks and accommodations make the 26-footer well suited to the mission. “The boat has a small cuddy cabin and tall sides in the cockpit to keep the grandkids safe and in the boat,” Carson says. “The engine box and stern seat [are good] for people to sit on or eat on.”
The lower Connecticut River can get a bit rough when wind, tide and current fight one another, but the Bayfield 26, with its tall, flared bow and modified-vee hull, handles well in a good chop, Carson says. “It’s a very dry boat and does not pound at all,” he says. “It has a Volvo diesel rated at 140 hp, and at its 2,000-rpm cruise speed it burns about 1-1/2 gallons per hour.” Cruising speed is 11 to 12 mph, and the top end is 15 mph “on a good day.”
This versatile Canadian-built overnighter isn’t the Carsons’ first boat, but it may turn out to be the best. After a lifetime of boating and boats — the family has had a Boston Whaler, several Grady-Whites and a 33-foot Bertram — the Bayfield 26 is the “favorite so far,” Carson says. “She has definitely fulfilled our dream.”
The Bayfield 26 has the graceful, well-proportioned Down East profile of the John Alden-designed Wasque boats. The tall bow shows a slight curve, and the sheer drops quickly to about midships and eases its way aft to a curved transom with a touch of tumblehome. The short trunk cabin, with its side port, is topped by a handsome wood-framed two-panel windscreen with side windows.
The cockpit is open and has a transom bench seat, and the engine box can be used as a table, a seat or a sunpad. The helm station is to starboard. Along with the standard engine gauges, there’s room for a compass, a plotter, a fish or depth finder and a small radar unit.
The companionway, on centerline, leads to the cuddy below, where accommodations include a V-berth and a mini-galley area, with sink and counter space, to port. A portable head can be installed under the V-berth cushions. The cuddy also has a pair of opening ports and an overhead hatch for ventilation. n
Bayfield Boat Yard was founded by sailboat designer Ted Gozzard in 1970 and originally located in the town of Bayfield in southern Ontario. Although it dabbled in the powerboat business with the Bayfield 26, the company is best known for its full-keel cruising sailboats. Gozzard went against the popular fin-keel style of the day, but his hardy vessels quickly became prized for their traditional design and quality construction using modern methods and materials. Gozzard’s best-known model was the Bayfield 32, introduced as the Bayfield 30 in 1973. Some 300 of these cruising sailboats were delivered over the years. Gozzard left the company in the early 1980s, and the yard closed less than a decade later. In all, the Canadian company built more than 1,500 boats, including the Bayfield 26 and Blue Seas 32 powerboats.
LOA: 26 feet
BEAM: 8 feet, 6 inches
DRAFT: 36 inches
DISPLACEMENT: 6,000 pounds
POWER: diesel or gas inboard
TANKAGE: 40 gallons fuel, 20 gallons water
BUILDER: Bayfield Boat Yard, Clinton, Ontario
February 2013 issue