Used boats are, well, used. And though you might be dreaming of that showroom-quality preowned vessel, the reality is often different. A used boat might need some work, particularly in the area of cosmetics. But that shouldn’t stop you, and it sure didn’t stop Lee Essay.
It took a full winter for the 29-year-old to turn a neglected 21-year-old Down East-style cruiser into a boat he’s both pleased with and proud to own. But it was worth every bit of time and effort. “After four months of work, the boat really cleaned up well,” says Essay, a Southampton, N.Y., plumbing and drainage supplier.
The 1987 Cape Dory 28 Open Fisherman he bought in January 2007 for $42,000 was just what he was after, despite its condition. “The design of this boat is great for me because I wanted the nice interior with a topside layout that is open for whatever the occasion,” says Essay. “And it’s easy to wash down and maintain.”
The Cape Dory is powered by a 360-hp Chrysler gas engine and cruises at 12 to 13 mph, with a top end of around 17 or 18 mph. “It handles great heading into rough seas,” says Essay. “The deep keel and semidisplacement hull cut right through the waves without pounding.” Essay and his girlfriend use the Cape Dory for weekend getaways and to entertain friends. Overnight destinations include Greenport, Shelter Island and Montauk on Long Island, as well as Block Island, R.I., and the Connecticut shore. A galley, enclosed head and shower provide cruising comforts. “The boat is great for a couple, with plenty of comfortable sleeping room,” he says.
It took some work to get it that way. When Essay bought the boat, the teak in the cabin was water-stained and black with mildew, the topside teak was grayish-black and badly weathered, and the fiberglass on the topsides was badly crazed. Essay gutted most of the cabin, working on teak pieces at home. “I used a bleach formula to brighten the wood and then sanded it,” Essay says. Eight coats of teak oil followed, Essay wet-sanding the oil into the wood to give it a smooth finish. He varnished the teak sole. Exterior teak got the same treatment. He waxed the hull, to hide the crazing.
Then he started updating and adding accessories: a flush head with a holding tank, a stereo/CD player with satellite radio (and a separate control topside), a combination GPS/depth sounder, a VHF radio that ties into the GPS and displays latitude and longitude, and a 6-gallon hot-water heater.
Essay knew the boat would be worth the work. “I did a lot of research on the Cape Dory, and it was both the layout and the quality craftsmanship that made me want to go with this boat,” he says. “I was very set on the type of boat that I wanted, based on my own experiences and desires. I wanted a Down East-style hull and more of a fishing-style boat without all the rugs or a lot of fabric on it, but with a nice cabin for weekend overnighters.”
The deck of the Cape Dory Open Fisherman is just what the name says — open, great for sunbathing, entertaining or fishing. Down below, the galley has a refrigerator, freshwater sink with hot and cold water, and an alcohol/electric stove. The V-berth converts to a dinette, and the head has a sink and shower.
Essay keeps the boat at the Bullhead Yacht Club in Southampton. During the week, he might entertain friends with a sunset cruise on Peconic Bay or dinner at a restaurant on the water. He sometimes organizes a little fishing trip. “When I am not out on my boat, I am usually hanging out on it doing maintenance or cleaning it,” he says. “I try to keep up on the smallest details to keep the boat in great working order. I plan on keeping this boat for as long as possible.”
In the 2007 edition of “The Powerboat Guide” (www.powerboatguide.com) author Ed McKnew calls the Cape Dory 28 Open a classic Down East bass-style fishing boat that combines “simple elegance with a spacious cockpit and comfortable cabin accommodations.” It’s a good description.
The boat certainly looks the part, with its husky hull, trunk cabin and lobster-yacht windshield frame. Power comes from a single inboard, and most were outfitted with the optional 200-hp Volvo that delivered a 12- to 14-mph cruise and a 17- to 18-mph top end. Standard power was a gas engine.
The boat’s semidisplacement hull has a full keel and plenty of beam, almost 10 feet. The bow is tall, and a gently sweeping sheer leads to the wide, rounded transom. The large, open cockpit is a step down from the raised bridge deck. The helm station is to starboard, which makes for good sightlines. There’s a pedestal seat, with a companion to port, a full console for gauges and electronics. The two-step companionway is on centerline.
Below, the accommodations are complete for a couple. The V-berth, which converts to a dinette, sleeps two with an insert, and there’s a hanging locker and shelf space. The head compartment is to port, amidships, and it’s arranged with a marine head, sink and shower. The compact cruising galley to starboard has a stove, an under-the-counter refrigerator and a sink with hot and cold water. Cape Dory was known for its joinery work, and there’s lots of teak below, giving the boat a traditional look.
Cape Dory powerboats (and sailboats) can be found fairly easily on the used boat market, especially in regions close to their New England roots. Prices range from around $40,000 or less for older models to $75,000 for newer or recently upgraded boats. A 1986 Sport with a 240-hp Chrysler gas engine for sale in Maine was well outfitted with radar, an LCD depth sounder and color fishfinder, Garmin GPS/plotter and Northstar Loran. Listed price was $37,500. A 1988 Open Fisherman in “exceptional condition” was for sale at $56,900 in New Hampshire, powered by a 275-hp Chrysler gas engine with less than 1,000 hours and equipped as a cruiser/dayboat with a swim platform, new canvas and upgraded electronics. An upgraded 1986 Open Fisherman was selling for $74,900 in Rhode Island, powered by a 240-hp Yanmar diesel with 250 hours for a top speed of 21 mph. New gear included bow thruster, fuel tank, batteries, prop and canvas.
The Cape Dory name goes back to the 1960s, when the East Taunton, Mass., builder started turning out small racing sailboats and cruisers. In the following years, using many of Carl Alberg’s designs, Cape Dory quickly established a reputation for larger, well-built cruising boats that combined comfort, solid construction and performance. Over a quarter-century, Cape Dory produced more than 2,800 sailboats from 22 to 45 feet.
In the mid-1980s, Cape Dory began building recreational powerboats, starting with the 28, which came in Open Fisherman, hardtop Sport and Flybridge versions. It was an instant hit, and by 1991 a 40-footer had been added to the powerboat lineup. The company was sold in the early 1990s, and operations were moved from Massachusetts to Long Island. Cape Dory ceased operations in 1996. There is an active Cape Dory sailboat owners association, and there’s information on the powerboats in the history section on their Web site (www.capedory.org).
LOA: 27 feet, 11 inches
BEAM: 9 feet, 11 inches
DRAFT: 2 feet, 9 inches
WEIGHT: 8,000 pounds
HULL TYPE: semidisplacement
POWER: single inboard
FUEL CAPACITY: 120 gallons
WATER CAPACITY: 31 gallons
BUILDER: Cape Dory Yachts
This article originally appeared in the September 2008 issue.