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Look closer: The Williams 38 is not what you might think

Press material for the Williams 38 refers to this newest model from John Williams Boat Co. as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” If you saw her tied up in a slip, you’d dismiss the reference as hyperbole. After all, she’s only a lobster boat disguised as a yacht, and everyone knows that those semidisplacement hulls are seakindly but not particularly fast.

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In reality, company founder and president Jock Williams, working with designer Doug Zurn, has created another breed of Down East yacht, one that combines speed with mouthwatering looks.

Anyone who’s familiar with the Williams line may recognize the deckhouse and trunk cabin as replicas of those from the builder’s Stanley 38 — a true lobster boat below the waterline. Williams and Zurn honor this heritage by retaining the upright house and crowned trunk cabin, with its blunt front fascia. These don’t waste interior volume the way swoopy lines and extreme tumblehome do.

LOA: 40 feet, 2 inches BEAM: 13 feet DRAFT: 3 feet DISPLACEMENT: 19,302 pounds FUEL CAPACITY: 300 gallons POWER: twin Volvo Penta IPS600 ESTIMATED SPEED: 40 knots top, 33 knots cruise CONTACT: John Williams Boat Co., Mount Desert, Maine, (207) 244-7854.

Few design elements melt an enthusiast’s heart as readily as the sweeping sheer line of a lobster boat. Whimsy plays no part in that sheer: It’s purely functional, and the same applies to its purpose on the Williams 38. Her proud bow punches through a head sea, and the rails — rising discreetly from the waterline — keep solid water from crawling up the topsides while suppressing spray. On a workboat, low freeboard aft reduces the distance required to lift lobster traps and swing them aboard. Aren’t we lucky that this necessity, carried over to a pleasure boat, adds to her allure?

Fish, on the other hand, see the wolf side of the W38’s personality: a modified-vee bottom (18-degree transom deadrise) and a pair of Volvo Penta IPS600 pod drives. Zurn gave the Williams 38 fairly wide chine flats, which narrow as they progress forward and clear the waterline a few stations abaft the bow to become spray rails.

Zurn’s vee bottoms ride nicely in snotty seas, especially short, steep seas with a frequency about equal to the length of the boat’s planing surface. His designs, kept relatively lightweight, also run efficiently. The designer estimates a range of 300 nautical miles on the boat’s 300-gallon fuel supply, or a gallon per mile at a 30-knot cruising speed.

Unlike so-called Down East-style yachts that merely hint at a workboat pedigree, the Williams 38 shows the beauty of a pure lobster boat in a package that can run head-to-head with nearly any traditionally styled boat.

This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue.