Bill Hezlep had a middle-age experience that changed his life and got him started on a new life on the water. “I had a diagnosis of ALS in 1986,” says the 69-year-old cartographer. “It ended up being a wrong diagnosis, but it had a major effect. I changed gears, stopped living for work and started working to live.”
What Hezlep and his wife, Betty, a NASA aerospace engineer, did was buy a boat. A 24-foot sloop — a “starter” boat — was soon traded for a Sea Sprite 30, which really wedded them to the boating life. “That was the one I could really sail,” the Texas resident says. “I loved that boat.”
When the couple retired in 1994, they knew just what to do with their newfound freedom. They sold their houses, sold the cars — even sold the much-loved Sea Sprite — and bought a Mariner 36 ketch. “Six weeks later, we left the Chesapeake on what was supposed to be a one-year, round-trip cruise south to the Florida Keys, over to the Bahamas and back to the Bay,” says Hezlep. “It was great, and we just kept on cruising.”
For the next 14 years, in fact. “During that time, we’ve cruised from Canada to Trinidad, the Bahamas to Texas and through the canals of France,” says Hezlep. In addition to the ketch, they’ve owned a Prairie trawler, a Duffy 35 hardtop and an antique, iron-hulled Dutch motor barge. Now, they’re backing off a bit — just a little bit.
Last year they bought a 1995 Nauset 28 Hardtop Cruiser, a “retiring-from-cruising cruising boat,” as Hezlep calls it. The price was $70,000. “The Nauset 28 is a classic Royal Lowell design with a true built-down lobster boat hull,” says Hezlep. “Like all Lowell boats, it is a very pretty boat, and like all of Nauset Marine’s boats, it is a well-built boat.”
The Down East 28-footer was in fair condition, “a mix of good, bad and indifferent,” says Hezlep. Mostly, it needed a good cleaning, and the galley gear and sanitation system were outdated. But, Hezlep notes, “She had that beautiful hull, and the deck, deckhouse and windows were in good condition. She had a diesel with less than 300 hours on it, and the fuel lines and filter, the hot water heater, some of the electronics and the cushion covers and curtains were in good condition.” The boat also had a late-model reverse-cycle heating and A/C system.
There were some practical features that appealed to him as a cruiser, such as engine access. “The entire cabin sole will come up, so access to everything in the engine space is excellent,” says Hezlep.
The boat also is quiet. “The engine space is very well insulated, and, unusual in a 28-footer, [it has] a well-designed underwater exhaust,” the experienced cruiser reports. “Under way at 12 knots, you can carry on a normal conversation in the cabin.”
The deck layout is safe and functional. “The side decks are wide for the boat’s size, making it easy to walk fore and aft,” says Hezlep. “The bow rail extends aft to the trailing edge of the deckhouse, and the hand rails and handholds are well-positioned. The cockpit is [large] enough that I can inflate our 9-foot dinghy and then slide it over the side.”
Another plus is vertical clearance. “The boat is a hardtop with no flying bridge and no tall mast,” Hezlep says. “With our antennas folded down, we can easily clear a 10-foot bridge.”
Power comes from a 315-hp Yanmar 6LPA-STP, a 6-cylinder, 4-stroke diesel. The Nauset 28 cruises at 10 to 12 mph at 2,200 rpm, Hezlep says. Top cruising speed is about 14 to 15 mph, running at 2,600 rpm. “In the ICW, loafing along at 1,900 to 2,000 rpm, we do 8 to 8.5 knots and burn relatively little fuel,” he says.
Over the last year, the boat’s cosmetics have been tended to. They’ve upgraded the galley and the sanitation system, replaced all plastic through-hulls with bronze and replaced most of the hoses. “Over the next year, we will complete work on the 12-volt wiring, replace the current inverter/charger, have some new canvas made and install a couple of solar panels,” says Hezlep.
The boat has a broad mission. “We will be cruising the East and Gulf coasts and probably the Bahamas,” says Hezlep. “We like to spend a couple of months on the boat and drive it from, say, Cape Cod to Florida, leave it somewhere safe and go back to the house for a month or two, then return to the boat for the next leg … to wherever. There are nice, interesting, enjoyable places along the coast from Maine to Texas and all around the Great Loop.”
With her new name, Nauset, on the transom, the boat sits at Seabrook Marina on Clear Lake in Texas, awaiting the next adventure. “We will do day trips around Galveston Bay and cruises to Matagorda, Fulton and Rockport,” says Hezlep. “Next spring, we’ll drive her back east to Florida. That’s the plan, and we’ll stick to it until we change it.”
Royal Lowell’s Nauset 28 is an unmistakably Down East boat with traditional lines. The trunk cabin forward gives way to the large wraparound, open-ended wheelhouse, and the tall bow is surrounded by an ample rail that extends along the graceful sheer to the cockpit. She rides a traditional modified-vee hull powered by a single diesel of generally 200 to 250 hp.
The builder offers different cabin layouts for the three versions of the 28, including a convertible berth-dinette forward with a removable dining table, as well as over-under V-berths. In the Hardtop Cruiser, the helm station is placed to starboard behind a large, three-panel windscreen. It comes with a pedestal helm seat, a destroyer wheel and a large molded console for instruments and electronics. The side windows open.
The U-shaped galley-down amidships is furnished with a stainless steel sink, a cooktop, a compact refrigerator, and counter and shelf storage. The enclosed head compartment is to port and is equipped with a marine head, sink and integral shower.
Founded in 1961, Nauset Marine is located in Orleans, Mass., on Cape Cod, not far from well-known Nauset Beach. The semicustom builder offers recreational and commercial boats in 25-, 28-, 33- and 36-foot models. There are three versions of the popular Nauset 28: Hardtop Cruiser, Bridge Deck Cruiser and Express Cruiser. Nauset Marine boats are easily found on the used boat market, and the 28-footers run from around $65,000 to $75,000 on the lower end and up to $135,000 for late-model boats in exceptional condition.
LOA: 28 feet
BEAM: 10 feet, 8 inches
DRAFT: 2 feet, 9 inches
WEIGHT: 10,500 pounds
HULL TYPE: modified-vee
PROPULSION: single 250-hp diesel
TANKAGE: 125 gallons fuel, 40 gallons water
DESIGNER: Royal Lowell
BUILDER: Nauset Marine, Orleans, Mass.,
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September 2013 issue