Bill Tracy likes to change boats every few years, and he’s owned a fleet of them over a lifetime on the water. Each offers a different kind of experience.
“I got my first boat when I was 12,” says the 67-year-old from Navesink, New Jersey. “It was a small wooden rowing skiff with a 5-hp outboard.” Summering in Mantoloking, he graduated to sailing and racing on Barnegat Bay. “I learned to sail at the Bay Head Yacht Club, racing duck boats, Blue Jays, Lightning’s and M Scows.”
Later, while working at ABC Television (for 27 years) and with Verizon Media after that, he owned a series of boats, beginning with an 18-foot Prindle Cat. At one time or another, his fleet also included 28- and 33-foot Tartan sailboats. “The sailing journeys down Long Island Sound to Fishers Island and Block Island were some of the most memorable trips,” says Tracy, who now goes boating with his wife, Jennifer, and two twin 21-year-old boys, Will and Phillip.
Eventually, Tracy switched to small powerboats, first an 18-foot Chris-Craft Sea Skiff, which he restored, and then a 21-foot Chris-Craft Cutlass Dory built in 1972. “These were project boats, which I love doing,” he says.
Still, there came a point when he began looking for something new again. “I’d had the Dory for several years and maintenance was starting to grow,” Tracy says. That’s when he remembered a boat he’d spotted in Nantucket Harbor a few years before. “It was a beautiful, dark-blue, Downeast-style center console, a Roth Bilt 21,” he says. “I knew right then that would be my next boat.”
In 2014, he fulfilled the prophecy. Tracy found a 2004 model at Millway Marina in Barnstable, Massachusetts. The boat had an impressive list of accessories, including a Garmin GPS, a full set of cushions, a Bimini, dodger and a helm cover. He bought it for $35,000.
They’ve had cruising sailboats and they’ve had classic runabouts; now, Tracy and his wife have a boat made for day trips, sunset cruises and getting together with friends. “My wife and I love taking casual evening cruises or just anchoring in a quiet cove for the day,” Tracy says. “Our perfect time on the boat is a late day or sunset trip up and down the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers.” Along the way, they’ve personalized the 21-footer, adding a transom well, seats and teak table to the cockpit. “It’s a great place for putting out drinks and snacks for cocktail cruising,” Tracy says.
An outing on the Roth rarely goes by without a thumbs up or a “beautiful boat, what kind is it?” from passing boaters, Tracy says. “That is the real joy of owning a Roth Bilt. The flattery!”
The 21-footer handles the mostly tranquil inland waters of the Navesink and Shrewsbury rivers easily, offering a wide, stable and dry platform, according to Tracy. Power comes from a 2004 Yamaha 150-hp, 2-stroke outboard. “The engine had just under 400 hours at purchase and for the six years I have owned the boat, it has not had a single issue,” he says. “Cruising speed is 25 knots, or what feels comfortable. The ‘sweet spot’ to me is when the engine is smooth and quiet, it ‘feels’ fuel-efficient and the boat is on a
Maintenance on the 21-footer is minimal, though there’s one chore Tracy is serious about. “I am vigilant with freshwater flushing. I do it after each outing for at least 10 minutes,” he says. “That may be contributing to just how dependable the engine has been.”
Spring routines include a fresh coat of Cetol for the teak rub rail and touch-ups on the teak helm and helm seat. “With canvas covers, this teak holds up very well,” Tracy says. Seasonal compounding and waxing keep the dark-blue hull in good shape. “It’s essential, and I put a lot of effort into that every year.” His only trips with the trailerable boat are to and from Monmouth Beach Sailing Center, where he keeps it. The trailer is set up with bunks and guides for self-launching
“The Roth Bilt 21 has just been a joy to own,” Tracy says. “With six seasons on her, I may just start looking for a Roth Bilt 24.”
The Roth Bilt 21 has a decidedly Downeast look, with its high bow, moderate flare and long, sweeping sheer, all of which reflect its workboat origins. The all-fiberglass boat rides on a modified-V hull with a deep forefoot. Open and closed transom models were offered for the single outboard, both with corner or bench seating.
There’s a small foredeck, and the wide gunwales are equipped with rod holders. The center console layout features bench seating behind a prominent wood-framed windscreen. The console has storage below and a side handrail. Ahead of the console is a bench seat and more seating up at the bow. Roth Bilt offered a host of options with this model, including teak decking, a swim ladder, a Bimini top and a dodger for the forward seating area. Other options were fresh- and saltwater washdowns, LCD deck lighting and a set ofcustom cushions.
Roth Bilt boats was founded in the 1970s and the company continues to build boats. An 18-footer is now in production, A 21-footer could be in the works for the future.
Displ: 1,400 lbs.
Power: (1) 150-hp outboard
Fuel: 38 gallons
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This article was originally published in the June 2021 issue.