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Serial Monogamy

One man is true to many Wesmacs.

Many sailors gravitate to powerboats so they can cover more cruising ground in their shrinking leisure time. But how many end up owning five cruising powerboats from 38 to 50 feet in a 14-year span — all from the same designer and builder? Meet Jack Deupree of Camden, Maine, who last summer splashed his fifth Wesmac Down East express cruiser. All have been named after his wife, Kathleen.

Jack Deupree

“I’ve had nothing but great experiences with all of the boats, so there has been no reason to switch to anything else,” says Deupree, 68, a former certified public accountant. “Any time you can work with a boat of the same design and the same builder, you have a chance to make incremental modifications and improvements. What can I say? I like Wesmacs, and I like Steve and his company.”

Steve is Steve Wessel, the owner of Wesmac Custom Boats in Surry, Maine. Kathleen no. 5 (Deupree has never used numerals) is a 38-footer powered by a single 580-hp Cummins 8.3QSB diesel with a Hamilton waterjet drive. Wesmac designed and built the hull and deckhouse, and Johanson Boatworks of Rockland, Maine, finished the boat. Wesmac typically builds and finishes its boats in A-to-Z fashion, but Deupree is fond of Johanson’s work.

“Steve makes a great boat, obviously, but the finishing is what made this a wonderful creative process for me with Peter Johanson,” Deupree says, referring to the yard’s owner. “Peter would mock up the inside with cardboard, plywood and a hot glue gun, and we would design the interior together. This was important because every inch makes a difference, as any boat owner would know.”

The transom cutout on his Wesmac 38 makes dinghy launching and retrieval easier.

Johanson has finished all five of Deupree’s Wesmacs. Wessel says he has built three boats for a lot of customers, but five only for Deupree. “It’s a unique case,” says Wessel, a former lobsterman who established Wesmac in the mid-1980s with Mac Pettegrow (hence the name Wesmac). The Wesmac blends Down East and Chesapeake influences. In the 1980s a friend of Wessel’s called at 10 o’clock one night with an idea: combine a full-keel Down Easter with a vee-bottom, hard-chine hull typical of a Chesapeake Bay-designed vessel. “We combined the best of both worlds and came away with a semidisplacement boat with speed, seaworthiness and a roomy interior,” Wessel says. He builds boats from 36 to 60 feet and is working on his first outboard-powered boat, a 42.

But this story begins with a sailboat. Deupree and his wife moved from Naples, Florida, to Camden in 1991. In the mid-’90s, Deupree renovated a 1969 Pearson 43, and in 2000 they sailed her to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. In later years they took her to Prince Edward Island. “Eventually we discovered, as many sailors do, that when you cruise and visit destinations you end up using the engine more than sailing,” he says. “You spend a lot of time in the cockpit or down below in a cabin with small windows.” Switching to a Down East powerboat with large pilothouse windows solved that problem.

The first Wesmac that Deupree owned was a 36, a single-diesel boat launched in the summer of 2001. Two Wesmac 42s followed, launched in 2003 and 2005. Deupree switched to waterjet propulsion with the second 42. The fourth is the largest — a Wesmac 50. Deupree calls the 50, which he still owns, the “most incredible boat I’ve been a part of. She’s totally awesome. I hope to keep her as a Maine summer boat and use the new 38 for cruising and exploring.”

Johanson Boatworks designed and built the interiors of every one of Deupree’s Wesmacs. That includes the furniture, interior woodwork, Awlgrip and the installation of mechanical and electrical systems. “We finished building the boat basically from the inside out,” says Johanson. “Every step of the way, lightweight materials were chosen to keep overall weight down. Every decision that was made was influenced by the weight factor. All of the interior components are foam-cored.”

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Wesmac builds its hulls and decks with composite core material and vinylester resin, says Wessel. “It’s lightweight, strong composite construction,” he says. “Everything is hand-laid and vacuum-bagged.”

The Wesmac 38 rides a hard-chine vee-bottom hull that has flat aft sections (for the waterjet installation), a narrow forefoot and spray rails forward. Deupree worked with Johanson to keep the exterior clean and streamlined. There’s no bow rail. A teak toe rail rims the edges of the decks, and a stainless steel and teak rubrail cap the hull-to-deck joint. 

“Both visually and mechanically I have tried to keep it simple,” says Deupree, who has made his living as a private investor since leaving the accounting business. “That has been important to me.”

The last three of the Deuprees’ Wesmacs were designed with an open transom so the couple can more easily get on and off the boat and retrieve and launch their dinghy. They intend to take Kathleen (5) up the Hudson River to Lake Champlain this year. She spent the winter at Norview Marina in Deltaville, Virginia. The Chesapeake ranks high on the Deuprees’ list of favorite places to cruise.

The deckhouse and cabin have a traditional Herreshoff-style interior with a white overhead and cherry cabinetry, doors and trim. Designed for the cruising couple, Kathleen (5) has a single stateroom with cherry cabinetry and hull ceilings, and double hanging lockers. The head is on the port side, and the enclosed shower is on the starboard side.

The Deuprees share the view from the 38's twin helm seats.

The saloon/deckhouse is accessed from the cockpit. An L-shaped settee runs along the aft bulkhead and up the port side. Its dinette table drops to create a queen-size berth with mattress fillers. The galley includes a top-opening DC refrigerator/freezer, a propane stove and oven, and Corian countertops.

The skipper drives from a starboard-side helm station with side-by-side chairs. Instead of a more traditional vertically mounted steering wheel, Deupree went with a small wheel mounted at 30 degrees. “Sitting at the helm, it is certainly easier to handle a horizontally mounted wheel,” he says.

Deupree went with waterjet propulsion in his last three Wesmacs. Jets offer plenty of positives with few drawbacks, he says. “I switched to waterjets because of the lobster buoys in Maine,” he says. “I didn’t realize how different a waterjet is from a propeller-driven boat. It has been a learning curve. They produce a whole different vibration. You don’t get the thumping noise of a propeller-driven boat.”

Depending on how she’s loaded, Kathleen (5) cruises from 16 to 18 knots, Deupree says. “She’ll top at 20 to 24 knots, depending on how she is loaded,” he says. “She’ll burn 1-1/4 gallons per nautical mile at 17 knots and the same at 10 knots, so you have no incentive to slow down with this boat.”

The boat can travel about 0.8 nautical miles per gallon. That gives her a 302-nautical-mile range with a 10 percent reserve.

Deupree sees another benefit of waterjets: greater control at the dock. “Even at a single knot, I have good control, while on a propeller-driven boat you are constantly going in and out of neutral.”

At cruising speeds the waterjet boats lack the control of a rudder, says Deupree. “It’s just tricky because they respond slowly, so you tend to oversteer,” he says. Deupree has used the autopilot to avoid this scenario.

Deupree enjoys piloting the boat but also relishes quiet moments at anchor. “Compared to sailing, I guess the positive of having a powerboat for me is the visibility,” says Deupree. “My favorite parts of being on the water are the beginning and end of the day. I really enjoy an evening sky being reflected in the water, particularly still water. I love being able to sit in the wheelhouse at the dinette table and take it all in through the huge windows.”

The Deuprees have not had a chance to do any substantial cruising aboard their fifth Wesmac, but Kathleen (5) is the ideal size for their intended uses. “She’s not too big when it is just me and not too small when Kathy is on the boat,” says Deupree.

Deupree's Wesmac 50 and 38 are a pretty pair at Johanson Boatworks in Rockland, Maine.

Kathy agrees. “The 50 is our most magnificent boat, by far, but the 38 is a little more comfortable to manage,” she says.

The Down East design allows for a large deckhouse and ample interior living space. “Part of the joy is being able to use her in the shoulder seasons,” says Deupree. “This boat is really built for little adventures, and we’ll have them — in Maine and the Chesapeake and points in between.”

May 2015 issue