Lance Cunningham’s boating roots go back a long way. “I would get dropped off at the local church for kindergarten, and I’d walk down to the river,” says Cunningham, 66, who grew up around the Navesink River in Rumson, New Jersey. “Even at that age, I was skipping school to get down to the water.”
A few years later, he was hanging around the local boatyard. “Paul’s Boats,” he recalls. “For a quarter, I’d bail the boats out for them and do other odd jobs.”
It’s no coincidence that Cunningham runs his own boatyard today. He’s owned and managed the Carriage House Marina on the Shrewsbury River in Sea Bright, New Jersey, since 1985, and he’s owned a fleet of interesting craft over the years. One was a Roberts 34, a Chesapeake Bay oyster boat that had a cabin built on it. “Windy II. That boat was a lot of fun,” says Cunningham. “We always had good music aboard, a potted palm on the back deck. It was a great cocktail cruiser.”
He also owned a Bertram 28 powered by a pair of garbage truck engines. “The owner had used it as a commuter boat out on Long Island and drove it into Manhattan,” Cunningham says. “There were two 500-hp Ford commercial engines in it and lots of custom equipment. I had fun with that one, too.”
None of the boats he’s owned over the years quite compare to the one he has now: a 1997 Stanley 36, a classic lobster yacht designed by Lyford Stanley and built in Maine by the John Williams Boat Company. Cunningham found the boat through the Maine Boatbuilders Show in Portland back in the mid-2000s. “I was hanging around Williams’ booth, and I told Jock Williams [the company’s founder] that I was looking for a used Stanley 36. Just as I was leaving to drive back to New Jersey, he mentioned that there was a Stanley ‘down your way.’” After a series of maneuvers over several months, the price came into range. The final cost was around $130,000.
For Cunningham, the Stanley 36 has been the perfect combination of function and form, well-suited to the varied conditions off and around the New Jersey coast. “We have access to a lot of boating here, and the Downeast boat is so versatile,” he says. “We can go around Sandy Hook to New York, and that’s a wide-open inlet. But it’s a very seaworthy boat. I’ve had it out in the ocean, a lot.”
With its big cockpit and cabin comforts, it also makes a great day cruiser and overnighter. “I’ve had a dozen people dancing in the cockpit,” says Cunningham. “We ran up the Hudson River, five boats together, docked at Newburgh and stayed at a hunting lodge. But we also do a lot of short trips close to home.”
The Stanley 36, bred for fishing the waters of coastal Maine, does well off the Jersey shore, too. “You zip around Sandy Hook and you’re out in the ocean,” he says. “The best offshore stuff is 80 miles out, and it’s capable of going out and doing it.” Cunningham also runs up the local rivers to cast when the striped bass are in.
The boats are semicustom, and the cabin layout on Cunningham’s version includes a large V-berth with a couple of pilot berths above, a compact galley and a full head. “It’s a nice little galley, and I use a portable butane single-burner stove if I want to cook something,” he says. “I took the boat to Florida with some of my buddies. There were four of us on board, and it worked well.”
Power comes from a single 370-hp Yanmar diesel, the original motor in the 23-year-old boat. “It has about 2,500 hours on it, and it still runs like a top. I think it will run forever,” Cunningham says. The 36-footer’s cruising speed is around 17 to 18 knots, burning about 8 gph.
Beyond all the practicality, Cunningham loves the Downeast look. “A boat’s worthless if it’s not pretty, and this is the prettiest Downeast on the water,” he says.
The Maine-built Stanley 36 rides a traditional, semi-displacement, fiberglass hull with a keel and protected prop. The design sports a high bow and a sweeping sheer, a trunk cabin and upright wheelhouse reminiscent of a Maine lobster boat. The large open-ended wheelhouse has more than 6 feet, 6 inches of headroom, with the helm station to starboard behind a three-panel windshield and large side windows, which make for good sightlines. Side curtains and an aft enclosure are available. The Stanley 36 interior can be customized; standard features can include a V-berth forward, a salon located amidship with a folding dining table and a pair of settees. Additional sleeping accommodations include pilot berths forward and a pilothouse pull-out berth. The galley can include a 3-burner propane stove with an oven and an ice box. The enclosed head compartment has a marine head, sink and optional shower, along with a 25-gallon waste tank and macerator. Quality joinery includes mahogany cockpit steps and cabin trim, Sitka spruce cabin ceiling and teak-and-holly soles.
This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue.