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The express boat’s traditional side

If you’re not into the contemporary look of today’s typical express cruiser, consider the 30-knot Down East express from about 34 to 55 feet.

Hinckley T34

The Down East express holds on to a traditional, classic look. “Certainly there’s a conservative aesthetic preference on the East Coast,” says Michael Arieta, executive vice president of The Hinckley Co. (, which builds several models within this subset of the express cruiser.

“You combine that with the rugged emotion conjured up with that style of pilothouse boat, harkening back to workingmen going to sea.”

These two types of express boats serve a similar purpose: Deliver you and your guests to a destination comfortably and, if need be, quickly. Upon arrival, enjoy all the creature comforts of home — air conditioning, wet bars, high-definition televisions, microwave ovens, refrigerators and more.

Three new models debuted at the Newport International Boat Show in September: Hinckley’s Talaria 34, Sabre’s 38 Salon Express and Hunt’s 44 Express Sedan. And MJM Yachts debuted the 2013 version of its 36z, which now has a centerline walkthrough transom door and a separate shower in the cabin. They represent some of the best of this category. Catch these boats at other shows, too, including the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show Oct. 25-29.

The Down Easter’s profile shows a proud bow with a tall rail that surrounds a raised trunk cabin, a tall windshield and side windows that extend to the hardtop, and wide side decks that lead to a cockpit that’s open to the bridge deck. An express cruiser’s deck layout should include the helmsman, says Bentley Collins, vice president of marketing and sales for Maine-based Sabre Yachts ( and Back Cove Yachts (www.backcove “There’s a social connection from the helm to the cockpit,” he says. “That, to me, is the epitome of the express boat.”

Sabre 38 Salon Express

Hunt Yachts, of Portsmouth, R.I., creates one large space from the stern to the windshield, unifying the helm area and saloon with the aft deck arrangement, company president Peter Van Lancker says. “Our express cruisers … have this motoryacht flush-deck approach to the aft deck and forward saloon that ties the two spaces together,” he says. “The party is all in one place.”

Hunt uses full-height pilothouse sliding glass doors aft to maintain the one-space approach ( You’ll find glass doors on the Hinckley Talaria 44 and Talaria 48, too. “We’ve really been working on making the pilothouse as convertible as possible, integrating open-air features like large powered windows that open wide,” Arieta says.

The layout of the MJM 36z also promotes a social atmosphere with its single-level cockpit and pilothouse/bridge deck that seats 12 (

Navy blue is a popular hull color for the Down Easter, adding to that stately look. “Boaters have had their share of white,” Collins says. “They want [their boat] to stand out a little bit, rather than being the owner of just one more white boat.”

Known for their fine finish, these boats have plenty of varnished wood topside and below. The builders often use teak and holly for the cabin and cockpit soles, and sometimes the swim platform, as well.

Down East express boats may look traditional, but the materials and methods used to build them are state-of-the-art. Hunt uses vinylester resin, knitted unidirectional fiberglass and composite coring (where appropriate), Van Lancker says. The large models are built using resin infusion. Sabres are built using the vacuum infusion process with vinylester resin, structural E-glass and Core-Cell foam coring, Collins says.

Hunt 44 Express sedan

Hinckley uses the SCRIMP process, building with Kevlar and carbon E-glass composite, foam core and vinylester resin. In the past 18 months the company has found ways to shed pounds from its boats, Arieta says. “Our boats today are 1,200 to 3,000 pounds lighter than they were just two years ago,” he says.

MJM Yachts owner Bob Johnstone prides himself on building light, strong boats designed and powered for fuel efficiency. The 36z is built using vacuum-set, oven-cured epoxy/Kevlar/Core-Cell/E-glass composite construction.

The builders mentioned here also have embraced new propulsion technologies, including joysticks and pod drives. The Hunt 52 and the new Hunt 44 are available with pod drives and joystick control. The first two Hunt 44s were powered with Volvo Penta IPS, and the third will be powered with Cummins diesels linked to ZF pods and helm controls. Every model in the Sabre fleet, from 38 to 54 feet, is available with pods. Twin Volvo Penta IPS400s (D4 300-hp diesels) will power the new Sabre 38.

Hinckley, one of the first boatbuilders to develop and incorporate joystick control with its JetStick and waterjet drives, continues to improve the system. The third generation of the JetStick is a wireless remote version called the PalmStick, Arieta says. “This is a fully functioning mini-stick the size of your palm that you walk around with and control the boat,” he says.

Down East express builders rarely sacrifice rough-water performance for a more spacious interior. C. Raymond Hunt Associates designs all of Hunt’s deep-vee boats, and Hinckley recently tapped Michael Peters Yacht Design to create seakindly hulls for the Picnic Boat MKIII, T48 and T34.

You would be wrong to label them “express” boats if they were slowpokes. The Sabre 38 cruises at 25 knots and tops out at 30. The Hinckley T34 has a 29-knot cruise and tops out at 32. The Hunt 44 with IPS600s (435 hp) cruises at 25 knots and reaches 31. “People still want the most horsepower possible, and they like to go fast,” Van Lancker says.

See related articles:


- Our short list of new boats to see at Fort Lauderdale

- Powerboats to see at FLIBS

- Arrive in style

November 2012