Ned and Edie Flanagan were taking a break from big boats, their last being a 36-foot Albin trawler. In 2014, the Connecticut couple began looking for something that would get them back into the boating lifestyle they’d enjoyed — a three-season boat for day trips, weekend overnights and longer summer cruises.
“We made a list of what we wanted in a boat, what the boat needed to be able to do and a price range,” says Ned Flanagan, 57, a teacher and waterfront director with The Sound School, a vocational aquaculture school in New Haven, Connecticut. “We considered the reputation of the builder and a look that we liked.”
SPECIFICATIONS LOA: 31 feet, 4 inches BEAM: 11 feet, 2 inches DRAFT: 3 feet, 6 inches WEIGHT: 12,000 pounds HULL TYPE: modified-vee PROPULSION: single diesel TANKAGE: 200 gallons fuel, 100 gallons water BUILDER: Eastern Boats, Milton, New Hampshire, (603) 652-9213. easternboats.com
They decided to focus on express cruisers as well as traditionally styled boats. After a yearlong search, one boat they’d seen early on seemed to stand out: a 2004 Eastern 31 Casco Bay, a New Hampshire-built “lobster cruiser.”
“It was one of the first we looked at,” Flanagan says. “We continued to look for almost a year, probably saw close to a dozen boats from Maine to New York.”
The couple had made an offer on an Albin 28, but the deal didn’t come together. After viewing yet another candidate in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Flanagan remembered the 31-foot Eastern they’d seen months earlier and went back for a second look. The three-season boat was ready to go and had what they were looking for: a single diesel, 15- to 20-mph cruising speed, decent fuel efficiency, protected running gear, an enclosed head, a separate berth area, and flybridge and inside helm stations.
“It was approaching spring — I’m sure I was getting anxious, and it fit most of our needs,” Flanagan says. The listing price was $140,000. He made an offer in April 2015, and it was accepted.
“We worked with two excellent brokers,” Flanagan says, “Brad Niemiec at Niemiec Marine in New Bedford and Hal Slater at Brewer Bruce & Johnson’s Marina in Branford [Connecticut]. The boat had been on the market for almost 18 months [and] was in excellent shape. Other than a spring fitting-out and a good cleaning, it was ready to go.”
The 31-foot flybridge cruiser is powered by a 330-hp Cummins 6BTA5.9M. Flanagan’s cruising speed is 17 to 18 mph at 2,400 rpm, consuming around 11 gph. Top speed is 21 to 23 mph. Electronics include a GPS/plotter, autopilot and radar.
Flanagan is a lifelong boater — he bought a 16-foot center console, not a car, when he turned 16 — and is no stranger to the Eastern brand. “I have three friends who own Easterns,” he says, “and they’ve been happy with the construction and factory support. I had talked with Eastern representatives and dealers at boat shows.”
The boat has spent this season at the Pequonnock Yacht Club in New Haven or moored in nearby Stony Creek. The Flanagans have used her for cruising and day trips, with a little fishing thrown in. “It’s proven to be an excellent sea boat, dry and comfortable,” says Flanagan, who served in the Navy and was a navigator to the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, D.C. “The autopilot can hold a true course — with a following sea a little more attention is needed to stay on course.”
This past summer, the Flanagans cruised Down East Maine in company with four other boats. Destinations included Casco Bay, Penobscot Bay, Somes Sound, Northeast Harbor and “a few others,” Flanagan says.
More trips are planned — a run up the Hudson River, cruises to Newport and Block Island, Rhode Island. It’s the right boat to slake Flanagan’s passion for being on the water. “I was introduced to boating at Boy Scout camp,” he says. “I learned that boats can take you anywhere. As a solo endeavor or with friends and family, boating simultaneously offers freedom, flexibility and a challenge.”
The Eastern 31 shows its workboat roots with a traditional Down East profile. The tall bow, sweeping sheer, trunk cabin and upright wheelhouse are all traits of the region’s fishing and lobstering craft. The bow has a noticeable flare, and there’s ample freeboard aft.
The hull is built with knitted fabric and vinylester resin. The cockpit sole and deckhouse are cored, and the transom is fashioned of glass-reinforced urethane (Penske board). Access to the single diesel is through a cockpit deck hatch.
The interior layout is compact and complete. The saloon (with four side windows) has a dinette to port that’s convertible to a bunk. The galley is to starboard, with counter space, a two-burner cooktop and a sink. Under-counter appliances include a microwave and refrigerator.
The helm station is forward of the galley behind a large three-panel windshield. Sliding windows open on both sides. Features include a destroyer wheel, a molded instrument console and space for multiple navigation displays. The flybridge (accessed by a ladder) has a complete helm station, side-by-side seating and a padded bench.
Eastern Boats was founded in 1981 and offered a single model, an 18-foot skiff designed by well-known Down East builder Royal Lowell that’s still part of the fleet. The shop produced two boats at a time. Today, Eastern offers open and cabin boats from 18 to 35 feet, built at its 30,000-square-foot facility in Milton, New Hampshire. Eastern’s 31-foot hull was developed in the early 1990s from the JC 31 workboat. More than 450 boats have been built on that hull, among them the Casco Bay, which is easily found on the used-boat market.
This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue.