Part of buying a used boat is understanding who built it. A production builder can offer a fleet of boat types — center consoles, walkarounds, express boats — in different sizes and propulsion packages, along with nationwide sales and service for the thousands of boats it has sold.
The small builder tends to focus on the half-dozen models it might offer and the handful of boats it builds each year. The designs often reflect local waters, be it the Chesapeake deadrise, Pacific Northwest trawler or Maine lobster yacht. And working with a small builder can be a more personal experience, harkening back to the days when boats were built for a client, not just sold to a buyer.
Brooks and Ashley Ware had that small-builder experience in mind when they bought their 23-foot center console from Padebco Custom Boats, the longtime Maine small-craft builder. “Some years ago, my father-in-law had a 38-foot lobster boat built in Maine by Young Brothers,” says Brooks Ware, 49, of Concord, Massachusetts. “That was my introduction to the Down East boats and builders, and it had an effect on buying our current boat.”
That boat is Padebco’s V23.6, a single outboard family-and-fishing vessel that the Wares bought three years ago. Since then, Ware and the builder have worked together on a preplanned refit for the 2001 model boat, making small improvements and upgrades each winter.
LOA: 23 feet, 6 inches BEAM: 8 feet, 6 inches DRAFT: 1 foot, 1 inch WEIGHT: 3,800 pounds HULL TYPE: modified-vee PROPULSION: single outboard or inboard, 150-200 hp FUEL CAPACITY: 80 gallons BUILDER: Padebco Custom Boats, Round Pond, Maine, (207) 529-5106. padebco.com
“I brought it right back to Padebco to have the work done,” says Ware, who works in capital markets technologies. “Here was a chance to work with the builder, same as my father-in-law did ‘back when.’ I took it back to the guys who put it together. They knew where to look, what to do.”
Projects ranged from deck repairs and new nonskid to replacing the worn-out dodger and installing a new Plexiglas console windshield. “We worked out a master list and went through it, [figuring] time and budget for each year.”
The result, he says, is that his 15-year-old boat “really looks new. She’s gotten younger the last two years. Every time we go out, somebody stops us and compliments us, and I’m not making that up.”
The Wares both grew up in boating families, Ashley in Marion, Massachusetts, where her family owned a Marshall 22 catboat and a Cal 35 sloop. Brooks grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, and sailed racing dinghies as a youngster. They were boatless in the fall of 2013. That’s when the couple began their search for a small outboard boat to get them on the water again.
“We starting looking at Eastern, Regulator and Boston Whaler,” Brooks says. “Then I saw a Padebco V23.6 in Damariscotta [Maine], and I really liked it.” A pending deal fell through. “I was really bummed out. [I was] superinterested in the model.”
Then he heard there was another available. “I got it sight unseen,” he says. When he went to see it in person, he wasn’t disappointed. “The Padebco is a very good-looking boat, and the build quality was far and above what we’d seen. And the size was a sweet spot for us — just a little bigger than what we’d been looking at.”
The boat also seemed to be the best combination of a great family dayboat as well as a good fishing platform. “Some boats we looked at were good for fishing, but my wife would ask, ‘Where do you sit?’ ” Ware says. The V23.6 layout includes a forward berth under the dodger and a “real stern seat,” he says. “There’s good weather protection from rain and sun, too.”
Working with John Chasse of Chasse Marine in Damariscotta, the Wares completed the purchase for $32,000.
One of the attractions of the boat was the outboard — a 2004 200-hp Yamaha HPDI with less than 200 hours on it. (The Wares have added about 100 hours a season.) The 23-footer cruises at 24 to 26 knots, running at 3,800 rpm. Top end is around 35 knots. “It’s good on gas, and it’s quiet,” Ware says.
They keep the boat in Essex, Massachusetts, where it’s handy for cruising the Essex River and Essex Bay, and making day trips to Crane’s Beach. And when it’s time for Ware to go fishing with sons Nicholas and Bennett, there’s the Fin and Feather Shop, just across the way, for tackle, gear and local knowledge. “We fish all around Cape Ann for stripers and bluefish — from Gloucester and Rockport to Ipswich Bay and Plum Island,” Ware says. “The boys are big fans of getting out and catching. I spent most of my life on Long Island Sound, but here we get the Atlantic and North Shore dunes. It’s heaven.”
Builder Bruce Cunningham designed the semicustom Padebco V23.6 as a family and fishing boat, with clean lines and a simple, functional layout. The fiberglass hull (14-degree transom deadrise) has a graceful bow with generous flare and a fine entry.
The wheel is offset to port on the console, which has a molded dash for gauges and a shelf above for electronics. Hydraulic steering is standard. The Lexan windscreen has a metal frame and grab rails. A Stidd helm seat and companion are optional, as are a leaning post and a T-top.
The cockpit can be set up for fishing or cruising, with a transom seat and mini- table. Forward of the console is a cooler/seat combination. At the bow, there’s a lounge seat/berth that can be enclosed with a canvas top (with windows) to make a camping-style “cabin” that includes a portable head. Other semicustom options include teak trim and cockpit sole, a hardtop, bow thruster, shore power, amidships wet bar and a galley with a refrigerator.
Padebco Custom Boats has been turning out small craft with Down East roots from its shop in Round Pond, Maine, for more than 50 years. Founder Bruce Cunningham’s designs combine seaworthiness and versatility with classic lines. The V23.6 is one of the builder’s more popular models, with 100-plus delivered. Today, the Padebco fleet includes open and cabin models from 17 to 32 feet.
This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue.