“I must have been 14 years old,” recalls Eric Uscinski. “I had a cousin in Delaware City. I spent a few summers down there. He was older than me, and we got into crabbing. We’d go out in his 16-foot boat and be on the river at 3 a.m., back by 1 in the afternoon with our catch.”
It was a beginning, says Uscinski, “driving the boat, working the crab pots, packing the crabs and getting them ready for sale.” Uscinski’s cousin eventually made crabbing a profession, but the 58-year-old Yale University facilities manager from Clinton, Connecticut, went a different way. However, he still has a love for boats and boating, born of crabbing on the river years ago.
The first boat of his own was a 28-foot Celebrity, followed by a 24-foot Sportcraft, an inboard-powered open boat he used for fishing. Along the way, he found he’d kept his penchant for working on boats, doing the maintenance and the myriad chores that keep a boat running — a trait he passed on to his family.
“My son, Chris, bought a 19-foot Seaway, built in Maine, as a project boat,” Uscinski says. “He picked it up cheap. It needed work.” Father and son stripped the boat, removed the outboard, redid the wiring and put everything back together. A coat of flag blue paint finished the job. “I enjoy doing projects,” he says. “It’s always challenging.”
Uscinski’s life in boats might have ended there in 2010. An illness caused him to consider getting rid of the Sportcraft and getting out of boating. “My wife, Kathy, said, ‘It’s something you enjoy — why don’t you get something bigger, something that we can go places on?’ ” he says.
Less than a year later, they owned a 1996 Tiara 3100 Open, a family cruiser with comfortable accommodations, a 20-mph speed and wide-ranging cruising capabilities.
He’d been on his way home from New Jersey when he decided to take a closer look at a Tiara he’d noticed in the Cos Cob section of Greenwich, Connecticut. Everything about the boat seemed right, he says. “My wife wanted the basic cruising comforts — an enclosed head compartment with a shower and a comfortable place to sleep,” Uscinski says. “I liked the styling, the look of the boat. It had nice, wide side decks and was easy to get around on. You didn’t have to go through the windshield to get to the foredeck.”
SPECIFICATIONS LOA: 33 feet, 10 inches BEAM: 12 feet DRAFT: 3 feet WEIGHT: 12,300 pounds HULL TYPE: modified-vee PROPULSION: twin 350-hp gas or 330-hp diesel engines TANKAGE: 246 gallons fuel, 20 gallons water BUILDER: Tiara Yachts, Holland, Michigan, (616) 392-7163. tiarayachts.com
The couple bought the boat in May 2011 for $60,000 through Southpaw Yacht Sales in Cos Cob (southpawyachtsales.com). “They were good, very helpful,” Uscinski says. “The boat was in good condition, with no serious issues.”
The couple fished and cruised for a summer, enjoying the greater range and added comforts of the 31-foot cabin boat, compared to the 24-footer. “We had more range in going places, and it was easy to stay on board a night or two,” Uscinski says.
Now the boat is a summer home for their son. “The last four summers it’s been kept in Block Island [Rhode Island],” Uscinski says. “Our son got a job at Payne’s Dock, and he needed a place to stay, so he has the boat now. And it gives us a good excuse to go visit him three or four times a season.”
The arrangement works out well for all. “You can easily sleep on the boat, have a shower in the morning,” Uscinski says. “There’s a refrigerator, a two-burner stovetop and a microwave.”
Power comes from a pair of Crusader 454s — V-8 gasoline power plants that drive the 12,300-pound boat at a 20- to 25-mph cruising speed. “They’re reliable engines that have held up really well,” Uscinski says.
The Tiara’s modified-vee hull can take on seas when other boats won’t run, he says. “My son and I were on the way to Block one day, and it was windy when we left,” he says. “It got pretty rough. We were at the point of no return, and we decided to go on.”
Arriving at Block Island, they learned that theirs was the only boat to come in that day. “We were running 18 to 20 knots, and we were not getting hammered around,” Uscinski says.
The Tiara 31 Open has fulfilled the vision of a summer cottage on the water, even if their son lives the vision now, Uscinski says. “Everything about the boat is user-friendly, and 31 feet is a good size — big enough to go anywhere, but I can still run it myself.”
Tiara’s original 3100 Open was introduced in the late 1970s, and its popularity as a family cruising boat led to a redesign and reintroduction in the early 1990s. The new 3100 Open had added bow flare and a sharpened entry for a smoother ride. Transom deadrise was increased 4 degrees to make an 18-degree modified-vee shape, and prop pockets were used to improve engine efficiency and reduce draft. A bridge deck allowed for the installation of larger engines.
Cabin accommodations included a U-shaped dinette with a table that converts to a bunk. The galley was to port, with a two-burner stovetop, under-counter appliances and a microwave. The enclosed head came with a sink and shower. A master stateroom was forward, with a double berth, shelf space and a hanging locker.
The helm station and twin seats were set to starboard, and the bridge deck’s location afforded good visibility. A hardtop, swept-back windscreen and side curtains protected the bridge and companionway. The open cockpit (with a transom door) could be set up for fishing with a live well, in-deck fishbox and tackle center.
The redesigned Tiara 3100 Open was dubbed a “no-glitz express with top-quality systems.” The boat’s production run was from 1992 to 2004, long by industry standards, making it one of the Holland, Michigan, builder’s more popular models. Its successor is the 31 Tiara, a modern, family-oriented day-tripper with twin gas or diesel engines. Tiara offers a dozen models from 31 to 53 feet.
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue.