One of the enduring and delicious pleasures of summer cruising on Chesapeake Bay is the crab feast. Hot steaming crabs—generously doused with Old Bay seasoning and perfectly paired with cold, cold beer—arrive at your table, piled high in the middle of the butcher-paper-covered surface. At the end of a long day on the Bay, cracking shells to extract sweet crab meat is a dining experience like no other—although some gourmands like to shore up their appetites with steamed clams, oysters on the half shell and other starters while waiting for the crabs to appear.
Our crew had planned for a classic crab dinner at The Crab Claw Restaurant in St. Michaels, Maryland, following a photo shoot of the newest outboard-powered cruiser from Jeanneau, the NC 1095. But the weather had other plans for us, something that should come as no surprise to veterans of summer cruising on the Chesapeake Bay.Waves of wind-driven rain raked the docks of St. Michaels Marina, where the Jeanneau NC 1095 and a chase boat were securely tied up for the night. Minutes before, we had congregated as a group in the cockpit, six people relaxing and chatting as a massive shelf cloud moved rapidly over the St. Michaels town harbor. Cue the lightning. Lots of lightning. We gathered up our drinks and appetizers and moved into the air-conditioned comfort of the flagship of the builder’s New Concept outboard line.
Her salon was up to the task. Once the convertible backrest bolster for the bench seat opposite the helm was flipped forward, four of us were able to sit comfortably at the port-side dinette. Another member of the crew occupied the sliding helm seat to starboard.
Our host, Nicolas Harvey, president of Jeanneau America, leaned against the galley counter aft of the helm and—with access to the under-counter fridge—quickly adopted the role of server-in-chief for our soirée.
Two weeks before, I had attended the introduction of this 34-footer to the American recreational marine press. At that event, I mentioned to Harvey that I’d love to see the boat used the way its designers envisioned. I suggested a cruise to an Eastern Shore town where we could celebrate the Chesapeake Bay summer with the time-honored tradition of a crab feast. Harvey liked the idea and invited me to take part in a photo shoot around St. Michaels.
“Here is our proof of concept,” Harvey said to me, as the heavy rain continued, “a family cruiser that blends comfort and usability, even during the hot, humid and now rainy days of summer. And it will perform this way in all kinds of climates.” That was welcome news, as he and I were planning to overnight aboard the Jeanneau on this evening.
He had a point, to be sure. While boaters in the Pacific Northwest (or perhaps even Down East Maine) might eschew air conditioning, the availability of an air conditioner on this boat will go a long way toward helping families enjoy their NC 1095 along much of the East Coast and the Gulf Coast. Because the boat we drove from Annapolis to St. Michaels had no optional genset, we relied on natural ventilation while underway. But once at the dock, we plugged into shore power for the hot, muggy, rain-drenched evening.
Chief among the ventilation features is the three-panel glass door in the aft bulkhead, which slides to port to lock and store in the width of a single panel, allowing passengers easy access to the aft deck.
There’s also a sliding door next to the helm, a rarity on a family cruiser of this size. A sliding side window to port and two Oceanair overhead hatches (with screens and shutters) are additional sources of natural ventilation and sunlight. Taken all together, these features keep the fresh air flowing and offer 360-degree visibility in the main salon. That’s a plus for the crew, guests and helmsman alike.
On the way to St. Michaels, we slowly cruised past the Thomas Point Shoal Light, an iconic, screw-pile lighthouse built in 1875 and manned continuously until 1986. I stepped out onto the aft deck, glanced at the rod holder aft and thought briefly of baiting a line. There were no other anglers on the water, but I’ve fished here many times—my sons love working the waters around this structure. The walkaround deck on the starboard side of the NC 1095 would make it easy to get from bow to stern with a fish on the line; we could easily have maneuvered the boat to land a dinner-sized striper (called a rockfish locally) on either end of the boat.
The starboard side deck is recessed for safety and it has a low bulwark with handrails that stretch from the bow to the aft end of the deckhouse. I especially liked the grabrails on the aft wings of the deckhouse—they make it safer and easier to get up or down from the side decks. Stainless steel handrails along both sides of the hardtop are also great safety features, particularly for crew working on the port side deck, which is not recessed.
If you’re running the boat on your own, that starboard sliding door makes it simple for the helmsman to hand over or take a mooring line from the dockhand (something I did when we arrived in St. Michaels and tied up). Or, you could even fasten a temporary midships mooring line when the dock height is just right. Once you’re tied up, passengers can board easily. If the boat is alongside a floating dock, guests can use a split swim platform at the transom, and the low gate to starboard. For fixed-height docks, there’s a side gate to starboard—another unusual and highly effective feature.
Some might want to call the aft deck the cockpit, but it is the same height as the main cabin sole, and that makes it easier for passengers to move from the inside to the outside. Seating on the aft deck includes a bench (with loads of storage inside) affixed to floor-mounted rails. The bench slides forward on the rails, creating room for the outboard engine heads to tilt at an angle when you want to keep the lower units out of the water. Even in the forward position, the bench seating works well.
Stairs near the helm lead down to the accommodations level, where there are three cabins and an enclosed head. (I slept in the owner’s cabin forward, and found the island berth long enough for my 6-foot, 5-inch frame.) Two bonded, fixed windows and two overhead hatches (one opens) help transform a space that might have been dark and unappealing into a desirable stateroom.
The spacious aft cabin under the raised dinette—with its massive double berth, standing headroom and privacy door—was Harvey’s chosen place for the night. It’s opposite the slightly narrower third cabin to starboard. Both have hanging lockers and are lit by bonded hull windows—each with an opening portlight for ventilation. Chances are good that the third cabin will become a place for stowage, at least until the children begin having friends along for overnighting.
On this cruise, I discovered that driving the NC 1095 is great fun, for a number of reasons. For starters, you can have company when you’re at the wheel: Flip the bolster of that dinette bench to create a forward-facing seat for passengers who want to see the waters ahead. The helm chair seats one, adjusts fore and aft, and has a flip-up bolster for those who prefer to stand and lean. All the controls are close by the wheel, including the one for the bow thruster. The console has room for at least a 12-inch Garmin 7000 Series multifunction display.
Given the excellent power-to-weight ratios of today’s large outboard engines, it’s not surprising that performance is a strong suit of the NC 1095. It offers loads of power when you want to take the speed up a notch and clear out some cobwebs. With twin Yamaha F300s, we touched 37 knots at 6000 rpm (wide-open throttle) with a lightly loaded boat. And economy is surprisingly good when you choose to be more frugal; the boat burned about 1.2 mpg at 4000 rpm and 23.5 knots.
On initial acceleration, bow rise may have hit 2 degrees, but the helmsman will hardly notice. What he will observe is the solid ride and bigger-boat feel of this hull, which confers confidence in high-speed turns, with no blowout or excessive rolling. The bow thruster is nice to have for low-speed maneuvers and docking, but the Yamahas will put the stern precisely where you want it to be.
Designed to fulfill the weekend cruising needs of a family of four (or more), the flagship of Jeanneau’s NC fleet should satisfy owners as their boating style evolves and their experience increases. We might never have gotten to enjoy a crab feast with cold beer, but I was left more than satisfied by the 1095’s pairing of comfort and performance. Like a late summer cruise with a crab boil on the Chesapeake, it’s a delicious combination.
This story originally appeared in the premier issue of Outboard magazine, outboardmag.com.
This article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue.