We asked seven designers to give us their selections of the best powerboats to ever take to the water
We asked seven designers to give us their selections of the best powerboats to ever take to the water
What distinguishes a good boat from a great one? That’s a good question and one we hope will be answered by the time you finish our feature on the “best powerboats ever.”
We assembled a seven-person panel, comprising mostly yacht designers, and asked them to choose seven “best” boats each, based on some simple qualifications: boats that advanced design, that set trends in style, performance and seakeeping ability, that were signature vessels of their eras. Well-known or obscure, all had to have left a mark on boating in some way. We also asked them to consider the boats that inspired them early in life or early in their careers. And they were allowed to pick boats of their own design, as well.
The 50-some-odd boats selected are among the most significant powerboats of the last 75 years. Their choices, not surprisingly, run the gamut, from Navy destroyers and PT boats to motoryachts, convertibles and center consoles. It’s a varied flotilla that combines individual notions of innovation, engineering, seaworthiness, performance, beauty and craftsmanship. And then there’s that elusive quality of personal preference that each panelist brought to the process.
Some picks are obvious; some boats are familiar. We guarantee you will find other choices surprising. And we certainly don’t expect you to agree with all their selections— or with ours, for that matter.
Many good boats aren’t on the list, not because their design or construction are lacking in some way, but simply because they weren’t “firsts” or breakthrough boats. It is not our intention to slight those designers, builders or customers whose boats don’t appear.
For our own list we looked for powerboats that our seven panelists didn’t select, with the exception of the Bertram 31, which we couldn’t in good conscience leave off. Finally, we’d like to hear from you, as well. Send us your top powerboat selections and your reasons for choosing them, and we’ll be happy to publish them.
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Bertram 31 — This was the first production deep-vee hull and the start of a new era in small-boat design and construction. Ray Hunt’s revolutionary design gave an undreamed-of combination of speed and comfort in a seaway, and the new fiberglass construction resulted in strong, stiff, long-lasting and easily maintained hulls. The greatest tribute to the design is that today, more than 40 years later, it is still the yardstick used for measuring new boats in the low-30-foot size range.
Phil Bolger’s work — It’s always enjoyable and educational to look through my collections of his eclectic designs. They are unconstrained by fashion and prevailing thought, and are absolutely impossible to categorize. There’s something for every taste and need, from “Bolger Boxes” — easily made by first time builders using lumberyard materials — to beautifully proportioned and traditionally built New England designs. Taken as a whole, they are a study in innovative thinking, focused design, and sometimes even great art. I often wish for the courage to be so original in my own work, and they serve as a continuing reminder to not be bound by what everyone else is doing.
Coastal Patrol and Interdiction Craft — Arguably the ultimate development of the submarine chasers — the revered PT boats of World War II and the Vietnamese War’s Brown Water Navy — one prototype of this 100-footer was built in 1973 by Tacoma Boat Works. Spectacularly successful, she had many innovative features including a double chine hull to minimize accelerations in severe seas, roll fin stabilization, and separate high- and low-speed propulsion systems. Retired after a short career, I suppose she was a craft with neither a mission, a combat system nor support from the upper levels of the Navy. The end of a line rather than a beginning, but many of the technical features of the design survive as a tribute to those who brought her to life.
Passagemaker — I’ll include Robert Beebe’s 50-foot seminal oceangoing powerboat not for her technical achievements, but for what she represents: the public’s first realization that long-distance voyaging in a powerboat was safe and feasible, and often offered advantages over making the same crossing under sail. Certainly innovative but not particularly refined from a design or engineering standpoint, she lead the way for the explosion of seaworthy yachts being built by many production and custom yards. As a result, the small, long-range cruising boats built by Delta, Nordhavn, Willard, Krogen and many more are becoming increasingly common in anchorages that once were the exclusive domain of sailboats.
Miss Chevy — This 34-foot boat — designed and built in 1947 by Tommy, John and Emil Rybovich — is generally acknowledged as the first of the purpose-built sportfishermen. Prior to her construction, sportfishermen were either modified cruisers or worked-over commercial boats. Even today she would be immediately recognized as a true flying bridge sportfisherman. Among other innovations, she was the first to combine a yacht-quality finish, twin engines, aluminum wire stayed outriggers, and a large cockpit designed around a true fighting chair. The custom builders of Florida and the Carolinas, as well as many production builders, all owe a deep debt to this boat and her creators.
Regulator 26 — Am I allowed to brag? This boat was my first recreational design and remains one of my best, a fortunate combination of a good design well executed. The boat was tooled by Joan and Owen Maxwell in what had been the A&P Supermarket in downtown Edenton, N.C. It has been in production since 1989, essentially unchanged, and the Maxwells are about to deliver the 1,000th boat from their state-of-the-art facility just down the road. Inspired by the Potter Seacraft 23s but immediately recognizable as a Carolina boat, she was the first to offer elements now common on smaller center console fishing boats: colored hulls, molded structural grillages, smooth gelcoat fishboxes, hatches and live wells, consoles with step-in head compartment, high top speeds with great seakeeping, towers, and jam-packed with features essential to the serious offshore sport angler.
Cable & Wireless Adventurer — How I wish I had designed this boat. There are few true breakthroughs in this business, but Adventurer and the boats that lead to her fit the bill. A wonderfully elegant vessel, reminiscent of Burt Rutan’s airplanes, this Nigel Irens-designed 115-footer holds the current record for a circumnavigation under power. During the trip she averaged 16.5 knots and used only 1 gallon of fuel per nautical mile. This cored fiberglass boat is a trimaran — perhaps more accurately a very narrow monohull stabilized by two sponsons — and has a total of only 700 hp in twin diesels driving conventional propellers. She may well represent the future of ocean crossing under power.
Lou Codega is a naval architect and professional engineer whose Smithfield, Va., practice caters primarily to production and semicustom boatbuilders. www.loucodegana.com
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Consolidated commuters of the 1920s — These vessels proved that large boats could be fast, too, and set a standard for graceful and rakish appearance. The sight of one of these masterpieces speeding down Long Island Sound or the East River running flat and pulling a minimal wake was awe inspiring, and was responsible for many people getting into recreational boating in one way or another. At the time, these vessels were the state of the art in fast boats, and the lessons learned from them were applied to production boats for years to come.
World War II Elco 80-foot PT boats — These beautiful and fast fighting machines inspired many people, due to their high profile in the news and boating magazines during the war, and were in no small part responsible for the postwar boating boom. They were the highest development of the vee bottom form at the time, and principles learned from their design and construction produced a giant leap in marine technology. Dr. Lindsay Lord’s milestone book on planing hulls was developed from tests run on PT boats in the Pacific during the war.
Dyer Dhow 9-foot dinghy — This design, developed in the early 1940s, set the standard for small tenders that applies to this day. They were stable, easy to push (or pull), and were very good-looking. The Dyer Dhow was one of the first production fiberglass boats and is still in production to this day.
Chris-Craft 53-foot 1954 Conqueror — Fitted with what was called a “super sun deck,” this boat was a masterpiece of styling, creating a full motoryacht in a very low, rakish profile. With her raked bow, “bullnose” stem, raked and rounded transom, softly rounded contours, acres of varnish and her beautiful custom chrome/bronze fittings, she was the pinnacle of production yacht styling and execution. With fiberglass boats just over the horizon, it was all downhill from there as far as production-boat panache was concerned.
Bertram 31 — Developed from a wooden 1959 prototype, this boat introduced the public to the deep-vee hull. She set new standards for ride and comfort in small, fast boats, especially those that were fast enough to become airborne and land on their tails. As much as the deep-vee was a boon to small boats, it didn’t work so well when applied to larger, heavier hulls, which were rather inefficient and tended to roll excessively at rest.
1978 44-foot Midnight Lace (prototype) — Forerunner to the spate of retro boats so popular today, my Midnight Lace design introduced the boating public to something new based on something old. The something old refers mainly to her 1920s commuter boat heritage (narrow beam, round bilge, low and sleek profile, forward cockpit, high speed with minimal power), with some WW II PT boat styling (“S” shaped sheer, clipper bow). At a time when production boats were wide, high and square, the Lace was narrow, low and possessed sensuous curves. She went fast with little engines, and was extremely fuel efficient and seakindly.
1987 Cheoy Lee 83/92-foot motoryacht — This design of mine incorporated many “firsts.” She was the first large production fiberglass motoryacht, the first large production boat fabricated entirely of foam-cored fiberglass, and the first large production boat to incorporate integral with-hull tankage. She incorporated very rounded styling when most boats were square with hard corners — a precursor of styling that would come years later.
Tom Fexas is a marine engineer and president of Tom Fexas Yacht Design in Stuart, Fla. www.tomfexas.com
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Cookie II — Revenge built only three hulls in the early 1990s. Cookie II — at 55 feet, recently depowered to 2,000 hp for better trolling capabilities, and approximately 50,000 pounds wet — is my favorite example of their advanced composite construction. The boat’s high speed and excellent handling in big offshore seas put to bed any rumors that lightweight composite hulls were inevitably tender. Run for more than 9,000 hours since she was built in 1992, any questions about the durability of her cored hull construction and lightweight honeycomb cored interior have been answered. She still looks great, runs fast and catches giants.
Bertram Bahia Mar — Ray Hunt deep-vee hull designs have a well-deserved reputation for using more fuel than hulls with flatter bottoms and no strakes, but the Hunt hull’s ride in rough conditions is so good, who cares? The 31-foot Bahia Mars were the first small express-style fishing cruisers I saw as a young man in New England that had modern, high-speed offshore capabilities. Outfitted with lightweight, high-horsepower gasoline engines, they would get up and go, and get you back.
Revenge LT (light tackle) — John Sadowski was the designer/innovator who started Revenge Yachts in the 1990s, and he’s back with an even more exotic composite boat in 2004, a 35-footer fine-tuned to shake up the Southern Kingfish Association tournament circuit. Naval architect and composite engineer David Jones, who penned Cookie II’s lines and laminates for Revenge, developed a shapely cored carbon fiber and epoxy hull and deck that’s vacuum bagged and oven-baked prepreg. Unlike most other epoxy boats, it’s gelcoated, too. Despite the theft of their prototype right before the boat shows and its recovery in stripped condition, I’m confident Revenge will prevail. Watch out for this one.
SeaCraft 23 — I am willing to bet that more giant bluefin tuna have been caught from SeaCraft 23-foot center consoles than any other open boat of similar size. Carl Moesly’s patented variable deadrise hull with its unusual inverted strakes produced such a remarkably smooth ride in rough conditions that we never minded getting wet. Extend the tabs, put the bow down, and go for it. SeaCrafts don’t pound, and they get you home on days when other boats don’t even leave the dock.
1930s 16-foot Nova Scotia double ended dory with outboard — This photo, taken in Louisburg, Nova Scotia, in 1936, is of my absolute favorite big game fishing boat. Back in the days when “horse mackerel” and billfish swam within sight of the beach, a rowed dory with good seakeeping was all you needed to hook up. The addition of an early outboard mounted in a well only increased its efficiency, freeing it from needing a tow by a mothership out to the fishing grounds. Michael Lerner caught a then world record 601-pound broadbill swordfish from this boat. Check out the full 360-degree fighting chair swing and the massive cross-bracing for its footrest ring and king post. How I wish the fish I chase today were still as close to shore and the boats as elegantly simple.
Fayerweather — Goetz Custom Boats built this cruiser to a design from C. Raymond Hunt Associates that takes full advantage of lightweight composite construction. At 60 feet, Fayerweather is narrow and weighs only 22,000 pounds light, 24,000 with fuel and water. She is fully outfitted with a generator, watermaker, hot water heater and more, and is powered by twin 420-hp Yanmars with Hamilton water jets. Fayerweather runs 38 knots at full speed, 20 knots with one engine. When was the last time you heard of only 840 hp in a 60-footer that runs 38 knots?
Merritt 43 — Some folks describe the Merritt 43 as “the perfect fishing boat,” and I won’t disagree. They have classic looks and the spin-on-a-dime handling necessary to bring giant tuna to the transom in minutes, not hours. Although relatively economical to run, after a long, rough trip back to the dock one Merritt captain told me the 43 was “a young man’s boat.” Bred in the calmer Southern offshore fisheries, the 43’s bottom may have been a bit flat for the lumpy Northeast conditions, but the hull’s handling once hooked-up made up for it.
Bruce Pfund’s Westerly, R.I., consulting firm specializes in the forensic analysis of damaged or defective marine composites, and also offers new-build and process equipment consulting on hand-layup, infusion, and vacuum-bagged construction methods. www.bpspecialprojects.com
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John Hacker’s Lockpat III — It’s difficult to choose the best from among the runabouts and runabout-racers. There are the Italian Rivas, the Chris Smith Chris-Crafts, and George Crouch designed some beautiful racers and runabouts. But my money has to go with either Gar Wood or John Hacker. Hacker’s Lockpat III may be the very pinnacle of the American runabout. Built for Dick Locke by Hutchinson Boat Works, she was 48 feet long and did 60 mph powered by twin 1,800-hp Packards. She had an auxiliary 30-hp Kenermath that allowed her to loaf at 14 mph. At speed, under main engines, Lockpat III drank 160 gallons of avgas per hour.
Thornycroft CMB — Possibly the single most important development in powerboating was the successful planing hull. One of the very first of these was the stepped-hydroplane Miranda IV, designed and built in 1910 by John I. Thornycroft in Great Britain. This was the end result of much experimentation and, as her number indicates, three unsuccessful previous prototypes. Miranda IV was almost certainly the first successful stepped hydroplane and one of the very first successful high-speed planing hulls of any type anywhere.
The zenith of these stepped hulls were Thornycroft’s British 40- and 55-foot CMBs, or coastal motor boats. These were the first successful small planing torpedo boats. They were used in active combat in the North Sea and the Baltic in World War I. To this day, there are very few hull forms that give as much speed per horsepower as Thornycroft’s CMBs achieved. The 40-foot CMB pictured on Page 35 made 33.5 knots with a full war load on a single 275-hp Thornycroft gas engine. The men are seated in the empty torpedo bay; the torpedo was stern-launched in those days.
Surfury, Delta Synthesis and the deep-vee Delta hull — In the United States it’s generally considered that C. Raymond Hunt invented the deep-vee. The Hunt-designed, Bertram-built Moppies certainly pioneered the deep-vee in offshore racing in the early 1960s. However, Italian designer Renato “Sonny” Levi pretty much came up with a similar deep-vee hull form at the same time: constant deadrise from midships aft of more than 25 degrees. Levi took this a bit further in his Delta hull form, which for racing not only had a deep-vee but continued to get slightly wider from bow to stern in plan view. This gave the hulls a slight V or Delta shape in plan view, hence “Delta.”
Two of Levi’s most famous Delta-hull racing boats were Surfury and Delta Synthesis. They came in first and second in the 1967 Cowes-Torquay Race, a pretty remarkable accomplishment for any designer or hull form. At 40 feet LOA, Delta Synthesis was powered with twin Daytona 1,050 hp gas engines, giving her a top speed of 58 knots.
E-boat or Schnell boat — Probably the most seaworthy and fearsome small patrol boat in history was the German Schnell boat of World War II (with stark German efficiency, meaning just “fast boat”). For unknown reasons, these craft were termed E-boats by the Allies. The surmise is “E” stands for enemy, but no one really knows.
Built by Lurssen, these round-bilge planing hulls were 114 feet to 116 feet LOA with a 17-foot beam. Fitted with triple 12- or 16-cylinder Daimler-Benz or MAN diesels delivering up to 7,500 hp, the Schnell boat’s top speeds were around 44 knots — that with a full war load of 114 tons displacement. The U.S. and British PT boats exceeded these speeds at light load in smooth water; however, the longer, slender, round-bilge Schnell boats could achieve this speed at full load. The Schnell boats could maintain more than 25 knots in very rough conditions offshore, when the wider-hulled, vee-bottom PTs had to slow to 16 knots or so.
Contrary to popular conception, slender round-bilge hulls aren’t necessarily rollers, and the Schnell boats were so efficient in rough going — as well as having the advantage of diesel rather than gas engines — that the Allied PTs preferred to have a two-to-one advantage over a Schnell boat before engaging.
Woodpecker — For sheer grace and efficiency, there are few motoryachts in history to equal this Laurent Giles design. At 70 feet LOA (65 feet LWL) and with just a 14-foot, 1-inch beam, she is a slender and efficient round-bilge motoryacht capable of taking anything the ocean has to throw at her. Built in 1948, Woodpecker was powered with twin Dorman 8-cylinder diesels rated at 100 hp each at 2,300 rpm, for a top speed of around 14 knots. She was a boat with a combination of beauty, simplicity of line, and no-nonsense efficiency that is seldom equaled.
Jem/Jessica — The domestic answer to Woodpecker is in the magnificent commuter yachts of the 1920s and ’30s. Also with long, slender, easily driven (and usually round-bilged) hulls, these splendid vessels sped across the waves in surprising numbers, particularly considering their considerable size. Though there are many wonderful commuter yachts to choose from, one of the finest — happily still sailing — is Jem (now Jessica). She was designed by John H. Wells and built at Consolidated in 1930. She measures 76 feet, 6 inches LOA (74 feet, 7 inches LWL) and with a beam of 13 feet. Power was a pair of Winton 8-cylinder diesels.
Hickman Sea Sled — Contemporary with John Thornycroft, Canadian-born William Albert Hickman invented the inverted-vee hull he patented as the Hickman Sea Sled, in 1914. Like the Thornycroft CMBs, very few hulls designed since have approached the speed per pound per installed horsepower of the Hickman Sea Sled. Based largely in Connecticut, Hickman produced more than 100 Sea Sled designs, and his companies manufactured thousands of Sea Sleds. Not only were they used by the U.S. Army in World War I for rescue and torpedo retrieval, but they were immensely successful as yachts, runabouts and ferries. Among the many famous Sea Sled owners was band leader Guy Lombardo, who motored his in Long Island Sound. Hickman also invented the surface drive (or surface propeller) and the sponson.
Dave Gerr is director of the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology, and designs yachts and commercial vessels out of his New York City office. www.gerrmarine.com
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Iceberg — This 39-foot offshore racing catamaran was the first carbon fiber prepreg/Nomex honeycomb raceboat manufactured in an autoclave, designed by Michael Peters Yacht Design and built by Tencara in 1991. We have had other boats that had more victories, but she was our breakthrough and the mother of all our modern raceboats. Iceberg’s life ended as she broke in half racing off of Marbella, Spain, perhaps a little too far ahead of her time.
Lion’s Whelp — With her plumb bow and long, low sheerline, this 83-foot wooden motoryacht looks like Humphrey Bogart should be at the helm. She was designed by Eldredge-McInnis and built by Goudy & Stevens in 1966. Several times through the years, when I thought I might actually make some money, I have called brokers about this boat. I am sure the maintenance would kill me.
Ocean Pacific — The first of the mothership concept for long range fishing expeditions, the 87-foot Ed Monk Jr. design built by Jones-Goodell was launched in 1985. She had a short forward house and carried a 33-foot sportfish on her long aft deck. All I could ever want.
Liberty — She’s an 80-foot wood commuter designed by Bruce King and built by Hodgdon Yachts in 1996. My favorite designer and builder all in one long, lean, beautiful boat.
Maelstrom — I built this 19-foot plywood prototype in 1976 to prove my concept for a single stepped hull with internal air vents. To this day, I consider this boat to be the most significant and innovative design I have ever done. It was truly incredible in rough water and way ahead of its time. I quit college to pursue a patent for the design, and it later became the basis for the line of Intrepids and all our work on stepped hulls.
Northeaster — This 15-foot plywood skiff became famous on Catalina Island for rescuing other larger boats after a devastating winter nor’easter. Built in 1965 by my childhood mentor, Bill Walden, this was the first boat I ever fell in love with, and it started my interest in boat design.
Alpha Z — For sheer style, speed, design and craftsmanship, the 95-mph 31-foot Alpha Z retro mahogany runabout is the ultimate in yachting decadence. Designed by Michael Peters Yacht Design and built by Van Dam in 1998, she is absolutely useless — but she does it so perfectly.
Michael Peters is a yacht designer and owner of Michael Peters Yacht Design in Sarasota, Fla. www.mpyd.net
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John Rybovich’s 36 sportfishing boats built in the 1950s, specifically Miss Chevy — John was such an innovator in the sport and in design and construction, that no one can dispute the fact that he was, and in many ways the present company still is, an all star in the industry.
Huckins Fairform Flyers, specifically the 40- to 45-footers built in the early 1950s — Since these were custom boats it is hard for me to just pick one. As a matter of interest I think the all-star vessel would most definitely have to be one that Frank Pembroke Huckins himself had a hand in. He died in May 1951.
Hatteras 41 — Willis Slane and Jack B. Hargrave teamed up to change our vision of fiberglass boats forever. The original 41 was the first large production fiberglass boat and a very successful one at that. Slane coined the phrase “convertible,” and it still stands today. As we all know, both Hatteras and Hargrave went on to dominate the fiberglass sportfishing boat market for two decades after the first 41 was launched. A perfectly restored model of a 41 is outside our office in Camden, Maine.
Navy destroyers — One cannot ignore the great shipbuilders, particularly those in Maine. The modern Bath Iron Works-built Aegis destroyers are part of my all-star lineup, particularly the Arleigh Burke Class, the first of which was DDG51 Arleigh Burke, commissioned in 1991. Of the class, I like DDG62 Fitzgerald, named after the Vietnam War hero Lt. William C. Fitzgerald (no relation). These 500-foot 9,000-ton vessels are a modern marvel of technology and military might, and the class eventually will comprise more than 60 ships — an unusually long run, according to Bath. They protect us in peace and can carry a huge wartime offensive if necessary. The Navy has a great appreciation for the quality and service the shipbuilders at Bath have given them. For a state that is supposedly “years behind the rest of the country,” there is no marine technology ahead of the Aegis program at Bath. While some may argue this technology has a negative purpose, all of us in the marine industry benefit from cutting-edge research and construction.
J.B. Hargrave’s 90-foot custom Stevens-built J-Mar — If I were to own a large yacht, J-Mar is the one. This boat has Hargrave’s personality all over it. It is beautiful, functional and able (really) to cross oceans in safety. It was a great shame to see that the recent owners removed the elliptical aft stateroom, as this was an artistic element combined with the elliptical stern that made the boat so special. Only a great artist like Hargrave could create something this beautiful and timeless.
Bunker & Ellis 42-foot picnic boat — Regardless of what Hinckley thinks, Raymond Bunker and Ralph Ellis invented the picnic boat, and even used the term to describe their lovely creations. Bunker and Ellis were essentially lobsterboat builders, but their yachts exuded a style and quality that was special. While these boats reek of New England, they are an example of how art meets practicality. Maybe they even define the term “Yankee.”
Bertram 31 Sport Express — Call it want you want — a Moppie, a sport cruiser, a sportfisherman — these boats were the most highly respected of their day. Richard Bertram was a dedicated designer and builder, and the Moppie is to him what a Frances is to Chuck Paine. And to this day the Bertram 31 is in great demand.
Mark Fitzgerald is a yacht designer and “second in command” at C.W. Paine Yacht Design in Camden, Maine. www.chuckpaine.com
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mJm 34z — Bob Johnstone approached me in the fall of 2002 to design a new powerboat to his specifications to rival the success of his J/Boats line of sailboats. The result is mJm 34z, a fresh approach to the powerboat market and destined to be a trendsetter. She has more usable room, more storage and more accessibility to engine and systems than any boat in her size range. Her easily driven modified-vee hull and functional accommodations make her feel 4 to 6 feet longer than she is, while being an incredibly soft and dry riding boat.
1963 Dyer Midget — With a small Johnson outboard I could go anywhere in this, the smallest of the venerable Dyer dinghies. A versatile little craft designed by Philip Rhodes, it also sailed and rowed pretty well. I used to be mesmerized by the water running by her bottom, which was visible through the clear gelcoated bottom that in turn allowed light through it when perched in its cradle about the cabin hatch.
1968 16-foot Boston Whaler — Designed by C. Raymond Hunt, it’s just one model in a long line of sister ships, including the original 1958 13 and 16 Eastport. I spent numerous years growing up with this boat and learned to appreciate its versatility and, perhaps most important, durability and safety. Its light fiberglass and foam construction had to have been a first of its kind. While they may have been a bit rough and wet at times, the original Whalers changed my view of powerboats.
Lyman Boats — Growing up on the shores of Lake Erie, Lyman Boats were always prevalent, especially when we would journey to the western end and the islands. I wasn’t around in the late 1800s when the Lyman Brothers of Cleveland began, but they were clearly ahead of their time designing and building boats to tame the rugged chop of Lake Erie. The Cruisette model had a dinette, sink and refrigerator, and could accommodate a small family for a weekend.
Moppie — I wasn’t born when C. Raymond Hunt’s Moppie won the 1960 Miami-Nassau powerboat race. I can only imagine how Richard Bertram and C. Raymond would have felt.
Le Grand Bleu — The ultimate 354-foot fun boat with everything one could ever want on board, including a sailing yacht in the 70-foot range. The product of German builder Vulkan and naval architect Kusch Yachtagentur, it was launched in 2000. It has reportedly been the plaything of Seattle billionaires John McCaw and Paul Allen, and Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. Perhaps the next moving target for the super wealthy. Who could possibly outdo this?
Aphrodite III — The last in a line of Long Island commuter boats built for Jock Whitney in 1937 by the Purdy Boat Company, she was the fastest and most attractive of the lot. Her lines were simple yet elegant, and she transformed the commuters from function to art.
Doug Zurn is a yacht designer and principal of Zurn Yacht Design in Marblehead, Mass. www. zurnyachts.com
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Editor's Choice - William Sisson
Bertram 31 — No list would be complete without the breakthrough C. Raymond Hunt deep-vee that changed the face of powerboating with its ability to run well at speed in rough water.
Dyer 29 — A handsome, capable boat, the Dyer 29 earned its place on our list through its utility, seaworthiness and longevity. With its semidisplacement round-bilge hull, strong sheer and large cockpit, the 29 makes a fine dayboat, weekend cruiser for a couple (the cabin is small by today’s standards) or sportfisherman. She is more than a match for the liveliest rips. About 350 of these versatile boats have been produced in three basic configurations since The Anchorage in Warren, R.I., began building them 49 years ago. There are no plans to stop production.
Coast Guard 44-foot Motor Lifeboat — For more than 30 years the 44-foot Motor Lifeboat was the Coast Guard’s inshore workhorse, capable of rescuing sailors in winter gales or large, breaking seas. The self-righting, 19-ton steel-hulled vessel designed in the late 1950s saved thousands of lives and billions in property, while doing an excellent job of protecting her crew. The MLB’s biggest shortcoming was a lack of speed. Powered by twin GM 6V-53 diesels (165 to 185 hp), she had a top end of only 11 or 12 knots. But while the 44 tended to roll and wallow, she would bring you home in the most horrendous conditions imaginable. The heart and soul of the Coast Guard’s heavy-weather operations, the 44-foot Motor Lifeboat has been replaced by the new self-righting aluminum 47-footers.
SimmonsSea Skiff — Tom “T.N.” Simmons began building the line of small seaworthy lapstrake skiffs that bear his name in the mid-1950s. By 1972 he had produced nearly 1,000
Simmons Sea Skiffs (18, 20 and 22 feet), many still in use today. Built of marine plywood over mahogany frames, these graceful boats were light, sturdy and easily powered by the small short-shaft outboards of the day, which were mounted inboard in a half-well open at the stern. The hulls had high bows and transoms, generous flare and ran on narrow bottoms with shallow vees, making them suitable for the rough inlets and shoal waters found off the Carolinas.
Avon Searider RIB — British manufacturer Avon introduced the first rigid-hull inflatables in this country in the mid-1970s, and they quickly proved their worth to the Coast Guard, Navy and Navy SEALs. A new concept, these 4-, 5.4- and 6-meter outboard-powered RIBs (the SEALs used a 7.4-meter diesel model) were light, fast, stable and seaworthy. They were designed by the late English naval architect George Marvin and rode a deep-vee fiberglass hull (the 5.4-meter RIB had 27 degrees of deadrise at the transom) surrounded by inflation tubes made from a new material, Hypalon over nylon. These pioneering craft helped usher in a new class of boat. The Seariders also featured water ballast. There was a large hole in the transom beneath the deck that enabled a chamber to flood when the boat came off plane (and two breather holes in the bow), providing excellent stability at rest.
Pilar — We chose this 38-foot Wheeler Playmate because it was owned by Ernest Hemingway and skippered by Gregorio Fuentes, the very capable waterman scholars feel provided at least some inspiration for the old Cuban fisherman named Santiago in “The Old Man and the Sea,” Papa’s most popular work. Pilar is certainly one of the most significant boats in American literature. The Nobel Prize winner used the black-hulled Wheeler for fishing and chasing German submarines, as well as literary inspiration. Pilar was built of cedar planking over black oak frames by the Wheeler Shipyard in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1934 at a cost of $7,500. She had a cut-down transom fitted with a wooden roller for helping land the big fish that Hemingway chased with such passion. Although it was later repowered, Pilar originally was equipped with a Chrysler Crown main engine and an auxiliary trolling engine. She currently lives on the hard at Finca Vigia, the late author’s Cuban estate-turned-museum.
Boston Whaler 13 and 16/17 — These foam-filled “unsinkable” boats of summer with their distinctive blue interiors introduced thousands of people to the water. Designed by C. Raymond Hunt and patterned after the Hickman Sea Sled, the Boston Whaler 13 was introduced in 1958. This new design with its two outboard sponsons and center appendage was light, strong, stable and easily powered, even if it did tend to be wet and a bit hard-riding. The Boston Whaler 16 appeared in 1961 under several names, including Nauset, Eastport and Sakonnet, three of the earliest center consoles in the industry. This 16-foot, 7-inch boat later morphed into the popular Boston Whaler Montauk, still built today.