Dispatches

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A killer superyacht, so to speak:

Boston-based architect E. Kevin Schopfer has designed a 240-foot superyacht called Oculus (two views above) to look like a killer whale and a 300-footer known as Infinitas to resemble the figure-of-eight shape of the infinity symbol. Schopfer, whose firm is “dedicated to the pursuit of advanced yacht aesthetics and technology,” says he designed Oculus and Infinitas with the idea that luxury yachts should move away from generic shapes to something more playful. He has teamed with naval architecture firm Sparkman & Stephens to build the vessels, which have price tags in the $100 million to $140 million range. He says there are several potential clients interested in both. www.schopferyachts.com

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The joy(stick) of boating

Mercury, Sea Ray and Cummins MerCruiser Diesel — all Brunswick Corp. companies — have launched a Web site dedicated to joystick steering control technology.

“We want to show people how easy and enjoyable boating becomes when the intimidation of docking and tight maneuvering is removed,” says Mercury communications director Steve Fleming.

JoystickBoatControl.com offers information about Mercury’s Axius sterndrive and Cummins MerCruiser Diesel’s Zeus pod drive systems — both with joystick helm control — as well as boats equipped with these systems. The site features video of Brunswick chairman and CEO Dusty McCoy’s interviews with Fox Business News and CNBC, during which he explains the benefits of joystick control. “This technology removes an inhibition that many people have had from buying large boats,” McCoy says on CNBC.

The site also offers demonstration videos of people operating Zeus and Axius, including children. “It’s like a control for a video game, but they call it a joystick,” says a 10-year-old girl at the helm of a Zeus-powered Sea Ray Sundancer 44. “It’s what makes the boat move.”

Axius is available with MerCruiser gas engines from 260 to 425 hp and CMD engines from 220 to 350 hp for boats to about 40 feet. Zeus is designed for boats from 30 to more than 100 feet that typically use straight-shaft setups. Four different Sea Ray sport yachts from 38 to 54 feet can be powered with Zeus.

Volvo Penta was first to offer pod-drive propulsion with joystick control, introducing its Inboard Performance System in 2005; CMD’s Zeus hit the market in 2007. Mercury was first to marry a joystick and sterndrive with the introduction of Axius in 2007. Volvo Penta followed this year with its own version, known as the Sterndrive Joystick. www.volvo-penta.com

— Chris Landry

Woodstock on the water

Sea Ray reports that more than 4,000 boats and 35,000 people attended country singer Alan Jackson’s headline performance at its AquaPalooza signature event, held in July on Alabama’s Lake Martin. The gathering set a record for any of the manufacturer’s four annual AquaPalooza signature events — an increase of more than 50 percent over last year’s numbers, according to organizers. Numerous smaller, regional events are held around the country and abroad.

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Sea Ray organizes the gatherings to promote the boating lifestyle and camaraderie among boaters. All makes and models are welcome at the events. The spectacle resembles an aquatic version of Woodstock, with boats rafted up to 75 wide and a dozen rows deep, all facing a waterfront stage. www.aquapalooza.com

In our wake

At the height of the Great Irish Famine in 1849, immigrant ships routinely carried Irish citizens to ports along the Eastern Seaboard for a new life in America. On Oct. 7, the brigantine Saint John was making her way from Galway to Boston with 120 passengers and crew. The passage had been uneventful, and the captain issued a ration of grog to the crew and suggested passengers celebrate their last night aboard with song and dance. When a powerful nor’easter rolled over the 200-ton ship, the captain dropped anchors to ride out the gale. In the huge seas and wind, the ship dragged anchor toward the rocks of Minot’s Ledge off Scituate, Mass. As a last-ditch effort, the captain had both masts cut away. Once hard aground, the ship rapidly broke up while panicked passengers were swept into the sea. In all, 99 passengers and crew perished; the captain survived. Author Henry David Thoreau honored the dead with a full account of the burials.

This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue.