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Down East: A growing fleet

Boaters who love the lines of a Down East boat have a wealth of options these days.

Boaters who love the lines of a Down East boat have a wealth of options these days. From Maine-built skiffs to lobster yachts produced halfway around the globe, there is no shortage of these handsome vessels with workboat roots, featuring high bows, sweeping sheers and seakindly motions.

Read the other stories in this package:  Daysailers with New England charm Down East Goes Global

Some have traditional skeg-built or built-down hulls, while others ride modern, hard-chine planing hulls. And power options run the gamut, from outboard to prop and shaft to waterjet.

First things first: The gallery of Down East boats here is by no means is exhaustive. What we have is a handful of classics sprinkled among a group of new offerings in three size categories. And some builders have made significant changes to existing boats. For example, Eastern Boats of Milton, N.H., completely redesigned its Royal Lowell-designed 18 and is building it with more freeboard, all-composite construction and a molded inner liner. The company also has built a newly designed 31. And Atlantic Boat Co. in Brooklin, Maine, has retooled the deck and interior of its Duffy 26 and 31.

A couple of builders are mixing it up with new models, such as Lyman-Morse of Thomaston, Maine, which has built several semicustom, jet-driven 38s over the last couple of years. Ellis Boat Co. says its new Yankee line represents a “less expensive” Ellis boat. And the Southwest Harbor, Maine, builder this year rereleased its 20-footer, originally built in the 1970s and ’80s.

C.W. Hood Yachts of Marblehead, Mass., several years ago brought back a classic in the Wasque 26. Designed by John G. Alden and originally built by Vineyard Yachts on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., it has evolved from bass boat to finely appointed cruiser. The builder also plans to resurrect the Wasque 21 and 32. And Southport Island Marine of Southport, Maine, is building tooling for the first fiberglass version of the stalwart Handy Billy 21, which will be available as a production boat.

The Stanley 38 by the John Williams Boat Co. of Mount Desert, Maine, and the Pulsifer Hampton inboard launch by Richard S. Pulsifer Boat Builder of Brunswick, Maine, each has a long lobstering history and has been refined through the years. The Stanley 38 is a stretched version of the Lyford Stanley-designed 36 that Williams has built — predominantly as a working lobster boat — since the early 1970s. And Hampton launches have been plying Maine waters for more than a century.

“There are always a few differences [from one boat to the next],” says Richard Pulsifer, who started building the wooden strip-planked open launches in 1973. “It’s a continuation of a damn good boat.”

The Picnic Boat from The Hinckley Co. of Southwest Harbor, Maine, introduced more than 90 years after the Hampton launch, has had a significant impact on the design, technology and popularity of Down East-style yachts. It remains popular today, with more than 350 built since it was introduced in 1994.

“I think the Picnic Boat’s elegant simplicity and perfect proportions continue to position it from the rest of the crowd,” says Nancy J. Austin, Hinckley director of marketing, via e-mail. “The Picnic Boat is not overly complicated, and I view that simplicity as sophisticated.” Today’s Picnic Boat has an extended pilothouse, as even a tried-and-true design can enjoy a tweak now and again.

Pearson Yachts has drawn up a new 45 to go along with the 33 and 38 in its True North series. The new boat sports a fresh transom design — with more versatility and seating options — that the Warren, R.I., builder also will use on the 38. Freedom Yachts of Middletown, R.I. will introduce its new Legacy 32 at the fall boat shows. And a new 33-footer from Back Cove Yachts of Rockland, Maine, will arrive this winter, while its sister builder Sabre Yachts will soon launch a twin-diesel 34. The Sabre boatbuilding family includes a new daysailer, too. MJM Yachts of Boston is building a new 29z. And West Pointer 18 builder Six River Marine of North Yarmouth, Maine, has begun design work on a 22.

There is plenty more going on with Down East boats beyond the builders featured here. For example, Gorbon Yachts of Istanbul, Turkey, has a new 40 Fly Bridge in the works, and Lowell Bros./Even Keel Marine Specialties of Yarmouth, Maine has reclaimed a few molds of its own design, including 22-, 26- and 43-footers, according to co-owner Joe Lowell.

If you’re a builder of Down East boats and aren’t featured here, or as a reader you have a suggestion for a boat to include in a future story, e-mail .