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Maine workboat lines with a yacht finish

After a season on the water, Charles and Irene Hamm sound quite pleased with Higgins III, their new Stanley 38 custom powerboat built by the John Williams Boat Co. in Maine.

The ex-sailors from Mason’s Island (Mystic), Conn., were looking for a cruising boat with a specific heritage.

“For beauty and traditional values we wanted something that reflected a workboat architecture,” says Charles Hamm, 67, who retired as president and CEO of a Brooklyn bank a couple years ago, but carries on as the bank chairman.

The Hamms saw an old Stanley 38, Fishwife, and loved the lines of the 1983-built workboat, says Kerri Russell, operations manager at the Williams Boat Co.

Higgins III is the fourth Stanley 38 built by the Williams Boat Co. The 38 design, based on the Stanley 36, now has its own mold, Russell says. The Williams Boat Co. crew took the 36 mold and extended it about 3 feet in the middle.

The Hamms found the Stanley 36 a little too small, Russell recalls. It measures 35 feet, 8 inches LOA with a beam of 12 feet, 2 inches and a draft of 3 feet, 6 inches.

On the other hand, the Stanley 39 was too big, measuring 39 feet, 4 inches LOA with a beam of 13 feet, 8 inches and a draft of 5 feet.

The 38-foot, 3-inch Stanley 38 was just right. It has a 12-foot, 8-inch beam and 3-foot, 6-inch draft.

Higgins III is powered by a 375-hp Yanmar diesel engine and gets 2 to 2-1/2 miles per gallon, Hamm says. He says the rig is fairly efficient unless he pushes her faster than 21 mph. “I don’t like to go super fast anyway,” he says.

The boat will cruise at a speed of 19-1/2 mph at about 2,800 rpm, while burning 12 gallons of fuel per hour, boatbuilder Jock Williams says. She hits a top speed better than 23 mph.

Higgins III has a fairly low profile, Hamm says, with a beautiful, long sheer and no flybridge.

“So windage is minimized and I think beauty is maximized,” he says.

Hamm says he loves tradition, and thinks historically designed boats have some of the most beautiful lines. Unlike some go-fasts and “Clorox bottles,” he says working boats reflect what a boat is really meant to do. He appreciates characteristics such as low windage, ample side decks and good visibility.

Boats in the workboat tradition are handsome and safe, he says.

“That’s not a moving apartment,” Hamm says. “That’s a boat that’s meant to be on the water. And I think they’re safer because of it.”

Credit Williams for making it a reality.

“Jock always gets the proportions and the aesthetics right,” operations manager Russell says of the boatbuilder. “You can’t put your finger on it.”

Hamm says he worked very closely with Jock Williams on the project.

“We were going back and forth to Mount Desert every three or four months, and [Williams] welcomes that,” says Hamm.

The custom boatbuilding process allowed the Hamms to make some special requests.

“I think the biggest challenge we had on this one was that the owner was pretty insistent on quarter berths,” says Williams. “We needed all the space we could get for the quarter berths.”

The Hamms didn’t want the shower and the galley below deck, thereby keeping the humidity, mess, smoke, grease and food smells away from the sleeping quarters, Hamm says. The shower, instead of being in the head compartment, is on the aft deck.

The layout has proven comfortable, Hamm says. This was tested over the summer, when he cruised with four people on board for a week. The quarter berths — which he describes as safe, comfortable and private — measure

2-1/2 feet by 6 feet, and have 4-inch cushions. Each is behind a bulkhead, which provides a degree of privacy, he says.

“[The quarter berths] turned out to be a wonderful thing,” he says.

On some aspects, such as the quarter berths, Hamm swayed Williams. On others, like the boat’s finish, the boatbuilder convinced the owner.

“I was looking more for a kind of working boat finish than a yacht finish,” says Hamm. “Jock pointed me more toward a yacht finish.”

Higgins III, built with a unidirectional fiberglass hull, has teak cockpit coaming, teak rails on deck, varnished teak cockpit steps, varnished Honduras mahogany interior trim and doors, varnished Sitka spruce cabin ceiling, and stainless steel cleats and bow chocks.

All hardware on John Williams Boat Co. boats is built in-house, says Russell. “We can’t find what we want so we just make it,” she says.

Hamm requested a maple cabin sole — rather than the traditional teak and holly — to lighten the cabin, says Russell.

Hamm describes the cabin as very clean and fresh.

It has a large hatch, a small hatch and a series of portholes, as well as plenty of shelves, drawers and cubbyholes, including a bookshelf forward of the centerline double berth and shelves on the cabin ceiling.

The head compartment, to starboard, includes a pumpout head, a stainless steel sink, a ventilation hatch and a porthole.

The quarter berths are on either side of the companionway steps.

The galley up is on the port side, and has a new drawer-style refrigerator, microwave/convection oven, stainless steel countertops, and a shelf to safely store glasses.

Higgins III has a narrow, pivoting teak table that can be used in the cockpit, or swung around the boat’s spruce mast for use under cover of the hard top. It contains three compartments to hold utensils, spices and other cooking necessities.

Hamm says he wanted an aft deck large enough for entertaining, sunbathing and, at times, carrying their dinghy, a 10-foot Trinka. “I don’t have to worry about towing it at 15 knots in a seaway,” he says.

The Hamms use the 18-foot-tall hollow spruce mast and the boom to get the dinghy over the side when it’s not being towed.

Williams says Hamm can load the dinghy by himself. “It’s a very simple process,” says Williams.

The diesel engine is located amidships, beneath the bridgedeck, and has storage lockers on either side. Panels between the lockers and the engine compartment lift out to provide engine access from the sides.

A door in the starboard coaming next to the helm station allows for quick access to work the lines when docking, Hamm says.

The helm seat itself slides and the hardtop has subway-style rope grabrails. Higgins III also has a three-part opening windshield, and the foredeck is off-white to reduce glare.

Hamm says he took three days working out the color scheme for the new boat. The red mahogany cruiser has impressed during its initial voyages, drawing raves from not only its owners but working lobstermen and other passersby, too.

“Every time the light changes, the color seems to change,” says Hamm.

Prior to Higgins III, Charles and Irene Hamm owned sailboats.

Higgins I was a Wade Dow Bridges Point 24 daysailer.

Higgins II was a heavy-displacement Cape George Cutter built in Port Townsend, Wash. He describes the custom-built Cape George sailboats as “museum pieces,” and says it took five years to produce his.

Hamm says he built Higgins II for voyaging, but business interfered. “So we did more daysailing than I’d like to admit,” he says.

He donated the 35-footer to Mystic Seaport a year and a half ago. The Hamms were ready for a powerboat.

“It’s better to go 12 knots in the right direction than 4 knots in the wrong direction,” Hamm says jokingly. “For us, it’s turned out to be an ideal boat.”

Higgins III was launched at the John Williams Boat Company May 8, 2004, and the Hamms took their first cruise aboard her a month later.

They spent about 10 days between Mount Desert and Jonesport, Maine, Hamm says. Then, in July, they brought the boat down to Mystic for the rest of the summer, spending another 10 days aboard in the process. Their two Yorkshire terriers have already cruised extensively with them

Irene, 66, is a retired teacher.

“She, for the first time, volunteers how much she likes the boat,” Hamm says. “It’s a lot easier, too, when you can take two landlubber dogs along.”

He still has meetings once a month, but plans to retire as bank chairman in a couple years.

Hamm is also a trustee of Mystic Seaport. “So we have a lot of good help and all the advice we can stand in the neighborhood,” he says.

Higgins III will spend the winter at the Noank Shipyard in Noank, Conn. The couple plan to cruise Long Island Sound near Mason’s Island early next season, before heading to Maine for late summer or fall cruising, Hamm says.

The Hamms have cruising goals for the next three or four years. They plan to cruise Maine, Chesapeake Bay, the Hudson River, the Intracoastal Waterway to Florida, and all points in between. “The hull is ideal for that,” Hamm says, adding that the boat was built for rough coastal work.

When they went through the Cape Cod Canal late one day last summer, they hit a westerly wind against the tide and had to deal with sharp, standing waves of 6 to 7 feet in Buzzards Bay, Hamm says.

“The boat really took a pounding but came through in perfect order,” he says. “I mean we were taking green water through the windshield and came out fine. I wouldn’t want to do that again, but it’s nice to know the boat can handle it.”

The John Williams Boat Co. builds two or three boats a year, Russell says. Two more 38s are currently on order. Base price for a Stanley 38 Custom Motor Yacht is $525,000.

John Williams Boat Co., Mount Desert, Maine. Phone: (207) 244-7854.