This fiberglass sportboat is an antidote for ‘production-boat blues’
This fiberglass sportboat is an antidote for ‘production-boat blues’
If there are 50 ways to leave your lover and 19,000 ways for Starbucks to serve a cup of coffee, why not market boats to people who love to have it their way? If Wayne Mooers, a veteran marine industry salesman is right, boatbuilders might want to consider this next time they wait in line for their individual cup of Joe.
“If you attend a raft-up to see something interesting or new, don’t waste your time with the boats, because chances are they all look exactly like yours,” Mooers quips.
To remedy the production-boat blues, he founded Pacific Marine Manufacturing in Lafayette, Calif., with the goal of giving customers a boat that stands out — not by size but by looks. The platform he chose is a 22-foot sportboat that harks back to the popular Chris-Craft Cavalier Cutlass, an R.C. Anderson-designed lapstrake boat with hard chines and a modified-vee bottom. The Cutlass, with its distinctive wedge-shaped cabin house, was introduced in 1964, and soon after the company offered an open-deck dory version based on the same hull.
Mooers has a soft spot for the Cutlass, because it had special meaning in the relationship he shared with his father, Ralph, who introduced him to boating. At one point, they got carried away in a “skill-saw project,” replacing the tired plywood bottom of Scout, a spiced-up 1966 Cutlass that’s still in Mooers’ hands and lives in a shed on his property. As they worked away, the idea was conceived to resurrect the Cutlass design — just for fun.
“People seem to like this one,” Ralph used to say. “Some day we should replicate it.”
After his father died in 2001, Mooers continued to pursue the dream. He took time off to dig in the vaults of the Chris-Craft Collection at The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Va., where he found the drawings that ensured the re-creation’s fidelity to the original design — at least above the waterline.
For the plug he prepped and faired an old Cutlass, and when hull No. 1 was ceremoniously lifted out of the mold, the first Pacific 22 began to take shape. Mooers named it Some Day, in honor of his late father, and proceeded to finish the boat himself, adding a cold-molded cuddy cabin that features a book-matched mahogany joint on the forward end of the cabin, teak decks, polished stainless-steel fittings, and impeccable brightwork.
The interior consists of a double berth and hull cushions that double as sound insulators and backrests. It’s not much, but it’s certainly enough to cuddle up on a cozy night in a quiet cove, accompanied by the sound of small ripples gently lapping the hull. “After our first outing at the Concours d’ Elegance on Lake Tahoe in 2004, we received a lot of encouragement, so I decided to go ahead with a small-scale production,” says Mooers, explaining how his hobby became a business. “I don’t think I did anything special, but having been around boats for so long I knew how to put the pieces together.”
One hull, four models
Going into semicustom production, Mooers offers the Pacific 22 in four versions: center console Dory, Utility, and Cruiser with cuddy, as well as the original Cutlass with the wedge-shaped cabin house. All are based on the same hull, but the client decides how much wood and varnish will be applied; if the boat will have a Sampson post or sunbathing platform, a wine cooler or rod holders, no seats at all or a swiveling helm seat; and whether it will be powered by a gas or diesel inboard.
“I think it makes no sense for a small operation to be everything to everyone,” he says, adding that he is “filling a niche, which is quite different from having a product that you can’t sell unless you create a need for it.”
A production facility near Modesto, Calif., builds the bare hand-laid fiberglass hulls that are finished and fitted out either at Mooers’ shop in Lafayette or at Rumery’s Boatyard in Biddeford, Maine. “He’s worked on this project for years and did a beautiful job,” says Svend Svendsen, a boatyard owner in Alameda, Calif., and one of Mooers’ colleagues in the trade. Thirty years ago Svendsen built fiberglass Nordic Folkboats, which also have a lapstrake hull. “It’s a tough nut. There’s always interest in pretty boats, but that’s not the same as receiving a check.”
More than looks
During a two-day test it was evident that the Pacific 22 Cruiser has more to offer than classic looks. Propelled by a 5.7-liter 330-hp Pleasure Craft Marine Vortec gas V-8 with straight shaft and four-blade prop, the 3,250-pound boat tops 40 mph in flat water. It showed surprising acceleration and a towboat’s agility in high-speed turns without chine-walking or skipping. Tinkering with the hull’s underbody, Mooers decided to omit the full-length keel and instead add three bronze fins mounted right under the boat’s single lifting eye, or hoist point, in the bilge — which, incidentally, allows the boat to be “yacht club launched” with a hoist. “They really improve tracking and turning,” he yells with a grin before whipping Some Day into a circle on an empty stretch of the Oakland Estuary.
A slight cavity above the propeller helps produce a clean wake pattern, sans prop wash, and allows the use of larger props. A peek under the floorboards reveals foam-filled longitudinal composite stringers that are bonded-in to increase hull stiffness. Details in the cockpit include a simple steering station and a teak-and-mahogany cover for the fuel tank at the stern. The insulated engine box can be removed completely to reveal the small-block V-8, which delivers plenty of power while remaining cost-efficient to service because, Mooers points out, “many key parts can be found in the automotive store on the corner.”
CrossingSan FranciscoBay, the vessel proved that it has retained the rough-water qualities of the original Cutlass design. Heading straight into breeze and chop, the flared lapstrake hull cut the waves gently and pushed the spray far enough out and aft so that driver and crew behind the windshield stayed dry. When quartering waves in a lively breeze, some spray came across, especially when the boat slowed from a plane, but there were enough dead spots behind the windshield to duck into and stay dry.
No more white plastic
“Dad and I started this for fun, not for money,” Mooers says. “We wanted to build a pretty boat that conveys pride of ownership and gets admiring looks, because heaven knows, the world doesn’t need another white plastic boat.”
However, the Pacific 22’s wood-and-varnish appearance conceals a timely concept, reflected in the boat’s overall simplicity. “It can be fixed by anyone who has a 1/2-inch screwdriver and grew up reading Popular Mechanics,” Mooers says.
The Cruiser gets attention wherever it shows up. It seems to strike a chord with baby boomers who have large marina-bound yachts and desire a distinctive small boat for messing about, as well as boaters who are done racing and yacht-clubbing and want to return to their roots with a simple, handsome, compact boat that’s easy to maintain and can be trailered. “It is about having a boat that fits your lifestyle, not the other way around,” says Mooers.
While there obviously won’t be 19,000 different versions of the Pacific 22, there will be plenty of options, so customers can have it their way. And Dad, no doubt, would approve of that.