Take Two

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When it’s time to expand the fleet, a second boat can open up new boating possibilities

When it’s time to expand the fleet, a second boat can open up new boating possibilities

Living on the Connecticut River, Wes and Sharon Bray must deal with the currents and large wakes at the dock behind their home.

Read the other stories in this package: Take Two – Second Boat Specifications   The WallyDinghy

For years the Essex, Conn., couple owned a vintage 25-foot Chris-Craft, but taking the circa-1947 cruiser out on the river was a real production. The conditions at the dock, mixed with a temperamental V-8 engine and the other idiosyncrasies of a 60-year-old boat, made the arrangement less-than-ideal for the type of quick jaunts living on the water encourages.

Then in the fall of 2004 the Brays added Whimsy, a 23-foot Caribiana Sea Skiff, to the family fleet. “What we found was we just weren’t using the Chris-Craft anymore,” says 52-year-old Wes Bray. “We were just always taking Whimsy out.”

What Bray and others are discovering is that a smaller, second boat often is the perfect complement to a larger boat, a changing lifestyle or simply a busy and varied water-sports agenda.

“It makes for a much more convenient way of boating, but we haven’t had to sacrifice style points,” says Bray, who runs a wireless technology company. “One of the reasons we really liked the Chris-Craft was because it was so pretty, and the Caribiana is pretty, too.”

The Caribiana has a cabernet-colored hull and is fitted out with all the bronze hardware and teak that the Orange Beach, Ala., builder offers. The 23-footer also is lightweight (1,200 pounds), Bray says, which makes it easy to scoot up onto a Jet Dock, like those used for personal watercraft.

For Peter North, finding a more user-friendly boat also was paramount. North, who is a financial advisor, holds a Coast Guard 50-ton master’s license and has owned a handful of boats from 29 feet up, including a Krogen 42, which he says has been called the “quintessential trawler.” He currently owns a Marine Trader 43.

In addition to the big boats, though, he has owned a Seaway 21 open fishing boat for 10 years. The 21-footer is trailerable, which is a real plus for 51-year-old North, who has homes in Bath, Maine, and Middleburg, Fla., near Jacksonville.

“Obviously, it’s easier to get different places when you can go over the highway,” says North. “A lot of people get concerned with boat sizes and how they take the sea, but what I’ve found with this boat is I don’t even notice [its size].”

Although he doesn’t fish a great deal, North says he likes the versatility of the open layout. He says he can take more people out on the Seaway than on other similar-size boats, and he has deck chairs and a folding picnic table he keeps in the forward cockpit.

And North says he sees no reason to ever get rid of the smaller boat. “It’s more flexible,” he says. “As your life changes, you don’t have to change your boat.”

Versatility and user-friendliness are hallmarks of the prototypical second boat. While the primary boat is proficient in its intended mission, the second boat often takes up the slack in numerous other areas. It might be used as a tender or for fishing, or to take the kids or grandkids tubing, run to a favorite swimming spot, cruise to a waterfront restaurant, or go for a quick sail — and do it with style, ease and a measure of fuel efficiency.

John Ward keeps a 15-foot center console on a lift behind his Florida home and uses it for fishing or to take his dogs to the beach for a run. “It’s easy access in and out of the boat for kids and animals,” says Ward. “The boat doesn’t go crazy fast, but you can fit four or five people in it and get up on plane quite easily.”

Ward says he has owned a variety of boats through the years, from such builders as AquaSport, Boston Whaler, Chris-Craft, Hatteras, Matthews and Mako. He isn’t your typical boat owner, though; his small boat is the new 150 Montauk from Boston Whaler, a company he happens to run.

“Here’s a little 15-foot boat with a live well in it,” says the Whaler president, “so it’s really a very versatile boat.” With its 60-hp Mercury 4-stroke, the Montauk also can pull a skier.

Small second boats present a fuel-efficient option for frequent boating, as their smallish power plants tend to sip fuel compared with their larger brethren while still packing plenty of fun. A Caribiana 23 powered by a 60-hp outboard has enough power to pull 240-pound Caribiana founder Lynn Rabren on a wakeboard. And the boat even has a sail option.

“They’ll use the boat all day long,” Rabren says of Caribiana owners. “They’ll get up and go fishing, take it out skiing in the middle of the day. They could go sailing midafternoon, and go for a cocktail cruise or a nature cruise in skinny water in the evening.”

As their primary vessels get larger, boaters lose the ability to gunkhole, to get into those out-of-the-way coves and creeks and backwaters that can only be reached by a small boat.

Back on the Connecticut River, the Brays are in the market for a cruising sailboat around 30 feet. It will complement their Caribiana and take them to cruising destinations like Block Island, R.I., Shelter Island, N.Y., and Nantucket, Mass.

“I think that will be a real nice balance between those two,” says Bray. “Whimsy’s a dayboat, and [the sailboat] would be a nice weeklong cruising boat.”

He says the river isn’t a great place to sail, so Whimsy is ideal for poking around their home waters. “It allows us to explore this great river,” he says. “We can gunkhole our way, and poke our nose into all the little creeks and such up and down the river.”

Given their smaller size second boats also are typically easier to maintain, which also is part of their attraction.

“These boats are easier to deal with on a regular basis, whether it’s where I live in Annapolis and you’re going across the [Chesapeake] Bay to eat crab, or in places like Connecticut to go fishing,” says JJ. Marie, president of Zodiac of North America, in Stevensville, Md.

Versatility is certainly part of the appeal of a small boat for Chuck Hawley, the 51-year-old vice president of product development for West Marine.

Hawley uses his Zodiac Pro Open 650 for work and play. “I work for West Marine, so we end up using it as a photo boat, and we also use it to test gear,” says Hawley, who recently had the Zodiac filled with 400 pounds worth of anchors for a product test. “The thing about a RIB is it has so much redundancy and so much buoyancy it doesn’t really seem affected by loading. It actually will plane with 10 people in the boat.”

His Zodiac also serves as an occasional regatta safety boat, says Hawley, who is actively involved with the Santa Cruz Yacht Club and sailracing up and down the California coast.

The bottom line is these smaller boats encourage boating. Hawley and his wife take their four daughters, ages 6 to 17, out to view the marine life off their home in Santa Cruz, Calif.

“This is an outstanding way to get them out on the water,” he says. “They aren’t what you’d call avid boaters, but they love the marine environment.”

Caribiana 23 owner Bray agrees. “We want to spend as much time on the water as we can, and everyone’s busy; the kids are busy,” says Bray, who has a 15-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter. “If a certain boat helps us get to the water we’ll take advantage of it.”

Here’s a look at eight boats to get you out on the water more often, ranging from 14 feet to 24 feet, and from around $15,000 to $82,000.

Scout 145 Sportfish

The 145 Sportfish is the smallest and lightest model from Scout Boats of Summerville, S.C., which builds center consoles, dual consoles, bay boats, flats boats and walkarounds to 28 feet. The boat is best suited as an introductory boat or as a tender for a larger boat, says Scout national sales manager Alan Lang. He suggests it would make a nice “creek boat for someone’s kid.”

The 145 Sportfish has a center console with a cushioned forward seat and an aerated live well beneath it. A model with a side console also is available. The boat has a built-in 10-gallon fuel tank, stainless steel cup holders, and a stern helm bench with available cushion. Options include a windshield, stainless steel side rails, Bimini top, swiveling seat for the forward platform, and hull colors that include Fighting Lady Yellow, Sea Foam Green and Flag Blue.

The all hand-laid 145 is built with a “reverse-shoebox” hull-to-deck joint, Lang says, which is chemically bonded with marine grade Poly-Bond B39 putty. The boat also is unsinkable, Lang says, as are all Scout boats. Suggested retail price with a 40-hp Yamaha 4-stroke is $15,576.

Boston Whaler 150 Montauk

Boston Whaler’s 150 Montauk is a 15-foot center console based on the company’s popular 150 Sport, though the Sport has a side console with bench seat.

“A lot of boaters prefer to stand up to run a boat rather than sit down,” says Whaler president and 150 Montauk owner Ward. “I guess that makes me a center console guy.”

The 150 Montauk has a bow locker with overboard drain, and the console comes equipped with a stainless steel steering wheel, welded stainless steel grab rail, acrylic windshield, electric switch panel, access door to the battery box, and two drink holders. The helm seat has a reversible, locking backrest. Standard equipment includes a heavy-duty rubrail, welded stainless steel side rails, three 8-inch stainless steel cleats, and bow and stern lifting eyes.

The boat and engine package includes a swing-tongue trailer for easier garage storage, according to Whaler, and options include a swim ladder, bow cushion, “classic” bow and side rails in lieu of the standard rails, 36-quart cooler seat with cushion and backrest, four console-mounted rod holders, and fishing and electronics packages.

The fishing package includes the cooler seat, rod holders, live well and tackle drawers. The electronics package includes a Navman fishfinder and VHF radio. A canvas top and covers also are available.

“The beauty of this boat is it has great versatility,” says Ward. “You can take the kids out skiing, take Mom to the beach or take the dogs out. Like all Whalers, when you’re done you can just hose it down.”

And like all Whalers, the 150 Montauk is “unsinkable.” Suggested retail price is $17,827.

Seaway 18 Sportsman

Harry Farmer started Seaway Boats in 1972 and prides himself on building a classic Maine boat with a great ride. The 18 Sportsman, which Farmer has been building for about two years, is an all-composite center console with a self-bailing cockpit, forward casting platform and spray rails. Its fuel efficiency is what attracts most owners, who are picking them up to complement a larger boat, Farmer says.

“Most people are using it to do a little bit of fishing, doing a little bit of cruising, going to restaurants and stuff like that,” says Farmer. “Most of our owners have them as a second boat to do that small stuff where the other boat’s way too big. We have that, and we have people who are downsizing from a bigger boat because of cost.”

The 18 Sportsman burns less than 2-1/2 gallons per hour, runs 30-plus mph with a 70-hp 4-stroke, and gets on plane at just 9 or 10 mph, Farmer says. Retail pricing starts around $20,000, including boat, engine and trailer.

Seaway Boats has about a dozen employees and will build 75 boats this year, according to Farmer, who plans to offer a 27-footer. The company currently builds boats from 13 to 24 feet.

Mirage 18 HPX-V

The Mirage HPX line of poling skiffs are the top-of-the-line flats boats from Maverick Boat Co. of Fort Pierce, Fla. The carbon fiber/Kevlar boats, which range from 15 to 18 feet, are built using a vacuum-assisted resin infusion process, resulting in a lightweight, strong boat, according to Maverick director of marketing Kevin Evola.

The Mirage 18 HPX-V measures 18 feet, 2 inches, with a beam of 7 feet, 4 inches and a hull draft of 9 inches. It weighs in at just 1,565 pounds including a 115-hp Yamaha 4-stroke outboard. The boat has a standard poling tower, as well as a push-pole holder, under-gunwale rod racks, and flush-mounted or recessed hardware (to prevent snags while fly-fishing).

There are storage compartments in the flush forward and aft casting platforms, and wide gunwales allow for level walkaround fishing. There is a 19-gallon live well aft, optional 24-gallon release well aft, and an optional 12-gallon live well forward of the lockable center console.

The 18 HPX-V reaches a top speed of about 55 mph with the 115 Yamaha and carries a manufacturer-suggested retail price of $39,200.

Boaters in the market for a smaller flats skiff might consider Maverick’s Mirage 15 HPX-V, which draws just 5 inches and weighs 980 pounds with a 40-hp Yamaha 4-stroke. The 17-footer is available with a tunnel-hull for extremely shallow draft.

Zodiac Pro Open 650

Zodiac’s Pro Open 650 is a 21-foot RIB geared toward active families. It can be outfitted for fishing, skiing and scuba diving, and is designed to handle open waters, according to Zodiac.

“Whether it’s Long Island Sound, Buzzards Bay or Chesapeake Bay, the biggest problem with a small boat is the ride,” says Zodiac of North America president Marie. The 650 rides a deep-vee fiberglass hull, he says, and the removable tube system provides an extra cushion.

Zodiac headquarters are in France, and Marie describes the 650 as “Americanized”— indeed, the fiberglass hull is built by Scout Boats — with such available amenities as a T-top, upholstered cooler seats, radio, ski pylon, boarding ladder and rod holders. It has a molded-in non-skid deck, large forward locker with separate anchor and storage compartments, and a pair of storage lockers aft.

The boat also comes equipped with a bow rail; a center console with tilt steering, windshield and stainless steel grab rail; and a helm bolster with footrests, a grab rail and storage.

Suggested retail price is $33,475 with a 4-stroke Yamaha F115.

Chris-Craft Launch 22

The Chris-Craft Launch 22 is a watersports-friendly runabout with retro styling and all-composite construction. Following the success of its 20-foot Speedster, Chris-Craft redesigned the Launch 22 for better comfort and performance.

“We made a variety of changes to make it more ergonomic, more user-friendly and more modern,” says Meghan Stout, spokesperson for Sarasota, Fla.-based Chris-Craft. “We also redesigned the hull, which added 5 mph to the top speed.”

The Launch 22 rides a deep-vee hull with a one-piece fiberglass stringer system and is now available with an optional wakeboard tower, a first for Chris-Craft. It also has a new centerline pop-up ski pylon, larger swim platform, and a larger bow seating area than the original, in addition to helm and companion flip-up bucket seats and U-shaped aft seating.

Other updates include a new deck profile, diamond non-skid patterned to look like the deck boards from wooden Chris-Crafts, Bimini top storage in the engine compartment, improved helm ergonomics, additional grab rails and cup holders, and a taller, longer stainless steel windshield. The boat also has more storage for equipment, such as wakeboards and water skis.

“We have gotten a lot of attention on our Launch models as tenders,” Stout says of the 22- to 28-footers. “But for people that have express cruisers and want a sportboat … this has the same style and class as our bigger boats. This is a fun boat for the big kids, too.”

Suggested retail price for the Launch 22 Heritage Edition, with teak trim, deck and coaming rails, starts at $60,000.

Caribiana 23

The handsome open boats from Caribiana Sea Skiffs are based on traditional pirogue workboats from Trinidad. The Caribiana 23 has a tall bow, sharp entry, sweeping sheer and a narrow beam — elements that not only produce a distinctive profile but make for an efficient hull that slices through waves.

“Some people just can’t conceive of powering a 23-foot boat with a 60-hp engine, because they’re not used to the dory style, with the 4-to-1 length-to-beam ratio,” says company founder Rabren. Recommended outboard power for the Caribiana 23 ranges from 25 hp to 90 hp.

The 23-footer has a 6-foot, 6-inch beam, draws 10 inches, and weighs 1,200 pounds. Equipped with a 50-hp outboard, Rabren says it reaches a top speed of 30 mph and consumes less than 3 gallons per hour at a cruising speed of a little more than 20 mph.

Rabren has friends who use a Caribiana 23 as a tender for their 40-foot sailboat. He says they hardly notice they are towing it because of its long, skinny design.

“It’s a great second boat for sailors because it behaves more like a sailboat than a planing boat,” says Rabren. In fact, a stowable sailing package is available, consisting of a free-standing mast and lateen/sprit sail, which relegates the outboard to rudder duty.

Other options include a Bimini top, teak-and-bronze steering pedestal and helm seat, bronze hardware throughout, and a teak rub rail, cap rail, decking and more.

Prices range from around $34,000 to more than $50,000. (The company recently introduced a 21-footer for $12,000 that takes a tiller-controlled outboard to 50 hp.

Vanquish 24

The Vanquish 24 is a modern dayboat with classic looks for fresh- or saltwater use. The 24 was designed by Doug Zurn and is built by Vanquish Boats of Wellesley Island, N.Y. (Vanquish was founded as Vanguard Powerboats around five years ago by former marine dealer Adam Harden.)

The Vanquish 24 has a sharp entry, flared bow and nearly level sheer line. Two versions are available: a classic runabout and a center console. The helm and windshield of the runabout are placed far forward, resulting in a large cockpit and vintage appeal.

“It’s a timeless style,” says Harden, “the classic style that Doug Zurn put together for this boat, with the tumblehome in the stern and the stainless steel windshield frame. It has a real sweet line.”

For all of its throwback looks, the inboard-powered Vanquish is built with such modern materials as closed-cell foam coring and vinylester resin. The hull is now Awlgripped — it previously was gelcoated — and teak trim is available.

The boat has a modified-vee hull with lifting strakes and a propeller pocket that allows for a shallower draft and smaller prop shaft angle.

Vanquish Boats recently built its first diesel 24, with Yanmar power, and has made standard an Edson steering wheel and twin 38-gallon aluminum fuel tanks.

The redesigned dash of the runabout has an integrated instrument pod and glove box. Zurn also redesigned the center console to be smaller, trimmer and lighter. The Vanquish 24 has a suggested retail price of $82,000.