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Talkin’ Boats with Paul Hureau

Paul Hureau founder of Maritime skiff

Paul Hureau is founder and former owner of Maritime Skiff, builders of clean, functional boats.

The Maritimne 23 Defiant

A lifelong boater, he began his career with Boston Whaler after serving in the Coast Guard as a safety inspector and accident investigator. Under Boston Whaler founder Dick Fisher, Hureau worked as a service manager and later went on to create Whaler’s commercial products division.

Hureau, 69, who lives in Duxbury, Mass., designed and produced the 30- and 36-foot Defiance aluminum patrol boats for Boston Whaler. His résumé also includes helping SeaArk Marine refine its patrol boat fleet and, in particular, its RIB collar system that became popular with the Navy.

Today, Hureau is a marine consultant specializing in commercial and governmental boats. He enjoys boating with his wife, Beverly, on a semicustom 25-foot Maritime Skiff with a pilothouse.

Q: What’s wrong with the boats of today, specifically powerboats?

A: I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with them. What I have observed is market demand has created a drive for boatbuilders to load their products with look-alike features and benefits. That has resulted in a number of boats that look all alike. We’re adrift in a field of look-alike products today that has a tendency to reduce interest in specific product lines. It is hard to differentiate the brand of boat if the logo is erased. That has to change. We’ve gotten into a spot where the boats are identical in appearance.

Paul Hureau

Q: What can the industry do to solve this problem?

A: It’ll be tough in today’s depressed market to find the capital investment necessary to produce products with individuality. That is the key. Maybe a retrofit back to more traditional designs that have withstood the test of time.

Q: How and when did you catch the boating bug?

A: Since I can first remember. My family spent their vacations in Maine. My mother’s side of the family had a heritage in boatbuilding and captains of the schooner fleet that went up and down the coast. In Maine, I had a chance to spend summers on the ocean and hanging around boats, looking at boats, particularly lobster boats, spending many hours in rented wooden skiffs. My first outboard was a Scott Atwater

7-1/2-horsepower Bail-A-Matic that we would cart up to Maine in the trunk of the car and find a skiff to rent and put it on. Some of those memories of how graceful the lobster boats looked burned an impression into my mind as to what I thought was a nice-looking design.

Q: What was it like to work for Dick Fisher?

A: He was a great teacher. When I first went there, he had reams and reams of letters that he had sent customers to guide me in answering responses to warranty-related questions. He was a great mentor and had the ability to write extremely clearly, so you understood exactly what he was saying.

Q: Looking at the Maritime boats, is it correct to say that you are a big believer in bare-bones, functional, easy-to-clean-up boats?

A: Yes, and that comes from a lot of the commercial work I had been doing as well as with my time at Whaler. Function over form was a guideline that I always tried to follow since my Whaler days. If you remember those early Whalers, the design of the center console or the height of a rail or design of a windshield was predicated on Dick Fisher’s personal experience in the boats. I tried to follow the same course. Use the product and put a rail where you unconsciously want to grab a rail, as opposed to putting one where it would look decoratively nice.

Q: What design aspects and philosophies did you take from your commercial boatbuilding background and apply to recreational boats?

A: That would apply to Maritime Skiff. The rounded bows for buoyancy. That experience was gained driving Whalers through the breaking surf of the North River in Scituate, Mass. Rounded bows have more buoyancy and give you more interior space. Large deck hardware so you can figure-eight large deck lines. Eight-inch cleats on 16-footers were unheard of. Black dashes so there was no glare into the windshield. Railings and hand-holds that you could grab without having to look for them. Also, visibility from the helm — you should be able to look to the horizon regardless of the attitude of the boat. So driver’s line of sight was always a criterion both commercially and recreationally.

In my consulting role and my Maritime Skiff role, I made sure that the navigational instruments — the compass, the GPS — were as close to the driver as possible. When I was designing patrol boats for SeaArk, we continually enlarged and raised the dash so the chart plotter was as close to the driver’s line of sight as possible , like in an airplane.

Q: Can you name some of your favorite boats?

A: These are older designs. The Dyer 29 is my favorite. The Fortier 26. The Hinckley 36. The line of Huckins, hard-chined patrol boats. The Holland 32 Down East-built boats. Those have been a favorite of mine for years.

Q: And the boat you own now?

A: A modified 23-foot Maritime Skiff that we cut off the transom and lengthened to 25 feet and then built a one-off pilothouse walk-around design that allows access to the bow area.

Q: You’ve been fully involved in promoting boating safety. If you had to give boaters one piece of safety advice, what would it be?

A: Situational awareness. Be on constant lookout — surroundings and conditions. Not only water conditions but other boats. Just like in an automobile, you should drive defensively.

This article originally appeared in the January 2010 issue.