The look is 1960s, the power is jet

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Bill and Polly Higgins say their Linwood 56 turns heads with its classic 1960s-era styling, yet it is a thoroughly modern yacht powered by jetdrives and laid out below with touches borrowed from aviation.

Bill and Polly Higgins say their Linwood 56 turns heads with its classic 1960s-era styling, yet it is a thoroughly modern yacht powered by jetdrives and laid out below with touches borrowed from aviation.

Named Integrity, this update of one of Huckins Yacht’s classic designs is the first jet-driven boat in the company’s 78-year history. The yacht rides a standard Huckins Quadraconic hull similar to the one company founder Frank Huckins designed in 1928 for his Fairform Flyers. Bill Higgins of St. Petersburg, Fla., says the marriage of jetdrive to Huckins hull is a good one.

“The boat tracks so straight I don’t need my hands on the steering wheel,” he says. “It’s the easiest-steering boat I’ve ever had. The back end doesn’t slew around at all.”

The hull has a sharp entry and four conic sections that deliver a fast ride but also a soft and stable one in steep seas, according to the company. Instead of the V-drive used in the original Linwoods, this one carries Hamilton jetdrives powered by twin 680-hp Cummins diesels. Jetdrive propulsion was a must for the Higginses, who traded in a jet-driven Hinckley for the $2.5 million semicustom Huckins.

“I started [as a teen] working in a boatyard scraping bottoms,” Higgins says. “I saw a lot of bent shafts, bent wheels — I don’t want that kind of hassle.”

With jetdrives, the 56-footer draws 30 inches. That’s about 18 inches less than with props, which is particularly good since Integrity’s home is west coast Florida, where waters are shoal. But the couple plan to cruise farther afield to Maine, the Great Lakes, the U.S. West Coast and Alaska. They don’t want to worry about bending a shaft in shallows or fouling a prop on a lobster pot. “I’ll never go back to props,” Higgins says.

The Linwood’s top speed is 34 knots, says Huckins’ owner Cindy Purcell of Jacksonville, Fla. Built of fiberglass and Core-Cell foam, the yacht weighs in at 49,000 pounds and carries 800 gallons of fuel.

The Higginses, who helped design Integrity’s interior, first saw a classic Huckins while cruising northeast Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway in 2000. The boat’s classic lines not only caught their eye, it turned their heads. A year later they noticed a vintage 1967 Linwood 56 in a slip on west coast Florida’s Useppa Island. They looked it over closely, found out it was a Huckins — built across the Sunshine State in Jacksonville — and decided that’s what they wanted for their next boat.

“We like the looks of it, the classic lines, the layout,” says Bill Higgins, who is retired from the aeronautics industry, where he custom-designed interiors of aircraft for heads of state — the Sultan of Brunei, the Saudi royal family, the president of Mexico. Higgins also laid out the interiors of the gondola for the Goodyear blimp and the monorail cars at Walt Disney World. “I designed interiors for cylinders,” he says.

Integrity’s exterior and bridge deck are trimmed in mahogany; the cabin — designed with 6 feet, 6 inches of headroom — is finished in rich African cherry. The Higginses collaborated with co-owner Buddy Purcell, Cindy’s husband, on the interior finish. They really liked the amount of room below they had to work with. “[Huckins] has the best use of interior space in the marine industry,” says Peggy Higgins. “Nothing goes to waste.”

The couple wanted a modern interior as pleasing to their eye as Integrity’s classic lines. “There is a beauty and symmetry that is as necessary to a boat’s interior as it is to its exterior,” says Bill Higgins.

The two staterooms are placed for and aft for privacy. The galley and saloon between are large, the galley equipped with microwave and convection ovens and refrigerator drawers. Countertops are granite over lightweight aluminum honeycomb. “Both my husband and I are avid cooks,” says Peggy Higgins, so a full galley was important.

The saloon is spacious and open, modern in design with a bar. Window blinds are encapsulated between double-paned glass and electrically operated. Locker doors are bifolds with frosted glass. Bill Higgins has designed horizontally opening compartments in cherry similar to the overheads on an airplane to increase storage and reduce the space that an open door takes up in the common living area. There are no sharp corners below — the first commandment of interior design of an aircraft, Higgins says. Hanging lockers are cedar-lined.

The master stateroom has two heads with a shower between them. He says the Huckins joinery is impeccable. “I’ve seen a lot of custom woodwork, and this is really something.”

On the bridge, helm seats are by sportscar maker Porsche, and the windshield is large, with fewer mullions for better visibility.

Buddy Purcell says the collaboration with the Higgins was a congenial one, which isn’t always the case if there’s a lot of arguing with an owner over what is possible and what is not. “I believe each boat has a soul, and this boat has a happy soul,” says Purcell.

The Higginses are happy, too.

“We wanted this to be a classic cruiser on the outside and 21st century on the inside,” says Peggy Higgins. That’s what they have.