IN THEIR WORDS
When buying a boat, there’s sometimes a precarious moment when you’re almost certain this is the one you want. But you’re looking for a reason to buy this particular boat, something that pushes you over the edge, a sign that this is the one. For Richard Lewis, it was the voice of his grandfather.
“When I was 6 or 7 years old, my grandfather used to take me to Babylon on the south shore of Long Island to go fishing,” says Lewis, 58, president of Richard Lewis Communications, a New York marketing and communications firm. “There was a boat dealership [we passed], and they had these Luhrs powerboats up on blocks. I just loved the hull, the line, the look. I’d always had those boats in the back of my mind.”
When Lewis found a 1968 Luhrs 32 Sedan Express for sale, he thought he’d found the family-and-fishing boat he’d been looking for. While looking it over, he got an impression of his late grandfather. “He was a cigar smoker, and the day I was looking at this boat for the first time, my brother Ralph and I were inside the cabin, opening drawers and checking it all out,” recalls Lewis. “The drawer nearest the pilot wheel opened [and inside] was a cigar case with a single cigar still in it, still wrapped. We looked at each other and both kind of said the same thing: ‘Grandpop’s been here, and this is the boat he wants us to have.’ ”
It was the start of a long relationship. Lewis paid $10,000 for the 32-footer, and after more than 20 years, it’s “become an extension of myself,” he says.
Lewis, who lives in Manhattan, keeps the boat at World’s Fair Marina in Flushing near LaGuardia Airport, so it’s handy for cruises around Manhattan and up the Hudson River. He’s also become an avid fisherman. “My passion is striped bass fishing in the [Long Island] Sound and in the East River,” says Lewis. “All are part of an extraordinary fishery and provide spectacular places to fish.”
The Luhrs is a perfect fishing and cruising platform, says Lewis. “The entire cabin has at least 6 feet, 2 inches of headroom,” he says. “There’s plenty of storage space, a head and shower, and a dinette.” The boat can sleep up to six people.
Lewis fishes at all hours of the day or night, and the deck layout and equipment, including a reliable anchor and windlass, make it a safe experience. “The cockpit is over 100 square feet, the boat has rails at just the right height, and the gunwales are wide so there’s plenty of walk room,” he says.
The Luhrs performs well, too, operating efficiently at the various speeds needed for fishing. Power comes from twin 360 Chrysler gas engines. “It can go 2 mph and be happy, it can cruise comfortably at 18 to 20 mph, and it can get up and go when it has to,” says Lewis. “Three or four years ago my GPS said 35 mph, wide open and with the current.”
Lewis has done a few things to the boat over the years without changing it too much. The only major work was in replacing the decks and the cabin bulkhead. He’s also added a Bimini top and installed a rod holder next to the wheel on the flybridge. Electronics include a Magellan hand-held GPS, Icom VHF, Uniden hand-held VHF, and SI-TEX 106 color fishfinder.
Best of all, says Lewis, the Luhrs is seaworthy. “The previous owner thought nothing of going out to the Hudson Canyon fishing, and that’s about 70 miles offshore,” he says. “It’s certainly brought me home from every storm I’ve been in. I can’t see getting another boat.”
The Luhrs 32 Sedan, with its curves and swept-back shape, reflects the days long before Euro styling. It has a clipper bow and a gentle sheer that maintains the boat’s freeboard all the way to the straight transom. The cabin and bridge are well proportioned, and the double side windows and large three-section windshield are not only distinctive but give good sightlines from the interior helm station.
The cabin takes advantage of the boat’s 12-foot, 6-inch beam and 6-foot, 2-inch headroom. There’s an enclosed head compartment with a manual marine head, a shower and a sink, and storage in a vertical locker. The saloon area has a raised dinette with bench seating for up to six, and the entire unit converts to a double bunk with cushions. Across the way to starboard, Lewis converted a fold-down convertible couch into a permanent seat. “It’s still a comfortable place to take a nap,” he says.
Lewis’ galley arrangement is simple with just a sink and built-in refrigerator, but there’s room for a stove or microwave. The Luhrs 32 has plenty of teak throughout.
Comforts aside, it’s the 100-square-foot cockpit that’s helped make the Luhrs 32 a popular boat for anglers. It also provides space for a family to spread out on a weekend cruise. The standard twin 225-hp Chrysler gas engines were mounted below the deck, along with a pair of 70-gallon fuel tanks.
It takes a bit of looking, but there are more than a few of the old Luhrs 32s out there, many on the East Coast and a few in the Midwest. Four boats that turned up in a search of the Soundings classifieds were less than $20,000. The oldest was a 1969 model in Connecticut, listed as “in good shape” with twin Chrysler 225s, dockside power, a portable head and plenty of storage. With depth sounder, VHF and swim platform among the extras, it was priced at $10,000. A 1971 model in Ohio was listed at $18,000, with a new engine paired with a rebuilt one (both Chrysler 225s), new upholstery and bridge cover, and a depth sounder and chart plotter. A 1973 32 in Maine with twin Pleasurecraft 225s, a Coast Guard safety gear package, depth sounder and VHF, galley with refrigerator and stove, and a head with shower was listed at $13,900. The “newest” was a 1976 vintage for sale in Massachusetts, also for $13,900, with twin Chrysler 225s, a full head with a shower, and a full galley with microwave, stove and refrigerator. Electronics included a depth sounder, VHF and GPS.
The Luhrs name has been associated with U.S. boatbuilding for seven generations, ever since Henry Luhrs came over from his native Germany and set up shop as a New York shipbuilder in 1830. The family later moved to the New Jersey coast and in the 1930s, as Henry Luhrs Sea Skiff Co., made a name for themselves building the popular regional boats.
As the trade turned to fiberglass, Luhrs built a series of successful fishing boats that gradually became known beyond their East Coast roots. By the 1960s, Luhrs was producing yearly more than 1,000 open and cabin boats for fishing, cruising and day tripping. The 32 Sedan Express is typical of Luhrs’ boats at that time — midsize, simple, sturdy and seaworthy, and generally affordable.
The Luhrs family sold the company at the height of its success, and in the 1970s, Henry’s sons, Warren and John Luhrs, developed their own companies, Hunter Marine (sailboats) and Mainship (trawlers). Today, the family and the name are reunited, and the Luhrs Marine Group is parent company for Silverton, Luhrs and Mainship powerboats, as well as Hunter sailboats.
LOA: 32 feet
BEAM: 12 feet, 6 inches
DRAFT: 3 feet
Weight: 15,000 pounds
Hull Type: modified-vee
TANKAGE: 140 gallons fuel,
10 gallons water
ORIGINAL PROPULSION: twin Chrysler gas engines
St. Augustine, Fla. Phone: (800) 248-2980. www.luhrs.com