IN THEIR WORDS
John Potvin was always the enthusiastic sailor in the family, racing a Catalina 27 at events around his Annapolis, Md., home port and taking off for such adventures as the Newport-Bermuda Race and Key West Race Week.
His wife, Patricia, was less enthusiastic about boating. Oyster Stew changed all that. In 1999 the Potvins sold their sailboat and made the move to power. Their choice for the big change was a Wasque 32, a single-engine weekend cruiser with New England roots that’s been attracting followers since the first was built in Massachusetts some 30 years ago. Based on a Martha’s Vineyard lobster boat, the Wasque 32 (usually pronounced WAY-skwee) is noted for its large cockpit, and the basic layout includes a V-berth, enclosed head, and galley with sink, stove and counter space.
The switch has been successful. In the last six years the Potvins have cruised their home waters from Baltimore to Norfolk, Va., used Oyster Stew as a committee boat for local sailraces (John remains active), and attended local events, including a Christmas boat parade at the Eastport Yacht Club.
“Our real love now is going out on Oyster Stew to take in a sunset, or a calm creek on a moonlit night, or do race committee,” he says.
The Wasque 32 debuted in the mid-1970s, and Oyster Stew is an early one, built in 1978. Potvin, attracted to the traditional look and its reputation for seaworthiness, got wind of the boat through a sailing friend and paid around $60,000 for it. An additional $35,000 was spent repowering and bringing her back to Bristol fashion.
The boat was fundamentally sound when Potvin bought it, yet still had its problems. “The electric system was a patchwork of wires,” says Potvin, a 50-year-old property manager. “The [160-hp Peters diesel] engine could only power the boat to a maximum speed of about 11 knots, she smoked, and the interior had seen better days.”
It was nothing that the folks at Black Dog Boatworks in Denton, Md., couldn’t fix, says Potvin. The boat was rewired, a new 235-hp Yanmar diesel installed, the interior redecorated, and a swim platform added. New electronics include radar and a chart plotter/depth sounder. “When she came back, she was fully found,” says Potvin. “Now, she gets unbelievable salutes everywhere she goes. The powerboaters wave, the sailors wave, even the watermen wave.”
Oyster Stew tops out around 24 mph, with a cruising speed of around 20 mph that gives the boat a range of about 350 miles with its 100-gallon fuel load, according to Potvin.
Potvin had heard about the Wasque’s seakeeping qualities and experienced them first-hand during a trip to Norfolk to visit his son-in-law, who’s in the Coast Guard. “We left Solomons, and the wind was blowing out of the west at about 25 knots,” recalls Potvin. “At the entrance to the York River, the waves became extremely steep, and water was shipping in the boat. We made it into the Coast Guard station, [and noticed] a large group of Coast Guard boats still in their slips. ‘It’s too rough for us out there,’ one sailor said.”
Oyster Stew has a reputation as a race committee boat, too, working the Volvo Ocean Race and the Mumm Worlds, as well as the local Annapolis Yacht Club Fall Series. Still, there’s nothing like taking the boat out on a pleasant day when there’s nothing particular to do, says Potvin. Best of all Patricia now enjoys boating as much as he does. “It’s started a new chapter in our boating life,” he says.
The Wasque 32 doesn’t hide its workboat roots. The profile shows the high bow and graceful sheer of the lobster boats and open bass boats favored by New England anglers. The sheer leads to a low transom with a trace of tumblehome. The coach roof is pierced by three ports and topped by a distinctive wood-framed windscreen. The semidisplacement hull has a deep forefoot and sharp entry, gradually flattening out to a beamy transom. A long keel emerges amidships, ending in a skeg that protects the prop.
The cockpit is “self-sufficient and business-like,” as one original reviewer called it. There’s room to work a fish, as well as add extras, like tackle stations or bait wells. In the basic version, rod holders were mounted to port and starboard, and racks were built into the cockpit sides, under the gunwales. Wide covering boards and coach roof hand rails helped in accessing the bow. The helm station is to starboard, well-protected by the oversized windscreen. The cockpit engine box doubles as a work surface when fishing, and as a sunpad or a table at anchor.
A centerline companionway leads to the cabin below. The basic layout included a
V-berth forward with a hanging locker. The galley was to port amidships, laid out with a stove, sink and room for an icebox or under-counter refrigerator. The enclosed head compartment had a marine head and a sink. A four-berth model turned the Wasque 32 into a boat on which “a family of four might cruise comfortably,” as one writer put it.
Finding a preowned Wasque 32 isn’t easy, but with persistence the boats can be
located throughout New England. A 1973 model home-ported in Massachusetts was selling for around $78,000, powered by a single 270-hp Crusader gas engine (16-mph cruising speed) and with twin 40-gallon fuel tanks. The boat has a custom cabin layout and sleeps four. The hull is black Awlgrip, the exterior teak has been done over, and the cabin has bronze ports. Extras include shore power and new electronics. A ’73 in Maine was priced at around $89,000. The cabin layout features a V-berth stateroom and a galley amidships with two-burner stove, oven and a refrigerator. Power comes from a 1989 240-hp Perkins diesel with around 1,500 hours, fueled by two new 50-gallon tanks. Extras include new side curtains, dinghy davits and hydraulic steering. The exterior trim recently had been refinished. In Connecticut, a 1979 Wasque 32 was available for $69,900, power-
ed by a 240-hp Perkins diesel and equipped with a full slate of electronics, including depth sounder, VHF, GPS and plotter. Fishing gear includes rod holders and a live well, and the boat has spreader lights and a hardtop. Below, it sleeps four in a V-berth cabin and convertible dinette. The galley has a two-burner stove and an icebox. Extras include an Imron hull and shore power.
The Wasque 32 is bred from a fishing boat of humble origins. In the 1960s Martha’s Vineyard angler David Thompson and three of his friends would fish together, taking local boats to various spots around the island for bluefish, stripers and other quarry. One of their favorite locations was off Wasque Point and, as fishermen do, they talked as they fished, about building a better fishing boat.
The four decided to use a local lobster boat as the basis for their new vessel and to build it out of that “new-fangled fiberglass.” They named the boat after the point, and Thompson built the first Wasque 32 for himself in 1969, fishing it extensively for six years before selling it. In the meantime, the boat developed a reputation as a solid fishing vessel, reliable and seaworthy, says Chris Hood, president of C.W. Hood in Marblehead, Mass., which builds a little sister to the 32, the Wasque 26 (www.cwhoodyachts.com). In the following years, some 60 or 70 of the 32s were built. But the trend to deep-vee hulls led the company to close down in the mid-1980s. The 32 mold was sold to a Californian but was destroyed in a trucking accident, and no more Wasque 32s have been built. Based on the boat’s continued popularity, C.W. Hood is considering reintroducing the 32, perhaps in a slightly more modern version.