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Calling the Huckins Sportsman 36 design retro would be superficial

Boatbuilders like to trade on their heritage because it helps attract and hold an enthusiastic crowd of owners.

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Each builder works diligently to create an unmistakable and lasting identity, adjusting details throughout the years to stay on top of trends in styling and engineering. No builder does this better than Huckins Yacht because none has this company’s rich naval architectural and styling pedigree, exhibited here in the Sportsman 36.

Huckins Sportsman 36 LOA: 36 feet, 4 inches BEAM: 12 feet, 2 inches DRAFT: 3 feet DISPLACEMENT: 18,000 pounds TANKAGE: 300 gallons fuel, 60 gallons water, 35 gallons waste POWER: twin 315-hp Yanmar diesels or equivalent TOP SPEED: 30 knots (calculated) CONTACT: Huckins Yacht, Jacksonville, Florida, (904) 389-1125.

Huckins owns one of the boating world’s most distinctive identities and has, over the years, successfully cashed in on its value without producing a single caricature. A number of years ago, I fell in love with the Atlantic 44 — a red yacht that I helped deliver from the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show to Huckins’ home on the Ortega River in Jacksonville, Florida. Nowadays, what can I say? This Sportsman 36 threatens to ruin my life, mostly because she’s out of my price range. Her design team has married a handful of art deco themes — the most appealing of which is the flow of the superstructure’s sail panels from the windshield to the transom — with a seamanlike bow and subtle sheer line. 

That’s barely half the story. Huckins has wisely raised the freeboard forward of the house to provide headroom in the master suite’s head, the galley one step up on the starboard side and helm opposite. This is a perfect arrangement for keeping the chef part of the boat’s social circle instead of confining him to the depths of the galley’s leper colony.

Creating headroom in the bowels of a midsize boat often compromises her exterior profile, but the design team at Huckins thumbed its nose at the trade-offs. As the trunk cabin rises from the deck, its leading edge gains height at exactly the right incline. Elongated portlights peering over the rail reduce the perception of mass and make us wish we were privy to that view.

Although the sheer line isn’t straight, the subtle spring from the stem to the break perfectly supports the Sportsman’s place on the Huckins family tree. Sloping the sail panels at the after ends of the house eliminates the perception of bulk in the aft third of her profile — and extends a hand to welcome us aboard.

If I owned a Sportsman 36, I’d be tempted to spend all my time circumnavigating her in the dinghy, admiring the way her design elements play so well with one another. Of course, that would be a shame since it would rob us of the delights that make a Huckins a true example of the breed. Every Huckins I’ve driven feels a natural part of her environment, and once you’ve reached cruising speed, the two of you will want to motor on until the fuel tanks run dry.

This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue.