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Celebrating small boats on a long summer’s day

The three of us were running west through Vineyard Sound on one of those spectacular days that appear after a cold front has rumbled through. The air was scrubbed clean, and a freshening westerly had turned the sound into a rolling pasture of whitecaps and spray.

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We had left Cuttyhunk Island off Massachusetts with local charter captain Duane Lynch, searching for a bit of a lee in which to fish, but it was not to be, as the wind continued to build despite the forecast. No surprise there. A big heave was on at the spot where we had hoped to wet a line, so Lynch wisely decided to pull the plug and head back to the barn.

We passed through Quicks Hole and started beating along the south side of Nashawena Island, one of the Elizabeth Islands. Seas were a healthy 5 to 6 feet, vertical as steeples, and the shore was a riot of breaking waves.

We powered up the steep faces and slid down the backs. I learned a long time ago how much easier any job becomes if you have the right tool. Today, we were in the right small boat for the conditions: a SeaCraft 23 center console, a seakindly deep-vee that in the right hands can thread its way through some pretty big water. And Lynch ran the outboard boat smartly, as you’d expect of someone who lives year-round on a small New England island and grew up with plenty of current, fog, wind, nasty Buzzards Bay chop and a ton of submerged glacial rock.

It was bright and sunny, and we talked fishing and boats as we read the waves and flexed our knees and crawled along the lee shore. I was happy my 12-year-old son could see this rough, broken coastline on a day like this, lovely with all the surf and spray and towering bluffs. And from a boat like the SeaCraft, small but capable.

It’s been a nice small-boat summer.

My son spent much of July and August taking sailing lessons at a small boat club on the Connecticut River, nirvana for young kids who like tippy boats, getting wet and learning while having fun. And this year he kept his own Laser at the club; sailing that little boat has bolstered his confidence and left him with a new sense of independence. I watched him skipper his sister and mother back to the dock after taking them on a late afternoon sail. He loaded his boat onto its dolly and dragged it up the launch ramp to its summer home on the grass. He couldn’t have been more proud. Later, he said, “Dad, I want to design a sailboat.”


In the same small-boat vein, I got to play around recently with a nifty new 17-footer from Rossiter Boats of Markdale, Ontario. It’s the largest powerboat the company has built, available as either a runabout with a closed foredeck and windshield or a center console. The hull is unique in that it has 22 degrees of deadrise at the transom (more than one typically finds in a boat this size), a design feature that gives it a better ride in sloppy conditions. A lifting pad runs about one third of the way up the keel from the transom. And power ranges from a modest 90-hp outboard to a 115, with top speeds from 43 mph to upward of 50 depending on horsepower.

Rossiter 17

Rossiter Boats owner Scott Hanson summarized what consumers told him they were looking for in a boat today: “I want to run efficiently and safely but without big Detroit iron.” And, he added, “In some cases, they were saying, ‘Give me something simple.’ Some have said its simplicity is its beauty.”

This “big” 17 is handsome, runs well, and the fit-and-finish is top shelf. Base price with a 90 Yamaha and no trailer is $36,000. “It’s a generational boat,” Hanson told me. “Not a here today, gone tomorrow boat.” For information, visit

“After all, there are

dangers ashore also.

In fact, I had found

that the dangers of the

sea were mostly ashore.”

— Erling Tambs

This article originally appeared in the September 2012 issue.