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Tradition meets innovation on new Down East yachts

I recently got a glimpse of Hinckley’s latest project when I walked through a full-scale mock-up of the builder’s new Talaria 43, which will make its debut sometime next spring or summer.

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The T43 express strikes a nice balance between open space in the saloon and cockpit for socializing and day cruising and generous accommodations below for overnight cruising. The proportions and distinctive “look” are what you’d expect from a builder that understands how to create beautiful boats.

New product is the lifeblood not only for Hinckley but also for most of the successful companies in this popular segment collectively known as the Down East builders. As many as a dozen new boats have been introduced in the last year, and more are on the drawing boards or in the early stages of product development. That’s good news if you’re a fan of the genre, as I am.

If you’re not familiar with this category, don’t let the traditional styling fool you into thinking these are the Down East boats of yore. The top builders in this niche have done a good job of blending tradition, technology and innovation.

The days of slow, wet, round-bilged lobster “yachts” just a step or two removed from their pot-hauling workboat cousins are mostly gone. Instead you have a dozen or more builders turning out everything from simple, fun, 18-foot outboard skiffs to fast, smooth-riding 50-foot yachts that are a nice mix of traditional craftsmanship and forward-leaning boatbuilding.

Teak, mahogany and Herreshoff interiors live in peace and harmony with Kevlar, pod drives and resin-infused hulls. These are not your grandfather’s lobster yachts, but rest assured, if you want to go that route, it’s still available, too.

The segment is healthy and growing, both here and abroad. Numerous interpretations of the distinctive homegrown Down East express style have appeared on boats built in Turkey (Vicem Yachts), Australia (Palm Beach Motor Yachts), Italy (Mochi Craft) and elsewhere.

The boats appeal to a broad clientele, many of whom have owned several boats and are now looking for something more distinctive, something out of the mainstream. They also appeal to former sailors and others looking for a seakindly, fuel-efficient alternative to what has been the norm. “People are exhausted with the sneaker look,” one New England builder told me.

Here’s a short list of new launches: Back Cove Downeast 37; Grand Banks 50 Eastbay SX; Bruckmann Yachts Abaco 40; Zurn 50 by New England Boatworks; Lyman-Morse Monhegan 42; Palm Beach Express 45; and the little 22-foot Sisu by Eastern Boats.

Remember, these boats come on the heels of the Hinckley T34, the Hunt 44 and the Sabre 48. In addition to the Hinckley T43, new boats scheduled for next year include a new 50-plus-footer from Sabre, the MJM 50z and others.

“That’s been the secret,” says Bruce Perkins, the sales manager at Eastern Boats, which builds four lines of Down East boats from 18 to 35 feet under the Eastern, Seaway, Rosborough and Sisu brands (see Page 56). “We just keep coming up with new product every year.”

Walking through the mock-up of the T43 provided Hinckley CEO Jim McManus with a good opportunity to talk about the company’s philosophy on new-boat development and what makes a Hinckley a Hinckley. “It starts with the aesthetics,” McManus says. “They have to be stunningly beautiful boats.”

The second element is craftsmanship, and the third is performance, meaning light, fast, seaworthy boats. The last element of a successful Down East builder is great service: Hinckley has seven service yards from Maine to Florida. “The product is the brand,” McManus says. “The legacy is in the craftsmanship.”

The new T43 will be available with twin Cummins QSB 550 6.7 diesels and Hamilton jetdrives or the optional Volvo IPS 600 package. Hinckley has presold five T43s at a price of about $1.575 million. Among the innovations is a fully retractable glass door and windows between the saloon and cockpit, eliminating the traditional drop curtain. With the push of a button, the aft end of the house disappears, and the inside and outside are connected. Pretty cool.

Depending on your taste and budget, you can find one of these New England-style boats with as much or as little paraphernalia, regalia or what powerboat writer Eric Sorensen likes to call “fluff” as you’d like.

The winds were not strong, but they were sudden, like feints from a watchful cat. The sea was oily and overstill, as though it held itself back. “It’s a weather breeder,” Niels pronounced.”

— Desmond Holdridge

November 2013 issue