Activity in American Boatbuilding

Author:
Updated:
Original:
The Sou’Wester 53 is the first new cruising boat from Hinckley in many years   

The Sou’Wester 53 is the first new cruising boat from Hinckley in many years   

Heaven knows there hasn’t been much in the way of good news from American boatbuilders for quite some time, so a burst of new-model announcements in the spring was welcome indeed.

If you’ve been wondering what Hinckley has been up to, check out the rendering on this page. The new Sou’Wester 53 is a welcome return to big cruising yachts for the iconic brand, and it’s an interesting combination of traditional and up-to-the-minute styling and design.

Naval architects Tripp Design have drawn a bluff-bowed hull with its beam carried well aft to a generous stern overhang. Construction is a vacuum-infused epoxy resin/carbon fiber/Kevlar/Corecell foam composite, akin to that used in high-end raceboats. A powerful triple-spreader carbon fiber rig should do justice to the fast-looking hull.

The open transom and large pilothouse sound like an incongruous pairing, but the effect works well. The intention was to maximize both interior and exterior socializing spaces, and to that end, the large cockpit and deck saloon are separated by sliding doors. There are panoramic views from the dinette, a raised galley and an interior helm station. Descend a short companionway and you find two large staterooms; there’s a third, single cabin aft and to port. Due to be launched next year, the Sou’Wester 53 is sure to create a stir.

Meanwhile, since Hinckley purchased Morris Yachts a couple of years back, things have been quiet, but no more. The line of gorgeous S&S-designed M-series daysailers is now being built in epoxy resin and carbon fiber, shaving weight and adding strength to these modern classics. Expect a performance boost from that and from the revised rudder, rig and deck layouts.

Gerry Douglas shows off the plug for the new Catalina 525   

Gerry Douglas shows off the plug for the new Catalina 525   

Down Florida way, Catalina Yachts has been producing a steady stream of its 5-series cruisers, with the 425, in particular, having hit a sweet spot in the market. Catalina VP and chief designer Gerry Douglas had for some time been pondering a larger boat, and when he produced the preliminary drawings of the Catalina 525 at last year’s Annapolis show the response was gratifying. Enough commitments were signed for work to commence.

When I visited Catalina’s Seminole, Florida, plant in March, hand-fairing was just about complete on the plug, which looked massive. The 525 is essentially a larger version of the 425—a capable all-round cruising yacht—with an aft cockpit and masthead rig, but with enough interior volume to have Douglas playing with lots of options for final deck plan and accommodation layouts. The boat should make its debut at next year’s Miami show.

Island Packet owners gathered for a factory open house in March   

Island Packet owners gathered for a factory open house in March   

Just around the corner in Largo, Florida, is another long-established American builder, Island Packet Yachts. The lengthy recession and drop in new-boat sales took its toll on the company; to cut a long story short, owner Bob Johnson sold the company two years ago to Hake Marine, builders of Seaward Yachts, which is now in the hands of longtime San Diego IP dealers Darrell and Leslie Allen.

Taking over a struggling boatbuilding company is always a brave move, but it looks like it’s paying off for the Allens. They are planning to develop new boats, but for the time being are tweaking some of the established models in the range, adding new features including—gasp—the option of different colors than the traditional mustard-hued gelcoat. Along with the upgrades come new model names. The range starts at 35ft and goes up to 52ft. The SP Cruiser (now the North Star 44) and Blue Jacket 40 remain in the range, and the company is also building the Seaward 36 and 32 variable draft cruisers.

Going by the reactions of a group of IP dealers, owners and prospective customers I met during an open house day at the factory in March the moves are popular, and at time of writing the Allens had sold 15 boats. As longtime Island Packet dealers, they have a great feel for their market, and the future looks good for Island Packet, which turns 40 next year.

Speaking of long-established builders, Rhode Island-based Alerion Yachts, founded by Garry Hoyt in 1991, has also risen from the ashes of a bankruptcy. The company and its assets were purchased late last year by Peter Johnstone, late of Gunboat and a member of the J/Boats family, and the line of pretty modern daysailers and weekenders will be produced in a new factory in North Kingstown.

The pretty Alerion Express 28 has been upgraded for its 30th birthday   

The pretty Alerion Express 28 has been upgraded for its 30th birthday   

The new team’s first project was to modernize the Alerion Express 28 to mark the 30th anniversary of this classic design, touted by many as the ideal daysailer. There’s now more room belowdecks and the build process has been refined to decrease weight.

Aside from the 28, the lineup consists of the Alerion Express 20, 30, 33 and 41. Johnstone says the focus will be on building boats of the highest quality rather than aiming at a broader market. 

Tartan 495

Tartan 495

Meanwhile, on the shores of Lake Erie there are signs of a new resurgence for another storied name, Tartan Yachts. Last year the Fairport Harbor, Ohio-based builder launched the 345, an updated version of its popular 3400 model, and this year sees the introduction of two new boats, the 39ft 395 and the 36ft 365. Both are good-looking boats with a strong sibling resemblance to designer Tim Jackett’s other models. Jackett is also working up a design for a center cockpit 49-footer that is a definite departure for the brand.

CONTACTS

Alerion Yachts alerionyachts.com

Catalina Yachts catalinayachts.com

Hinckley Yachts hinckleyyachts.com

Island Packet Yachts ipy.com

Tartan Yachts tartanyachts.com

June 2018

Related

Shelly-forward-last-day

Charter Advice for First-Timers

Never chartered? No worries. A vacation under sail can be the most memorable time of your life. That said, it also pays to be prepared by doing some reading, building your skills and listening to what the experts say. First and foremost, not all charter grounds are created ...read more

HugoBoss

Video: Vendeé Update

Last week Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) led the fleet across the equator. As one of the class' top sailors who's been on the Vendeé Podium twice, it seemed possible that Thomson was going to grab an early lead and hold on to it all the way around the world. But early on Saturday, he ...read more

AdobeStock_229409051

Chartering Again for the First Time

It’s been a rocky road of late for the charter industry, especially here in the Western Hemisphere. First came hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean followed by Dorian in the Bahamas. There has also, of course, been the coronavirus, which burst into global prominence ...read more

01 LEAD cedaryachtclub_onedesign18_hike

An Interview with Ayme Sinclair

In recent months, US Sailing, like many organizations, has been taking a closer look at diversity to ensure it’s doing the best job it can of introducing people from all backgrounds and ethnicities to the sport. As part of this effort, this past summer it organized an online ...read more

125768940_10222759720523627_5373654001582879638_n

US Sailing Presents Adaptive Sailing Panel

On Tuesday, November 24, US Sailing’s Leadership Forum will present the latest panel discussion in their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion series. This event will focus on adaptive sailing and provide practical recommendations for organizations looking to expand their adaptive ...read more

02-IMG_5971

A Carbon Neutral Circumnav with Jimmy Cornell

Historic anniversaries have always held a special fascination for me, especially if they mark a significant nautical achievement. In 1992, on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ would-be voyage to India, I organized a transatlantic rally that followed the historic route of the ...read more

DJI_0068

SAIL Podcast: Jimmy Cornell’s Carbon-free Circumnav

In this episode of Point of SAIL, Principal Editor Adam Cort talks with bestselling author and pioneering bluewater sailor Jimmy Cornell, who set out November 19 on yet another circumnavigation aboard a newly designed, carbon-neutral Outremer 4Zero catamaran. The voyage, which ...read more

emirates-600x

Emirates Team New Zealand Splashes the last of the AC75s

Emirates Team New Zealand unveiled its second-generation AC75 yesterday, joining the other three America's Cup teams with boats in the water. In just over 100 days, this boat will attempt to defend the Cup for the Kiwis, but there's plenty of racing between now and then, with ...read more