*** Fasten your seat belts ***

A bumpy night, indeed! Clearly Bette Davis wasn’t talking about boats here (we all know what she was talking about).  But talking,  writing and selling boats is what I do. So this week The Fog Warning turns to the timely subject of hull construction. Specifically, an analysis of cold molded vs. fiberglass construction methods.

Let’s start with a video. Here’s a [cold molded] Vicem 72 doing 26 knots through 7 foot waves (and 30 knot winds), somewhere off the Chesapeake. Watch (and try to imagine the feel) as the boat comes off each wave, burying its substantial bow:

Wait, I say! Where’s the Archimedean (spellcheck assures me this is a real word) crash of 60,000 pounds of boat suddenly displacing 250,000 pounds of water? Where’s that teeth and kidney-rattling thump? And how does that laptop just sit there, unsecured, on the nav table? These questions all have the same answer: cold molded construction.

Here’s another example, bringing a [cold molded] Vicem 78 from Fort Lauderdale to Miami (yah, that’s me dating myself with the Victory at Sea comment). It’s deceiving, as this is a bigger, heavier boat than the 72, but these are 8 footers, with a few 9’s thrown in for effect:

To quote Aretha Franklin, my eternal Queen of Soul:

Rock steady! 

Steady enough that a helicopter could have landed on our deck, first attempt.

As an aside, that sort of ride can lull you into a bit of ill-advised complacency. When we reached Miami we had to plan a starboard turn into Government Cut.  We belatedly appreciated how rough those conditions were, and how critical the timing of that turn had to be (those were not waves we wanted to stay broadside to for very long).  But we throttled back, cruised along until we found a longer fetch, and did a fast power turn right into the channel. Peace of cake.

Got it? Cold molded construction is all about the ride.

In my hundreds of hours of running cold molded boats, all over the world in all sorts of conditions, I’ve experienced very few instances of pounding. Here’s an eye-opening and stomach-churning clip about pounding, offered for definitional purposes only:


The rare instance I had came when dodging a fierce lightening storm off Croatia, running too fast for the conditions. (Lightening strikes were hitting the water randomly, and I’d do it exactly that way again, all things considered.)

Notwithstanding that day (it’s become a great scene in my novel), if you blindfolded me aboard a test boat I could tell you with near 100% certainty if she was of fiberglass or cold molded construction. So too could most of my owners and captains. When the issue is ride, cold molded is better, every time. Why? Because the hulls are designed to flex, to squeeze themselves through difficult waters rather than hammer themselves through. It’s a thrilling feeling.

So then, what exactly is cold molded construction? Personally, I prefer the term “Composite Construction.” But I recognize that can be confusing to many (“Wait Dave, I thought fiberglass is composite construction?”).  So let’s stick with “cold molded” for today.

It’s lunchtime here in the snowy Hamptons, and I’m writing in front of my fireplace, thinking about sandwiches. Which, whether cold molded or fiberglass, is exactly what a modern hull is. In fiberglass hulls the “meat” that makes up the inner layer is hi-tech foam. The outer layers (the bread, if you will) are fiberglass cloth, saturated in resin or epoxy. When everything cures, you end up with a bonded sandwich, much lighter and stronger than a hull built of solid fiberglass.

With cold molded, the “meat” is thin strips of solid mahogany, four or five layers’ thick, saturated in epoxy. Then, as above, the outer layers (inside and out) are fiberglass cloth. The strength comes largely from the way the the mahogany layers run in alternating directions, like this:


This method works brilliantly up to about 120 feet. At mega yacht size, boats tend to twist laterally as they rock and roll, and every component must be designed and built to handle that movement. It’s easier to accommodate that twisting with fiberglass, steel and aluminum construction. But make no mistake, very large yachts have been built with these mahogany cores:

[This is a good place to note that Reliant Yachts and SuMarine (our builder in Turkey) has the expertise and experience to design and build everything up to and including mega yachts — from expedition yachts to the fastest of the go-fasts — in fiberglass, steel and aluminum as well. Call me for the details.]

So a sandwich is a sandwich. But, as we’ve seen,  cold molded gives you that great ride. It’s also:

  • Lighter  (which means you can go faster with the same engines;
  • Stronger, both torsionally and for impact-resistance;
  • Quieter (nothing beats the natural sound-deadening qualities of wood);
  • More insulated against heat and cold;
  • Doesn’t need a gelcoat, so gelcoat blisters are moot;
  • Cheaper (there’s no need to build an expensive mold) if your skilled labor costs are low; and,
  • It gives you that romantic (if not technically accurate) thrill of connecting yourself to thousands of years of navigating wooden boats. That romance is easier to show than to describe:

The flip side, you may ask? I’ve spent  all morning trying to come up with the disadvantages of cold molded construction, and I’ve come up with only one: The comparative lack of familiarity with the technology, making re-sale more challenging. That’s where….

Warning: Self Serving Statement Ahead

….an informed broker can be your best friend.

Which sandwich would you like? At Reliant Yachts, each of our models is available in either cold molded or fiberglass.

Fiberglass costs more, of course (remember that mold?).  But if — like Bette Davis —   bumpy nights turn you on, we’re happy to build it exactly your way.  Please feel free to call me  (or see me aboard our Commuter 40 at the Palm Beach Show next week) for the details on any particular boat.

So that’s it for this week. Thanks, as always, for indulging me.  And stay tuned for the next edition of The Fog Warning, where I talk about presidential yachts —


— and, after much urging from you, my loyal clients,  I begin a four-part series on the history of downeast boats. Hmmm, someone should write such a book, no?

The season approaches, so enjoy!

Big Wave Dave


PS: I must leave you with a small gift: The original Rock Steady!



This week I’d like to talk about the challenges of great boat design, and take you on a photo safari of downeast boats. I believe you’ll see the method to my madness. And if not, at least you got to look at some pretty pictures.

But first, a video of unparalleled artistry.  It’s a clip of two consummate professionals working just about as hard as anyone possibly can. It’s one of my favorites, and I’m curious if you’ll see what I see — that one of these guys is just a touch quicker, sharper, and smoother than the other. They’re both perfect, of course, but one of them just seems to make it look ….. easier!

Yes, some can make it look easy. The same can be said about great downeast boat designs. You, my loyal clients, have no lack of choice in the marketplace. Many of your choices are beautiful, and a few are truly stunning (like Gene Kelly, the best designs just stand apart from the rest). I don’t know anything about dancing (just ask my girlfriend), but with boats I see home runs and base hits every day. The difference between the two can be hard to articulate. But as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said about pornography:

“I can’t define it. But I know it when I see it!”

Every designer would hit a home run every time, if they could. That they don’t isn’t a failure of imagination or artistry. It’s just that it’s freaking hard to design a boat that looks great and runs great. I’ll be talking about this challenge a lot in the months to come.  Today’s focus is “the long and the sleek” of it all.

My own view is that a designer has to struggle to balance three things, all starting with the letter V:

  • Volume (as in interior)
  • Visibility (as in, from the helm)
  • Sex appeal (as in, Va-Va-Va-Voom!)

I see them as a triangle (Dave’s Magic Triangle?) where it’s not too difficult to have any two you want. But getting all three is quite rare. It requires a mix of art, science, luck, and a serious budget.

So, for example, you can have all the interior volume you want, with great helm visibility, but it’ll probably have a tall and clunky look. Not a lot of Va-Va-Va-Voom to be found.

Or you could design all the sexiness one can imagine, with excellent visibility, but at the expense of limited interior space.

It’s like that great joke from comedian Steven Wright:

“You can’t have everything…. where would you put it?”

It’s an even tougher target when you account for the fact that boats get up and go! Long and sleek boats sacrifice visibility at the helm whenever they get up on plane. Visibility at speed is one of my pet concerns with boats. Which is why whenever I sea trial a new boat the first thing I do is tape one of these smiley-face things to the helm. It shows me the exact angle of incline at cruise speed. For the record, IMHO,

  • 6% or 8% is a disappointment.
  • 5% is good.
  • 4% is excellent.
  • 3.5% is a little bit of design heaven!

Anyway, my point is that in order to get all three competing sides of this triangle to balance, to achieve that certain magic that some yachts have, the designer needs to essentially fool your eyes:

  • Presenting that sexy look we crave;
  • Putting the helmsman’s eyes high enough above the water to spot those hard and terrible things that can suddenly pop up in front of us at 30 knots; and,
  • Preserving enough interior volume so that you and your guests are still speaking at the end of a long nautical weekend.

It’s hard to do. Which is why designers get paid those big bucks (not).

Here are some examples I pulled down off Yachtworld today to make my point (and extra credit to whomever can identify every boat. I threw some oddballs in here, so it’s not that easy). If you’re bored, or as nautically obsessed as I am, you can analyze each of these by my Magic Triangle:







































































See what I mean? Clearly, the best designs are hard to achieve. But now I’m going to give you my vote:




This is our Reliant Yachts 60, in both it’s Express and Flybridge models. Note how the coachroof appears to disappear, in part by moving the opening ports down into the hull.

The result is a classic low and sleek downeast design, without sacrificing visibility or interior volume.

It is the sexiest, most stunning example of downeast design I’ve seen. In fact, it’s this very design that brought me here to Reliant Yachts.

The interior is no less impressive:


Launch a flare and I’ll send you the full E-brochure on this fine yacht. I can’t disclose her pricing in this particular forum, but rest assured you will be impressed. As in, 30% below the competition impressed.

On the subject of being impressed,  I now can share with you the details on our brokerage Commuter 40. Yes, the 2016 model that we will be displaying at the Palm Beach Boat Show from March 23rd through the 26th is now on the market, awaiting your ownership.

Reliant Yachts Commuter 40

The owner, intent on moving up to a Reliant 43, is asking $649,000. I urge you to see her in Palm Beach, and feel free to call me for the full story. The full listing can be seen at:

Our Yachtworld Listing

So that concludes our [not so] little nautical journey today. Thanks for your company. I do hope to see you at the Palm Beach show. Meanwhile, if you need anything, you know the drill – Just launch a flare.

As always, thanks for listening,  and enjoy.

Big Wave Dave


PS: If you’d like to hear a 90 second interview with Donald O’Connor, where he talks about the terror of trying to keep up with Gene Kelly in the dance sequence that opened this posting, click away: