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.
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:
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: