Below, the split-level main cabin has a seating area and an open galley. A full-beam master stateroom is just aft and has a queen berth. His-and-hers heads share a central bath and the compartment serves as a sound buffer, isolating the machinery space aft. A guest cabin with two berths is forward and has private access to the day head. Fit and finish throughout are in keeping with Huckins's high standard. The Morneaus chose satin-finished makore and worked directly with Huckins on the interior décor.
Prewar Huckins yachts were plank on frame with an additional layer of diagonal planking below the waterline to keep the bilges dry. In his passion to reduce unnecessary weight, Frank Huckins later pioneered laminated wood structures, "donating" his patent for a laminated internal keel and his scantlings for double- and triple-diagonal planking to the war effort.
While Frank Huckins anticipated the fiberglass revolution, he would not live to witness it. In his spirit, the yard was one of the first to experiment with foam-cored fiberglass hulls. The result was a structure that was competitive with wood in terms of weight. The yard has continued to refine this technology since the 1970s.
La Belle Hélène's cored hull was built over a male plug. The inside skin was laminated first. The core was vacuum-bagged in place, and then the outer skin was laminated, faired, and finished. Foam-cored structural bulkheads and web frames support foam-cored fiberglass longitudinal stringers. These stringers also serve as foundations for the engines, which are mated to the waterjets with 33-inch jackshafts. Frank Huckins understood the importance of keeping weight aft in faster designs. Access to the engineroom is from the cockpit and larger hatches are provided for more serious work.
La Belle Hélène is the second Linwood to be fitted with waterjet propulsion. While waterjets take a bit of getting used to, they seem a good fit for the slippery Huckins hull form. In terms of performance, Huckins have a distinctive feel I find exhilarating. They rise quickly and evenly without tabs fitted and bank much less than boats with even modest transom deadrise-Huckins typically have 6 degrees. While there is no keel, they track predictably and their light weight and horsepower serve well around the dock. I would add that with waterjet power the bow thruster is quite useful. La Belle Hélène is fitted with a pair of 715-horsepower Cummins diesels. While this is modest power for a boat her size, she needs no more. I recorded a maximum speed of 31.2 knots, and found 2300 rpm (almost 25 knots) a pleasant setting. At this speed she burns 55.6 gallons an hour. As the Morneaus' float plan extends from Canada to the Bahamas, the efficient Huckins hull form makes good sense.
La Belle Hélène will summer in Georgian Bay and winter at the Sarasota Yacht Club in Florida. If you are fortunate, you may spot her underway somewhere in between. She is an eye-pleasing distraction from the mainstream, and solid evidence that good design is always in fashion.
Huckins Yachts, (904) 389-1125; www.huckinsyacht.com