The Hinckley Company and designer Bruce King make beautiful music together. Their first hit tune and the one most folks remember best is the Hinckley Picnic Boat, a single-jet day boat with the loveliest lines this side of Bunker and Ellis. Next on the charts was the Talaria 44, an elegantly understated cruising boat that offers quiet, buttoned-down performance and the correct amount of space, speed, sport and luxury in a package that simply can't go out of style.
The new Talaria 40 Jet is neither as sporty as her smaller sibling nor as soft on the senses as her larger sister. She fits nicely between the two, with accommodations that invite owners to spend more than a weekend aboard, even to prepare meals and sleep. These are unlikely activities aboard a Picnic Boat. Her quickness and nimble handling encourage hurrying purely for the sake of the thrill, which aboard the 44 would seem like thrashing a Mercedes over a rough country road.
Whatever magic Hinckley and King have going, the boats that result from their collaboration seem to please most yachtsmen who fall for the style and understand the mission assigned to each model.
I like to think of the Talaria 40 as a "personal yacht. On paper, 40 feet seems large, and in the conventional theme of modern express-bridge motoryachts, for example, an LOA of 40 feet produces quite a large boat. The volume comes from lots of freeboard, a reverse sheerline and a heavily cambered deck. The simple act of putting a little spring into the sheerline and lowering the freeboard erases a huge chunk of interior volume, but a lot of yachtsmen seem perfectly happy to swap the express cruiser's six-place interior for drop-dead traditional styling, sleeping and living space for two and outdoor play spaces for a crowd.
A huge part of the pleasure the Talaria 40 offers comes from her single deck level, from the main bulkhead at the windscreen to the transom. The layout brings everyone together. It encourages a free flow of humans fore and aft, as opposed to deck-level variations of two or three steps. Some would argue small steps hardly make a difference, but they do, keeping people more segregated than the T40's single-level design.
Belowdecks, the T40 is surprising. The space feels like it comes from a 50-footer, not as much in size as in amenities. Builders sometimes cheat small interiors of the respect they deserve, but Hinckley does not. The company provides a refrigerator/freezer, dedicated dish and glassware stowage above the fridge, a microwave/convection oven, a deep stainless-steel sink, dry stowage in keeping with the boat's use, and tall fiddles on the counters.
Even the best builders can't avoid some compromises. The head aboard the T40, combining toilet, sink and shower in the same small area, is only adequate, but it should be fine for a weekend or a week aboard. The V-berth is large enough for most people who don't play in the NBA or the NFL, though the little settee to port between the head and berth seems a waste of space. I'd ask for a larger head and forget the settee. Owners are likely to spend most waking hours in the bridge-deck saloon, maybe closing the area to the weather with the usual canvas and clear vinyl, or in the cockpit. The settee wouldn't get much use, except to sit down and put on socks.
Any boat's true value is revealed only when she's at sea. In this case, the sea was the Gulf of Mexico off Naples, Florida. The west coast of Florida is a paradise for small boats because of all the islands and mangrove mazes. When you're piloting a jet boat that behaves as well as the T40, the area is even more fun.
I climbed aboard hull number one at the Naples Boat Club in the old part of town. The builder hustled this boat to the shows at the last minute, so I expected to find a few flaws that won't appear on the production versions. I didn't, though the carpet paving the inside of some stowage seemed beneath Hinckley's usual standards. On the other hand, this is not a custom yacht, as are most of the Hinckleys that made the company's reputation.
Traveling from the dock to open water required about 30 minutes of "no wake motoring, and under these conditions, Hinckley's JetStick control was wonderful. I relaxed in the helmsman's chair and twisted the knob atop the jog stick to maintain or change course. The JetStick removed all the wandering jet boats like to do at a walking pace under wheel steering.
Out in open water at speed, the T40's behavior leaves nothing to be desired, if you don't mind the windup acceleration typical of jet drives. She tracks as well as any prop-driven boat and quickly responds to subtle input at the wheel or the JetStick. Engage the autopilot, sit back and enjoy the ride.
We didn't encounter any significant seas (a mere 1 to 2 feet) during my test, so I can only extrapolate from how she dealt with the conditions we had. She was very seakindly, even when I stepped below and went forward of the planing surface. In bigger seas, you would have to slow a bit, but I'll wager cruising in the high teens in 6-foot seas won't be a chore.
She also carves lovely high-speed turns, heeling inboard enough to make the helmsman and passengers feel secure and tracking like a Formula 1 car. She leaves an exceptionally clean wake, which kept me from feeling guilty about our speed through the mangrove channels. Yes, we slowed to a crawl for the little fishing boats and other traffic.
The demand for Hinckley's powerboats exceeded expectations from the beginning, making them a better-than-average value. Although the T40's resale value will always be high, it's even higher when the supply falls short of demand. This alone is reason enough for spending the $744,595 base price.
A better reason, though, is all the fun you'll have using her.
Contact: The Hinckley Co., (207) 244-5531; fax (207) 244-9833; www.thehinckleyco.com.