On the return trip, we stopped at Petoskey, the real commercial center for the area, and Bay View Harbor, a relatively new development. Petoskey offers a handful of shoppers’ berths in the municipal marina, so anyone who cruises in this area can easily replenish the boat’s stores. Bay View’s harbor was a stone quarry and is quite deep. Residences rise above boathouses along the eastern side, and a massive stone breakwater shelters boats tied up at the marina. On our first night in Harbor Springs, Letts and his charming wife, Susan (a landscape architect), took us to dinner at Not Just a Bar restaurant. The local whitefish was terrific.
At last, I had my turn at the wheel of Upshort. Like the other models of the Talaria series, the T44 MKII feels substantially larger than she is, even as she treats the pilot to an unmistakably sporty driving experience. Upshort felt planted — a term commonly used by automotive road testers when they describe the behavior of a luxurious sports car. Her hydraulic steering was accurate and smooth, but because I was steering the thrust, I needed several minutes to adapt to its response. On the other hand, the T44 seemed to turn more quickly and accurately when I steered by rotating the knob of the JetStick. She cornered with a reassuring lean into the turn and lost only about seven knots pinched into a tight radius at maximum revolutions per minute. She comes onto plane at 2100 to 2400 rpm and likes the tiniest bit of trim tab to run at the hull’s optimum angle of attack. At her cruising speed of 3000 rpm, or 31 to 32 knots, the engines run at 85 percent load and burn 58 gallons of diesel per hour.
Belowdecks, I found the customary Hinckley touches — high-quality cherry joinery, top-notch equipment and a thoughtfully designed arrangement plan. The owners’ stateroom is in the bow and has a large island berth on the centerline (stowage under) and two hanging lockers, which likely will be enough for a week of cruising. The head and shower appear to be spacious enough for all but the largest humans. The dinette converts to a double berth for occasional guests.
Bear in mind that the T44 MKII is not a cursory makeover of the previous model. Hinckley’s updates are significant, to wit: more powerful engines (550 horsepower vs. 480 horsepower); custom Hinckley electric sliding side windows and hatches, which are larger than before and rest in hidden stainless-steel frames; an improvement in the ergonomics of the pilothouse and helm; better sight lines at all speeds; and other improvements.
Our final night in Harbor Springs found us in New York — actually The New York, a fine restaurant on State Street next to Hinckley’s office. The chef and owner, Matt Bugera, offers his traditional house-made soups, fresh whitefish (which I ordered) and prime steaks in a setting that recalls the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His wine cellar contains about 300 varieties, and the food is as good as I’ve eaten anywhere. Ahh, a special boat, good people, fine food and a great cruising ground; I was looking forward to my return before I had even finished my coffee.
Displ.: 30,100 lb.
Fuel: 500 gal.
Water: 100 gal.
Power: 2 x 550 hp Cummins QSC 8.3 diesels
Base Price: $1,689,000
The Hinckley Co., 401-683-7005; www.hinckleyyachts.com