On Man-O-War Cay folks work from “can-till-can’t” but change comes slowly in the Bahamas. That is why news of a new Albury boat design is something of a milestone. Willard Albury and his sons have built hundreds of boats over the years for local watermen and the rental trade. For many years, patient American yachtsmen waited in queue to claim ownership of an Albury-built boat. Now the wait is almost over because the Albury 20, Albury 23, and a new 27 are being built in the U.S.
I remember eyeballing the plug for the 27 on my last visit to Man-O-War several years ago. As always, Willard Albury and his sons Don and Jamie were hard at work while a gaggle of visiting American yachtsmen looked on in wonder. The watermen of the tiny island have a history that dates back to the loyalists who settled in the Abacos (Northern Bahamas) following the Revolutionary War. After failed attempts at agriculture, these pioneers learned to harvest the sea’s bounty and, of necessity, became boatbuilders. It is this rich heritage and the salty lines of Man-O-War built boats that first attracted yachtsmen.
Jeff Lichterman was bitten by the bug when he saw his first Albury while cruising in the Abacos twenty years ago. After tracking down its builder on Man-O-War, he was sold, but as he puts it, “I never made the waiting list to get on the waiting list.” Finally in 2003, with time on his hands following the sale of a successful business, he phoned Willard Albury. By now, he was interested in more than a boat. “I asked Willard to consider letting me build his boats in the U.S.” A week later, Lichterman visited Willard on Man-O-War. “We talked a lot about boats and I rolled a bit of resin.” Lichterman wasn’t sure he’d passed the test until he asked Willard again as he was preparing to return to the U.S.- Willard responded simply, “I suppose so.” Master parts for the 20, 23, and the new 27 were crafted by Willard and his sons on Man-O-War and shipped to Lichterman’s Riviera Beach, Florida facility. Lichterman employs fteen craftsmen and builds about 45 boats a year. This complements the ten boats a year produced on Man-O-War.
As one of those yachtsmen who has dreamed of Albury ownership, I initially had mixed feelings about Lichterman’s effort. Would the boats still be Alburys or would they be overstuffed with cushions and drilled out for cocktail holders? I was sold after inspecting the first U.S. built boat. Her fit and finish were tidy and her outfitting straightforward-she was perfect! “We like to think that we are building boats that are identical in quality to those built on the island,” Lichterman explained at the time. While spending a recent morning aboard the 27 with Lichterman, I had the sense that there was some healthy competition between the island home office and his U.S. branch. The 27 is built exclusively in America and one of the first hulls was shipped to the Bahamas where it serves in the rental fleet. “It was pre-booked thirteen weeks straight,” said Lichterman, who is now building a 27 for the first rental customer.
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While an Albury’s no-nonsense look and unique heritage draw those who love boats closer, it is the ride that sets the hook. The 27’s hull form was expanded from the 23’s using a traditional method-Willard Albury’s eyeball. Extending her running surface and pulling her chines out resulted in a transom deadrise of 20 degrees and a beam of 9 feet, 6 inches. She retains the relatively deep forefoot and fine entry of the 23 and I found her soft ride pleasantly familiar. Albury’s designs have a slight keel that likely migrated from wooden boat days. It remains functional, however-the 27 tracks like an arrow. Alburys feature tightly rounded bilges topped by an integral chine/ledge. While defining the lifting surface with a hard chine is more common these days, Albury’s design seems just as effective and I believe yields a softer ride and a more gentle motion in a seaway. Spray control is enhanced forward with a fitted spray rail that runs from the stem to just aft of amidships.
Our test boat was equipped with a pair of 250-horsepower Suzuki four-strokes. I recorded a maximum speed of 44.3 knots (6100 rpm). Easing the throttles back to 4500 rpm yielded a pleasant 33.2 knots. She rises quickly to plane and I found the tabs necessary only for tweaking athwartships trim. Albury’s test data on the 27 with a pair of Suzuki 175s suggests a maximum speed of 37.3 knots and 30.7 knots at 4500 rpm. The 27’s bottom is a stout one-inch solid fiberglass laminate. Not surprisingly, she has the secure feel of a larger boat. This is also true dockside where she seems less likely to be swayed by wind and current than most boats her size. Over the years I have covered a lot of sloppy water in the Sea of Abaco aboard Alburys and they have earned my respect. I am certain the 27 will not disappoint, either.
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Like her sisters, the 27 has a businesslike layout. Our test boat was fitted with a leaning post with an integral livewell and storage. An aluminum and fiberglass hardtop has a molded-in electronics box and cockpit lighting. The helm has space for instrumentation and a 12-inch electronics display. A door allows access within the console to an electric head as well as the electrical panel and batteries-all out of the weather. There is bench seating and stowage forward as well as a foredeck anchor locker. The self-draining cockpit has an in-sole fish box plumbed with a macerator and there is rod storage under the gunwales. There is a seat with a removable seatback forward of the splash-well. A saltwater washdown is standard, although I would recommend the 24-gallon freshwater tank that is offered as an option. White interior and exterior gelcoat is standard, although colors in gelcoat, as well as an Awlgrip boot stripe, are offered.
If you’ve wandered the Abacos by boat, chances are you’re already familiar with the Albury family name and the boats associated with it. If you’re a boat nut, I would imagine you’ve visited the shop and dreamed of taking an Albury boat home. Thanks to Jeff Lichterman, your dream can come true without taking a number!
Albury Brothers, (561) 863-7006 (US); (242) 365-6086 (Abaco); www.alburybrothers.com