Back Cove 29

Easy to own, easy to use and easy to look at, this instant classic proves less is more.

Courtesy Back Cove Yachts

The idea is elegant in its simplicity: Build a pretty boat with classic lines, power it with a single diesel, put in a bowthruster to keep the handling easy (in fact, make everything on the boat easy), and they will come. Well, that's exactly what has happened with the new, eye-catching Back Cove 29 from North End Composites in Rockland, Maine.

With an emphasis on her traditional Downeast heritage on the one hand, and contemporary performance on the other, the Back Cove is appealing to a wide range of potential owners: people trading down from larger yachts, people looking for a second yacht (after all, it's a lot faster to jump into a 29-footer for an afternoon on the water than it is to fire up the 85-footer), sailboat owners trading to power, and people starting out and looking for the instant cachet that comes with the classic good looks of a yacht with a spoon bow, slightly reverse transom and a hint of tumblehome.

For a lot of people, the Back Cove offers a pride of ownership that crosses many lines, that introduces an immediate comfort level.

In addition, and perhaps best of all, the Back Cove 29 is a simple boat, a high-pleasure, low-maintenance, easy-to-use, easy-to-put-away vessel, where you maximize the hours of use and minimize the hours of care. This could give a new meaning to the idea of a pleasure craft.

I first saw the Back Cove 29 at a boat show last fall and finally got on board for a ride in Biscayne Bay with Bentley Collins, marketing manager at Sabre Yachts, after this year's Miami International Boat Show. After just a few minutes, I was hooked.

The Back Cove 29 has an interesting heritage. Her immediate parent is North End Composites, but her origins go back to Sabre, which was founded in 1970. Today, Sabre builds four traditional sailboat models from 38 to 45 feet and six Sabreline powerboats, from 36 to 47 feet. Some 10 years ago, Sabre acquired North End Composites, one of the world's leaders in marine composite technologies.

Despite all this high-tech horsepower, the beauty of the Back Cove 29 is in her simplicity. The Back Cove 29 entered a niche that includes, at the lower-priced end, the Albin 28 and the Mainship Pilot 30. Moving up, there are the Hunt 29, the Blue Star 29 and the grandfather of them all, the Dyer 29. At the top end is the new Hinckley 29 Runabout.

The Back Cove 29 stands out because it offers a high-quality, single-diesel, straight-shaft, bowthruster-equipped boat with a comfortable performance, Downeast looks, a "yachty interior" and a nice price. The base price, which includes a 260 hp Yanmar diesel, is $154,500. Start adding the optional 315 hp Yanmar (as on our test boat), a hardtop, a genset, air-conditioning, a windlass, more seats, a different color hull (white is standard, but you can get Back Cove blue, green, dark blue or "Fighting Lady" yellow), and the price can go north to the $190,000 level. Still, a very attractive situation.

I found out how attractive when Collins turned the single-lever control over to me, and the fun began. We ran flat out, circled, backed and filled, and I found that she is a comfortable, well-mannered, gentlemanly boat. From the helm, visibility is terrific. A standard Side-Power bowthruster makes around-the-docks maneuvering easy; after all, this is only a 29-foot boat. Hydraulic trim tabs are standard.

We carved through some turns at 3000 rpm, and the 10,000-pound boat banked easily. Running flat out, we hit 27.9 knots at 3800 rpm, but you could cruise all day at a comfortable 20.3 knots at 3000 rpm. She has a deep-V hull with a sharp entry; a 22-degree deadrise amidships leads to 16 degrees at the transom. A shallow prop pocket means the engine is mounted low for good balance and center of gravity, and a draft of only 21/2 feet. The boat is as solid as they come; the hull is vacuum-bagged Divinycell core with multi-axial E-glass reinforcement and encapsulated foam stringers. The deck is cored with balsa. The beam is a slim 101/2 feet.

From the dock, you step into the boat via molded-in steps on either side of the self-bailing cockpit. The basic configuration includes an adjustable Todd helm seat to starboard and an L-shape settee with a backrest to port. (A forward-facing mate seat is optional.) The cockpit is large and clean, and there are easy walkarounds on the side decks. A nice touch is the custom stainless coaming fitting for the flagstaff, which has a Back Cove nameplate. There's a generous swim platform and ladder and a shower. A large locker in the sole holds fenders and lines, and there's a tackle box and additional stowage under the seats.

Engine access was a design priority, and at the touch of a switch the large engine hatch lifts to reveal a pristine, well-laid-out compartment with more than enough room all around for the usual checks and repairs. There's a dripless shaft log; the bilge was totally dry.

Entering the cabin, there's a nice teak handhold to starboard. Down two steps, the galley is to port, the head to starboard, and a welcoming, generous V-berth is in the usual place. I'm almost 6 feet, 2 inches tall, and I could lie on either side with room to spare. (This is unusual, believe me.) The cabin has a cherry interior and an ash overhead-a classic New England look. A cedar-lined hanging locker provides overnight stowage for a couple's clothing.

The galley has an Origo alcohol/110-volt single-burner stove, a front-opening AC/DC fridge with a freezer compartment and a built-in microwave. The head has an electric MSD with fresh water, a holding tank with macerator and a sink large enough to shave in.

All in all, the Back Cove 29 is tasteful, not overstated. She has instantaneous appeal at first glance; I'm sure it will wear well. So far, the reception has been very good. North End will introduce the next model in the line, the Back Cove 26, at the fall shows. I'll be looking for her.

Contact: Back Cove Yachts, (207) 594-8844; www.backcoveyachts.com. For more information, contact: (866) 922-4877