“The Samoset 30,” Doug Zurn told the driver of Eastern Yacht Club’s launch.
“You mean the pretty, expensive one?” the driver asked. All of us laughed. In the world of center-console boats, the Samoset 30 occupies a step near the top. She looks great and is beautifully crafted, fast, agile, seakindly and willing to accompany her owners on a variety of missions, but she’s not that expensive, especially in the rarefied world of lovingly constructed boats.
Doug Zurn designed the Samoset 30 for Matthew Sledge, owner of Samoset Boatworks in Boothbay, Maine. At first glance, the 30 looks a bit like a lobster skiff, but she has a chined V-bottom planing hull of 3:2 beam-to-length-over-waterline ratio. That’s on the narrow side by current standards, but these proportions, in company with her lightweight and carefully drawn planing surface, enhance the boat’s fuel economy — about a gallon per mile at a 30-knot cruising speed.
Notwithstanding the Samoset’s handsome lines, the secret to her appeal lies in the construction materials — half-inch mahogany strip planks fore and aft, under two layers of diagonally oriented eighth-inch red-cedar veneer covered in fiberglass, and the whole matrix set in epoxy resin. She doesn’t feel exactly the same as a plank-on-frame boat, but she seems a lot more in tune with her environment than a fiberglass boat. Wood, even in this monocoque structure, resonates vibrations at a friendlier frequency than fiberglass. The difference is very subtle, but present. Epoxy resin and fiberglass sheathing make the Samoset as easy to maintain as any all-fiberglass boat.
Open day boats live for socializing — for taking a small crowd on a picnic, to watch fireworks on the Fourth of July, to cruise the harbor to see new arrivals, to watch the kids race their Optimist prams or to zip offshore to beat the heat of an August day. Making a small day boat hospitable requires a lot of thought. Zurn put a head in the forepeak, one refrigerator in the back of the helm and another in the settee on the port side, a freshwater tank against the transom under the park bench, and stowage bins under the sole.
We eased the Samoset 30 through the mooring field and into Salem Sound. Opening the throttle from idle to maximum hoisted her onto to full plane in about eight seconds. She reached 31 knots in 23 seconds, turned precisely and held her line through the two-foot chop, showing no peculiar behavior. She tracked accurately downwind and quartering, and her seakindly ride encouraged us at the end of the run to hold our top speed of 33.8 knots right up to the no-wake zone.
Affable and immensely attractive little boats are few and far between, especially those built of such high quality in wood.
DISPL.: 7,300 lb.
FUEL: 103 gal.
WATER: 23 gal.
ENGINES TESTED (std.): 1 x 440 hp Yanmar 6LY3A-STP diesel
Samoset Boatworks Inc., 207-633-8350; www.samosetboatworks.com.