he bow of the Coastal Craft 56 IPS had barely rediscovered its waterlines after a blistering 40-knot run across Vancouver’s Howe Sound when Jeff Rhodes, the builder’s CEO, asked the magic question: “Want to drive?” I gleefully took over the controls at the lower helm, and the 56 was off like a shot. But rather than having the hefty feel I’d expect from a boat of this size and complexity, the yacht was light on her feet. A rooster tail plumed astern as she banked and rolled through tight turns, including a few improvised moves to dodge logs and deadheads — common byproducts of the Pacific Northwest’s logging industry, and an impetus for why Rhodes builds all Coastal Craft hulls from aluminum. When Rhodes founded Coastal Craft in 1996 in Gibsons, British Columbia, his business plan focused on hand-built aluminum workboats for the logging, fishing and whale-watching trades. In 2001, two customers asked if he could finish the belowdecks space aboard one of his workboats to create an SUV-style yacht. Rhodes accepted the challenge and later brought one of the sport-utility cruisers to the 2001 Vancouver International Boat Show. “I knew we had been building successful workboats for the first five or six years, but I was always looking to do something different,” Rhodes says. By 2005, Coastal Craft had some 40 employees building high-performance aluminum cruising yachts for the Pacific Northwest’s challenging conditions, which include big tidal swings, deadheads, mighty currents, cold temperatures, deep soundings, rocky shores, errant whirlpools and, most months, drumbeat-steady rains. Thanks to the Gibsons location, Coastal Craft staff can sea-trial designs while establishing deep roots in the maritime community.