Crosby 38 Express Cruiser

A lovely day boat, designed by Hunt and built by Crosby in the 1970s, spawns the next generation of Hunt/Crosby collaboration.

Crosby 38 Express Cruiser

We stood in a close, but loosely defined, circle on a private dock in Osterville, Massachusetts — Ned Crosby, Rick Lotuff, Peter Boyce and I — talking about the genesis of Avery M, the Crosby 38 Express Cruiser that tugged at her mooring lines next to us. The wind blew out of the northwest at 20 knots, gusting to 25 and beyond, and each of us instinctively turned up the collar of his coat. Lotuff passed around three faded snapshots of Contrail, which C. Raymond Hunt Associates designed in 1976, four years after Boyce joined the firm. Chester A. Crosby & Sons in Osterville built the 32-foot custom day boat, and she has lived within the bosom of her builder (Ned's grandfather) and has been owned by a single family. Her sweet sport-fisher-style sheer line, purposeful bridge deck and speed captivated the teenage Lotuff during his summer visits to this enchanting Cape Cod village.

"I've always wanted to build a boat with Ned," Lotuff said as the snapshots of Contrail circumnavigated our microcosmic circle and the wind threatened to blow them into West Bay. Ned is part of the famous Crosby family, which began building boats in Osterville in the 1700s. He opened E.M. Crosby Boatworks in 2001. Conversations between Crosby and Lotuff likely number in the thousands, but the one that counted the most was about Lotuff's need to build a special boat for himself and his family. An heirloom like Contrail but better — a little bigger, a little faster and built of wood — seemed like a good idea, so Crosby called Boyce. Avery M is the final result of that call.

Lotuff took delivery of Avery M in the middle of June 2010, after about three years of gestation. That may seem like a long time for a 38-foot day boat, but Lotuff wasn't in a hurry. Although he was as excited about the project as a 5-year-old boy on Christmas morning, he said that he was willing to be patient to get exactly the boat he wanted.

Planning and designing the Crosby 38 used about six months of those three years, and after Boyce and the crew at C. Raymond Hunt Associates completed their part of the project, they sent bid packages to a handful of builders, finally settling on Brion Rieff in Brooklin, Maine. He planked the hull of eighth-inch Spanish cedar veneer — eight courses on the bottom and six on the topsides — cold-molded with epoxy resin. He covered the completed hull inside and outside with biaxial fiberglass, also set in epoxy. The fiberglass adds to the structure’s overall stiffness and provides resistance to abrasion. Rieff delivered the hull to Crosby’s yard, with the major bulkheads bonded in place, in January 2009. Crosby and his crew did the rest.

I saw the Crosby 38 for the first time at the Newport International Boat Show in September 2010. The moment I stepped aboard, I felt at home. Everything about Avery M seemed exactly right for her purpose — a roomy day boat/ weekender for a young family with two small children. My visit to Osterville for a bit of conversation and a sea trial confirmed my first impression. The cockpit and bridge deck, like the open arms of a cherished relative or friend, welcome visitors with the promise of a grand time. This open area, partly sheltered by a canvas top, encourages a lively flow of socializing when Avery M is at the dock, swinging to her anchor or resting her elegant clipper bow on a sandy beach, stern-drives lifted to their maximum. Although the helm seat and buddy seat must remain fixed facing forward and can't comfortably be used as part of the conversation pit, the long settee on the port side and the short settee abaft the galley provide adequate sheltered seating. Folding beach chairs in the cockpit add to the party mix. A minimal galley, with Inox refrigerator, perfectly suits the boat's purpose. The chef will cook atop a grill on the beach or on a portable camping stove aboard the boat.

This is a simple boat by design — no generator, air-conditioner, bow thruster or complex electronics — and the accommodations belowdecks reflect this simplicity. The adults occupy the small forward cabin — drawers and a hanging locker should be enough stowage for a day or two on the water. The children occupy the upper and lower berths on the port side opposite the head. The head, though, is spacious and has a separate shower stall.

If the correctness of the Crosby 38’s open deck and cozy accommodations don’t capture your heart, her styling will. This was the first opportunity I had to get a look at her profile, and I wouldn’t change a single element of her design. “It’s a collection of subtleties,” Peter Boyce said. You may have to look twice to really see the clipper bow, but when you catch it in profile, you’ll notice how its graceful curvature softens the overall look of the boat. The sheer line, too, whispers rather than shouts its presence, and the way it breaks at exactly the right spot relative to the slope of the side windows and cockpit coaming is pure artistry. And we should thank the need for headroom belowdecks for the lovely trunk cabin.

After the engines warmed, we headed out of West Bay to Vineyard Sound. These engines cannot expel exhaust through the propeller hub, so the sound escaping through the transom is on the sporty side, but not intrusive. Lotuff could have chosen jet drives (Contrail has jets) to get the shoal draft he wanted for beaching, but he prefers the lightning-quick acceleration of props and the moderate price of gas engines with outdrives. The engines are mounted under the bridge deck and spin the drives via carbon-fiber jack shafts.

At our no-wake speed and in the strong, gusty wind, Avery M seemed to have a mind of her own. Lotuff said that the helmsman has to anticipate the effects of wind and current and steer accordingly. Out in Vineyard Sound, short, steep seas of three to four feet greeted us, but Lotuff simply opened the throttles and sped toward open water. At 32 knots the boat was astonishingly dry in those conditions, shipping spray only when we quartered the wind and seas. I took the helm and discovered that, upwind and down, she held her course, needing very little steering input. She rode as smoothly as anyone could wish and felt solid, planted, as though she'd been carved from a single block of wood. She leaned predictably into the turns, maintaining a large percentage of the entry speed, and hung onto the radius until I steered out of the corner. Expect a top speed of 38 knots at 5,000 rpm. The low-profile trunk cabin and height of the bridge deck gave me excellent sight lines, helped by the shallow running angle.

Lotuff loves Avery M and finds every reason he can to spend time aboard her. He made her his own by influencing her overall look and seeing that she emerged from the planning and designing process with his purpose intact. Avery M is everything he expected.

LOA: 38'0"
Beam: 12'5"
Draft: 2'6"
Displ.: 18,000 lb.
Fuel: 355 gal.
Water: 94 gal.
Deadrise: 20 degrees
Power: 2 x 420-hp Volvo Penta 8.1 GXi/DPS gas engines
Base Price: $750,000

E.M. Crosby Boatworks, 508-362-7100;; C. Raymond Hunt Associates, 508-717-0600;