Huckins Yacht Celebrates 75 Years

An annual gathering takes on special meaning for this long-running American boatbuilder.

The 2003 Huckins Yacht Rendezvous, a three-day event held last November, was the place to be for fans of Huckins boats and those fortunate enough to own one of the 452 built by the yard since Frank Pembroke Huckins founded the company in 1928. The annual event held particular significance, since it was also a celebration of Huckins' 75 years in the boatbuilding business.

Forty-five owners aboard 28 boats made the pilgrimage to Huckins' docks in Jacksonville, Florida, from as far away as California.

"Our owners are as passionate about their boats as we are about boatbuilding", said Cindy Purcell, the yard's owner and the granddaughter of Frank Pembroke Huckins. "We are very fortunate, and we appreciate their support."

The diversity of Huckins yachts presented at the yard was a tribute to the builder's creativity. The lineup included a 70-foot sportfisherman, a 68-foot motoryacht, a 48-footer launched in 1950 and a new Atlantic 44-all kept in Bristol condition thanks to the dedication of their owners.

Guests enjoyed a cocktail party, silent auction and dinner, but for many, the opportunity to explore the legendary yard and share their own stories and boats with other Huckins enthusiasts was the highlight of the event.

Media presentations and memorabilia displays chronicled the yard's contributions to naval architecture and yachting. Huckins' pioneering efforts in planning-hull design and cold-molded construction were crucial to the development of the PT boat in World War II, and the yard's work in cored-fiberglass composite construction played an important role in the development of the modern high-speed motoryacht.

A picnic cruise on the St. Johns River, led by a 17-foot runabout Purcell's father built for her in 1961, allowed owners to strut their stuff. Purcell's mother and father, Ramona and Kenneth Archibald, were on hand, as were Purcell's daughters. The youngest, Field Purcell, now works at the yard. Purcell's husband, Buddy, is Huckins' president.

Purcell manages the family business with an eye on the future that is tempered by her appreciation of the past.

"It is our passion to innovate as a small custom builder", she said, "and our pleasure to serve as caretaker to a fleet that is passing on to younger hands."

Happy anniversary, Huckins.