Huckins Yacht Means Tradition

Huckins has been building boats for 90 years yet continues to innovate.

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The 90th anniversary and owners’ rendezvous at anchor off the St. Johns River.Huckins

Huckins yacht turns 90 years old this year, and the builder’s history is full of yachting-industry firsts.

However, family legacy has been a constant at the company. Frank Pembroke Huckins founded his namesake firm in 1928, and his stepson, Ken Archibald, took the reins in the early 1950s. Archibald’s daughter, and Huckins’ current owner, Cindy Purcell, was raised in Huckins heritage. She says she hung out at the yard growing up and spent her college summers working there. She and her husband, Buddy, officially entered the family business in the early 1970s.

A variation of Huckins’ 1928 Quadraconic hull design — one of the first true planing hulls — has graced every Huckins vessel from Day One until now.

“It is efficient,” Purcell says of the hull form. “We don’t need trim tabs, we don’t need stabilizers. She runs really well in a following sea.”

The hull is built with concave sections for stability, is designed to rise at 3 to 3.5 degrees and planes quickly at 11 or 12 knots. In the 1930s, it was pushing boats to an unheard of 20 knots or more.

Scoffs and sidelong glances greeted some of the builder’s other innovations, such as its 1969 80-foot sport-fisherman — the largest in the United States at the time — and its outboard-powered ­50-footer in 1986.

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Circa 1946, Huckins’ fleet fills its new yard on the Ortega River in Florida.Huckins

“They thought we were crazy,” Purcell says of the latter. “But it worked. And look what’s happening in the outboard industry now.”

Huckins was also an early adopter of fiberglass composite construction, Purcell says, around 1975. Huckins has stayed true to the ­now popular material ever since.

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An early Huckins in its element (left). Frank Pembroke Huckins (right) and his pup.Huckins

At its 90th-anniversary celebration in April, Huckins introduced a semiproduction (a first for the company) model that exemplifies its tradition-plus-innovation theme. The 38 Sportsman Day Cruiser will have dual hybrid propulsion, but in a package reminiscent of the builder’s 1936 Sportsman 36.

What might come next? It’s hard to know, but there’s a lot of history to draw upon for inspiration.

“We have the working designs of every single boat we’ve ever built,” Purcell says. “It’s not over. There’s another chapter. Just wait and see what happens.”

The Festivities

Sixteen Huckins yachts, ranging from 33 to 75 feet length overall, participated in the builder’s 90th-anniversary celebration and owners’ rendezvous in April. The fleet of yachts ran up the St. Johns River in Florida and anchored in one of its tributaries. “Seeing the boats running at speed over 20 knots and seeing them all together is just beautiful,” Huckins Yacht’s owner Cindy Purcell says. Some of the braver attendees went out alligator watching around midnight the first night,she said, and on Saturday morning, the group gathered to christen Endurance, a recently refitted yacht. The celebratory weekend ended with an announcement about the new Huckins 38 Sportsman Day Cruiser.