The Perfect Boat?

Homer was right: It's in the odyssey, not the craft.

Some weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me a difficult question, one that I feel is worth sharing. "Coyle, you're a marine expert with some mileage on your odometer," my friend began. "What is the best cruising boat built in the last, say, 30 years?" "Hmm," I replied, stalling. "What sort of cruising are you referring to? Every boat is at best a compromise-there is no perfect boat." My friend persisted: "A cruising boat. No particular type. If you had to pick one, just one, which one would it be? You must have a favorite."

And so it was that I began parsing the fleet of vessels that I have lusted after over the years, attempting to choose the ideal cruising boat-impossible! Then it occurred to me: Homer was right. As I explained to my friend, it is not so much about the mount or the destination; it is about the odyssey. I dream of the adventure, grouse while executing it and yet, once ashore, log it in my file of fondest memories.

For some, I explained, cruising is nothing less than crossing an ocean-a challenge any sensible traveler with a yachting budget could address with a first-class seat or a private jet. For others, a successful cruise with family or friends from Miami to Key Largo would be far less trouble and expense in an SUV. Yes, if you dream of a sandy beach, a condo certainly would be more practical than a boat-and wouldn't require a bilge pump.

"A boat is really a rather inefficient tool and thus the adventure," I concluded. For some reason, however, my friend was not satisfied with such sap. So here are the picks he forced from me. They are not the result of a technical review mind you; these come straight from the heart.

If I were to wander the world and were fiscally fit I would convert a commercial vessel to a yacht. Commercial vessels look right at sea and as money and logic would be no object I would aim high. My personal favorite in the commercial category is the 596-foot NS Savannah, the first nuclear-powered commercial vessel. Built to prove a point, not for profit, her lines are as pleasing to the eye as any yacht I have ever seen. I would use her forward cargo deck for my fleet of water toys, which would include a 60-foot sportfisher, a 30-foot catboat and a submersible.

If I were to wander the world on a budget-relatively speaking-a Nordhavn would be at the top of my list. My favorite is still the 46. It was Nordhavn's first effort in oceangoing power vessels and followed the thinking of Robert Beebe, a pioneer in the field. While the 46 is petite, she is built like a tank and has proven her mettle. I imagine if I expressed any doubts, her enthusiastic builder, Jim Leishman, would sign on for the voyage to prove the point.

If I were a wandering spirit with time on my hands, I would spend the remainder of my waking hours cruising the Florida Keys and the Bahamas in comfort aboard a 42-foot Krogen. While there are many great cruising designs, there is no boat in her class that is more sea-kindly or spacious except perhaps the new 44-foot Krogen that replaced her. If she were not such a pleasure to command, it would be easy to dream of adventure and enjoy life aboard dockside.

If I were to summer in New England and winter in the Bahamas, I would be fortunate indeed. For me such an opportunity presents a difficult choice. There is a fleet of smart traditional designs that appeal to me. A Grand Banks would work splendidly as would the Fleming 55 or the Marlow 65. Hatteras motoryachts young and old are never out of fashion and, of course, a Huckins would be wonderful. If I had to choose one, however, it would be a classic flush-deck Burger design measuring about 64 feet with modest power and a 15-knot cruising speed. Such a design never looks out of place.

If I were younger or generally impatient, I would get the most out of my cruising time with an express cruiser or a fast motoryacht. Here the list of potential rides ranges from the American mainstream to more exotic European imports. Years ago when my children were in baskets, on weekends we cruised most of Florida aboard a Sea Ray, and it has left us with many fond memories. For those with little people, my recommendation is an express; for adults who enjoy entertaining, a motoryacht. A cruising speed of around 25 knots would be perfect.

I have saved the best for last: The boat I have chosen for my odyssey is a 1989 37-foot Bertram convertible. When we bought Anhinga she was, in my opinion, the best convertible in her class in terms of design and performance. We have cruised and fished most of Florida and the Bahamas aboard her and I have yet to find a good reason to sell her. She is comfortable cruising fully loaded with family or friends and not unmanageable on those rare occasions when I shuttled her about on my own.

There you have it. As you might imagine, my friend was not satisfied, so if you've found the ideal cruising boat drop me a line.

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