StingrayBy Dennis Caprio
After 57 years of service and two refits, Stingray’s power over yachtsmen exceeds reason.
I quote Merriam-Webster: pa-ti-na: “a surface appearance of something grown beautiful, especially with age or use.” Patina may be the warmly familiar visage and personality of an old friend; the smoothed edges of the gold signet ring that hasn’t left your finger in 30 years; the subtly hollowed treads of your yacht’s companionway ladder. Patina in its many guises touches one’s soul, making the wearer all the more precious. That’s how Stingray seduced me on a sunny and breezy day in Ft. Lauderdale.
Stingray, the 56-foot gentleman’s motoryacht designed in 1962 and ’63 by C. Raymond Hunt and built in 1964 by the Wharton Shipyard in Jamestown, Rhode Island, (now Jamestown Boat Yard), wears her patina the way a veteran of World War II wears his uniform in a Memorial Day parade. Although she suffered periods of neglect during her 49 years of service, good fortune has smiled on her more often than not. Each of her two major refits left her character intact.
She’s the only example built to these lines and has carried her christened name continuously since the first launching. Peter Boyce, senior designer at C. Raymond Hunt Associates, told me that office’s staff and many other knowledgeable folks consider Stingray to be one of the handsomest examples of Hunt’s work. Her low profile, sweeping sheer line and pale-yellow topsides snatch and hold your attention in much the same way a magician corrals his audience.
Stingray’s superstructure pleases our eyes on three levels—the forward and after trunk cabins; the saloon; and the pilothouse—because all of the elements work together for the benefit of the whole aesthetic. Rectangular portlights in the sides of her two trunk cabins anchor the ends of the superstructure. Both are about the same height and use teak handrails and eyebrows, like makeup, to tantalize us even more. The large windows just forward of amidships share angles with those in the front of the trunk cabin and saloon and the pilothouse windshield. Although the superstructure appears a little cluttered, compared with contemporary motoryachts, this was the style of the day. Wood construction and the practical use of interior space dictated the look, as much as anything. It’s unpretentious—absolutely refreshing—and a clue to the sort of ambience that awaits us inside.
As soon as I stepped onto the swim platform—which was not part of her in 1964—and looked into the cockpit, I felt the yacht’s warmth. This sort of tug defies resistance, so I walked forward and descended the steep companionway ladder to the master stateroom. “Cozy” is the best single-word description of the space. In Stingray’s original incarnation, this cabin had a single berth on each side. Now, a queen-size berth occupies the port side, and a settee opposite may do double duty as a single berth. Drawers fill the area beneath each one.
Unusually wide teak planks pave the cabin sole and radiate a rich honey glow. When I looked more closely, I noticed tiny irregularities in the fit of each plank to its neighbor. No flaw this—it’s merely evidence of the natural expansion and contraction of a wooden boat and the thousands of footfalls the sole endured. The head is forward of the settee and seems small by modern standards, but it’s human size and perfectly usable—cozy like the stateroom. Walls are painted white, and the trim and cabinetry are matte-finish teak. I loved the shower’s stainless steel pan—so 1964 and nearly indestructible.
Based on the notion that Stingray is a gentleman’s yacht, one of her most endearing features has to be the slant-top desk built into the master stateroom’s forward bulkhead. The desk has four drawers below the fold-down work surface and two bookshelves above. Original bronze pulls in a shell motif grace each drawer, and glass-panel doors guard an eclectic array of books above. I had no trouble envisioning said gentleman seated at the desk writing a note to his lover to meet him aboard close onto midnight of the day he made port.
Forward and up a few steps is the pilothouse. No self-respecting mariner could argue with its superb sightlines. Large windows all around—glass at the helm and clear vinyl elsewhere—generously wash the area with natural light. Panels of the soft enclosure roll up or down to suit the weather, and when the temperature heads for the stratosphere, the recently installed air conditioner keeps heads cool.
A thick six-spoke steering wheel made of teak dominates the helm. Holding it lightly in my hands as I guided Stingray south toward Miami in beam seas of 2- to 4-feet made me feel like a proper ship’s captain. The barrel-back captain’s chair sits atop a slim polished-metal pedestal. It’s not as comfortable as a modern Stidd, for example, but such a chair would look silly at this classic helm. Cabinets, one on each side of the centerline wheel, stow all the items the helmsman normally will need on an extended cruise. A conventional navigation station nestles into the portside corner of the helm. In keeping with Stingray’s vintage, this nav area has flat stowage for paper charts and enough square footage atop the lid to spread those charts and plot a course.
Anyone who’s paper chart challenged will be happy to use the modern electronics tastefully arranged in cabinets hanging from the overhead just above eye level. These conveniences nearly disappeared from sight and consciousness when I saw the chrome-plated mechanism that opens and closes the center section of the windshield. Even Blurge Brown, my captain for the day, fell under the spell of this throwback. A small wheel, mounted forward and to the right of the steering wheel, turns a long fore-and-aft shaft. Via a tiny gearbox, the input shaft engages the output shaft—oriented athwartships—and it opens and closes the window through an elegant linkage. The mechanism made me think of the commuter yachts of the late 1920s and early 1930s.
As you’d expect of a proper cruising yacht, the pilothouse has a berth and a settee, port side aft. The pilot berth provides the standby watch a comfortable place to sleep on overnight passages, and the settee gives guests a chance to monitor the progress or simply chat with the skipper.
Choosing a favorite spot aboard Stingray was impossible. I discovered this after descending the stairs on the starboard side of the house and stepping into the saloon. Four big windows light the space and when the sun is shining, the teak sole and white overhead cast a remarkably happy brightness. Next to eating breakfast in the cockpit, I can’t think of a better location to take the morning repast than in the saloon. The galley lives at the after end adjacent to the companionway, and the entire saloon is small enough to hold the sweet smell of brewing espresso, piquant odor of frying bacon and rich scent of warm buttered baguettes. After breakfast, I’d stretch out on the L-shaped settee and read while I sipped a second double espresso.
Right forward of the saloon, a smallish cabin, with over/under berths to starboard and a head opposite, welcomes guests. Crew’s quarters fill the eyes of the boat. Teak trim and white ceilings contribute to the homey atmosphere in these cabins. Hatches and portlights keep them from imitating the ambience of a bomb shelter.
The ultimate barometer of any yacht’s value lies in her performance, and Stingray lived up to her Hunt pedigree. Her bottom’s steep entry transitions to a deadrise of 22 degrees at the leading edge of the planing surface (approximately amidships) and maintains that angle from there to the transom. A quartet of strakes on each side of the bottom increase lift and suppress spray, especially as they rise out of the water in the forward sections. Substantial flare in the bow keeps green water off the decks, but Stingray still ships her share of spray over the foredeck and trunk cabin in quartering winds.
Stingray chuckles at rough seas, slicing them into submission without disturbing the crew. In the beam seas we experienced, she rolled more than a beamier deep-V does, but the motion diminished as speed increased. Deep-V hulls rely on dynamic stability in these conditions and nowadays benefit from wide chine flats, which Stingray lacks. The tide, ebbing against the onshore wind, stacked up the seas as we headed east for a stretch, but Stingray made short work of those. I suggested that we head to Bimini, the boat felt so confident and secure, but my idea received a two-to-one veto.
Gentleman’s yacht indeed—the comforting warmth of her patina combined with modern engines, electronics and appliances invite long cruises to nowhere in particular.
This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.