It was an unlikely scene. The owner and his wife, both in their 70s, sat hunkered down in the U-shape settee forward of the centerline helm station in their custom-built, 70-foot express yacht. Grimacing against the sting of a cold drizzle that hung over the St. John's River, just south of St. Augustine, Florida, they nonetheless smiled broadly as the twin 1,850-hp Caterpillar diesels spun up to max rpm and a pair of Arneson surface drives threw a huge roostertail over our wake. While boatbuilder John Cosker leaned on the throttles, I stood transfixed as the readout on my radar gun climbed to more than 78 mph.
Just then, something big whizzed past my ear. It was a thick folder, the sole repository for the detailed set of records the owner had methodically compiled during the project's nearly two-year design and build process. Picked up and carried overboard by the near 80-mph winds across the deck, it was now 'gator food. My heart went out to the owner, but his grin never wavered. He no longer needed his notes. He had his boat.
The owner is Stew Leonard, retired founder of a highly successful chain of specialty food stores in the Northeast. During the winter he and his wife Marianne live in a waterfront retreat on St. Martin, where family members have long been encouraged to visit and bring guests. Each day Leonard loves to lunch at his favorite waterside bistro in St. Barts. In the past he used the family's 50-foot Magnum to make the trip. But a few years ago Leonard felt he needed a boat that was both bigger and faster. Unfortunately, the available 70-footers all topped out around 50 knots or so—not fast enough. Undaunted, Leonard dedicated himself to commissioning a custom project and, through that process, came into the acquaintance of offshore-race boatbuilder John Cosker, owner of Mystic Powerboats in DeLand, Florida.
The design brief was simple: a 70-foot open with a center helm station and a top speed of 70 mph or more; seating for about 30 guests, locating as many as possible where the owner can converse with them while underway; sunpads and lounges aft, along with a swim platform; and a maximum air draft to 9'3" so the boat can sneak under a bridge separating the family digs and the open sea.
It was perhaps the last requirement that caused the greatest heartburn in the project, resulting in the severe flat-top look of her hardtop. But she seats a small army on deck, most clustered near the center helm station. And she even has a modest cuddy under the foredeck with a nicely appointed galley and dinette, a space for a couple of grandbabies to nap, and a huge shower in the bow.
A minor glitch (since resolved) in her custom five-foot trim tabs KO'd doing a full set of performance runs, but she bested her target speed by almost 10 mph. And on all other counts, she met or exceeded her design objectives. Buoyed by her stellar performance, Mystic Powerboats is looking forward to building a few more of these screamers, albeit with a bit softer styling in her hardtop and seating layouts to suit the customer.
Length overall: 71'0"
Accommodations: 2 twin berths, plus pull-out in saloon (1 queen, 1 double, and bunk berths on future boats)
Standard engines: 2/1,850-hp Caterpillar C32 ACERT diesel inboards w/ Arneson ASD-14 surface drives
For more information on Mystic Powerboats, including contact information, click here.
This article originally appeared in the May 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.