Boatbuilding, Downeast Style Page 2
Clark also builds his own twin-engine, modified-V Acadia 46 and 50 in a variety of styles: sportfisherman, express cruiser, flying-bridge cruiser, etc. Designed by Dickes Yacht Design in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, the Acadias can be powered by props, surface drives, or jets for cruising speeds of 30 knots plus; top end is more than 40. Clark can build the Acadias using industry-standard laminates or cutting-edge composites, depending on the customer's requirements.
Lee Wilbur was one of Clark's teachers. Today the former Lee S. Wilbur & Co. in Southwest Harbor is called Wilbur Yachts and is run by Lee's daughter and son-in-law, Ingrid and John Kachmar. The company molds its own hulls, including 34- and 38-footers designed by Ralph Ellis, and also finishes hulls from Duffy and Wesmac. Wilbur has some famous clients: singer Billy Joel, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, and the Smithsonian, among many others. All Wilburs are custom-built in fiberglass and have been since Lee opened his doors in 1973.
One of Wilbur's most interesting yachts is the Northern Star 42, a Wilbur-designed and -built Downeast hull for a cruising couple with only occasional guests. Inspired by experienced yachtsman Dick Avery of St. Thomas, the Northern Star has a large master, roomy galley, and spacious saloon, all made possible by the absence of a guest cabin and head—guests sleep in the saloon on a pull-out couch and shower in the day head. A 400-hp diesel reportedly provides 1,400 miles of range at 9 knots, but may push the boat to 19 in a pinch. Do many people want a 42-footer with only one stateroom? No, but some do: "We create the boat to match our customers' needs," says Kachmar. That's the advantage of custom building.
Not all Mount Desert Island custom boatbuilders are in Southwest Harbor. Head north along the west side of Somes Sound, and you'll find the John Williams Boat Company in Hall Quarry. Owner Jock Williams builds Downeast boats from 26 to 44 feet, all designed by Lyford Stanley of Bass Harbor. Hulls, decks, and superstructures are molded fiberglass; cabins are built to old-time yacht standards by Williams' crew of 20. "I challenge them to do the best they can do," he says. "I know it sounds nave, but it's important that the people who work for me enjoy it." Williams builds two or three boats a year, on average; he also operates a full-service shipyard.
Williams started his company back in 1971, after his service in the Navy and spending a year as a boatbuilding apprentice at the Paul Molich shipyard in Denmark. During the 1970's he built only commercial boats, mostly 36-foot lobster boats designed by Lyford Stanley, all in fiberglass—at that time a new material for many fishermen. "We've built about 170 36s, maybe 70 percent of them commercial," he says. His first yacht launched in 1981, and today most Williams boats are used for pleasure. In addition to the semicustom Stanley designs, Williams' crew can build one-off yachts in fiberglass or wood, too. "We build safe, good sea boats," he says. "We're very fussy."
If you are fussy too, the next time you're looking to build a boat that's just right, you might head Downeast to Mount Desert Island. Chances are you will find a boatbuilder there who will give you exactly what you want.
What's a Downeaster, Anyway?
The true Downeast boat comes only from Maine. Consisting of a long, straight keel, basically flat aft sections, and firm, rounded bilges, the Downeaster hull is efficient, easily driven by a single engine, stable, and seaworthy. The sharp entry slices through the seas for a smooth ride, while the keel provides good tracking and protection in case of grounding. The hull maintains fairly level trim across its speed range and runs efficiently in displacement, semidisplacement, and planing modes, without the resistance "hump" characteristic of V-hulls. Designed and refined by fishermen and lobstermen who used them every day, rain or shine, Downeasters make good commercial fishboats—and excellent yachts, too.—M.S.
This article originally appeared in the May 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.