88 — By Richard Thiel —
One Man’s Fancy
|A writer’s brief but passionate encounter with a yacht leads to a surprising boat test.|
There are a number of reasons why we test boats. Sometimes the readers demand we cover one. Sometimes the builders ask us to. And sometimes a boat just strikes someone’s fancy here. The Rayburn 88 falls into the last category. Last fall, senior editor Bill Pike, whose fancy has been struck by more than a few boats, briefly toured her at a Seattle boat show and was highly impressed. He immediately convinced me that we should test her, and when Bill’s schedule conflicted with the boat’s, I stepped up to the plate.
I didn’t know much about the 88 when I arrived at her dock in Vancouver, British Columbia. Bill had told me she’d been built by a small, family-owned Canadian yard and that she had beautiful joinery. But I hadn’t had a chance to review a spec sheet or even look at a picture until I stepped aboard on an unseasonably cold day in November.
On seeing her I was mildly surprised. Somehow I’d expected a boat that looked, well, stodgier. Instead, I found a yacht that looked purposeful yet stylish. She has big flare and bulwarks forward; broad, protected side decks; sleek, flush-mounted windows; a covered aft deck; and the generous freeboard and moderate top-hamper that bespeak seaworthiness.
I was also surprised when I stepped aboard. I’ve seen my share of fine joinery, but this was impressive, in both extent and execution. I felt like I’d stepped into a comfortable old English gentleman’s club, complete with rich, wood paneling, fluted columns, and soft leather upholstery. The predominant woods are sapelle and pomele (sapelle burl), unstained and finished with “satin gloss” varnish, making the grain deep and iridescent. The joinery is flawless. Soles are marble (heated), sapelle and holly, or carpet. Two thoughts struck me: One, this is the way a yacht should look; and two, I see why Bill was so impressed.
Yet another surprise was the eponymous Mr. Rayburn. Ron had boatbuilder written all over him. In his late 40s, I’d guess, he radiated passion, both for this yacht and for his craft. Despite a pressing appointment, he took time to give me a short biography and explain how he came to build a $5.8 million spec yacht. His history included building small runabouts and cruisers and holding a variety of positions in boatbuilding companies and brokerage houses before buying the yard in May 1998. Since then he’s built 11 boats, of which the 88 is the largest.
As to why he built the 88, Rayburn explained that for a long time he’d wanted to build a yacht with uncompromising design, quality, and finish. About two years ago a customer offered to back the project, and so work began. It all sounded impressive, but I found myself wondering what lay beneath the wood, leather, and marble, so I inquired about construction.
This article originally appeared in the December 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.