The Widening

Spectator - March 2003

Spectator — March 2003

By Tom Fexas

The Widening
Bring Out Another Thousand.
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: The Widening
• Part 2: The Widening
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I'm sliding south on the Intracoastal just past Jupiter, Florida, at the helm of the prototype 52-foot Midnight Lace with a narrow 13-foot beam. I don't reduce throttle as I blast past a big Swan puffboat at 23 knots. Startled, the guy in the cockpit looks over and gives me the finger. No surprise to veteran power skippers except for one little thing: Instead of the expected upright middle digit, he's giving me a big "thumbs up!" The process will be repeated many times by ragstuffers in appreciation of the Lace's minimal wake and snarky, low profile. Just one of the reasons why I love skinny boats.

I developed my taste for long, skinny boats as a teenager in the 1950's when I was a mate on the 62-foot Consolidated commuter Go Go on Long Island Sound. Her beam was only about 11 feet, and she ran like a champ (despite her original 30-year-old Speedway engines), consistently blowing away newer boats such as the triple-screw Chris-Crafts, Huckins, Matthews, and Wheelers. Since then, I've always been an advocate of long, skinny boats, boats with an overall length-to-beam ratio of about four in the 50-foot range. Now, however, I am ready to be labeled a turncoat by advocates of narrow boats, many of which I created over the years with the original line of Laces. Well, sometimes you just gotta remove your coat, turn it inside out, and carry on. The brand-new 52 Lace is substantially beamier than her older sisters--up from 13 feet on the original 52-foot boat to a colossal 16'6" on the new boat--and people are asking why.

The Hundred-Hour Factor
A car story will help explain things. I own a 1971 Corvette with a 454 "rat" engine. At idle it shakes my house and the house next door and instills fear in the neighborhood cats and dogs. Stand on the gas, and the accelerator pump shoots raw fuel into the carb's black holes like a garden hose. One quick blast from a dead stop to 80 mph, and you can actually see the gas gauge fall. I might get 10 mpg when the monster is in tune, and I don't much care because this is a "weekend car," used for short blasts hither and yon. During the week, the beast is demurely kept in the garage under cover while I drive a more sensible rig to and from work and on trips. Ten mpg is not a problem because a full tank will probably last me six months.

Next page > The Widening, Part 2 > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the February 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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