40 — By Capt. Bill Pike — May 2002
|Part 2: Knowles 40 continued|
He promptly launched into a strange, cautionary tale. It began in 1997, when the Knowles was a concept and little more. Reiter was excited, however. For better or worse, he'd decided to have a custom express-type boat built based on the layout of the Luhrs walkaround, partly because he needed "a nice big project" to keep him busy, partly because he'd sold the Luhrs and needed a replacement, and partly because he wanted to recapture the fun he and his dad had had commissioning and running custom boats in the past. He chose a Long Island yard near home. It was convenient. Just like old times.
Papers were signed. With an enjoyable planning and lofting period complete, work went on pleasantly enough, and the hull of the new 40-footer was finished in a timely and acceptable manner. Then, as interior fitments and structure began to go in, squabbles broke out--materials and workmanship seemed questionable to Reiter, as did certain financial practices.
Things got worse. Eventually, after a particularly nasty altercation with the builder, Reiter took a bold step. He hired a flatbed truck, arrived one morning at the yard with said truck and a rather imposing truck driver, demanded his partially finished boat, and promptly hauled her to Stuart, Florida where he knew his friend and advisor Bill Knowles would satisfactorily complete the job the Long Islanders had started. One critical detail made this extreme but redemptive measure possible.
"I had legal title to the vessel from day-one," Reiter said, with obvious satisfaction. "And I advise anyone thinking about building a custom boat to do exactly the same thing."
As we pulled into the parking lot of the Knowles Boat Company after breakfast, I spotted Bill Knowles immediately--a big, floppy Tilley hat is a hard thing to miss early in the morning, even amid a profusion of cradles, jack-stands, pickup trucks, and refit and/or restoration projects of every conceivable size, shape and scope. Knowles was overseeing the lowering of Reiter's boat into the water, while tossing Cheese Nips to the ducks he dotes on. His personal vessel, a lovingly restored old Hatteras, ain't called Quacker for nothin'.
Reiter and I went aboard the 40. I immediately took note of the features that had grabbed my attention in the beginning. The most noticeable and unusual of the lot were the wide walkthroughs in the bridge wings that make it easy for a single person to dock the boat, thanks to safe, direct routes to the spring cleats, as well as the side decks. Then there was the walkaround configuration forward: Instead of a precarious and sometimes-unfishable flush foredeck, Reiter's boat has a deep, protective, U-shape walkway with ergonomically correct seating on the trunk-cabin top. As on other walkarounds, any seawater taken aboard sluices aft into the cockpit, which is fitted with oversized scuppers. Then there was the design of the after half of the bridge. It not only offers convenient big-boat access to the engine room, but comfort on the bridge as well, via a wide, L-shape lounge.
"Stabbing the tanks?" I queried, as Knowles knelt in the cockpit preparatory to our departure, inserting a long measuring stick straight down into one of the boat's three fuel fills, which are flush-fit into the cockpit sole to obviate overboard spills. Remote fuel gauges are generally inaccurate, in my opinion, whether they're electric or mechanical. Measuring sticks don't lie.
"Simplify a boat," Knowles opined, by way of an answer, "and you make her more reliable."
I sea-trialed the Knowles 40 in a one-foot chop. Despite the unchallenging sea conditions, she registered a remarkable performance, with turns that were agile and quick, a top-end that was sporty, and a ride that was stable, poised, and solid, with no squeaks or rattles emanating from anywhere.
She drove like a thoroughbred, too. Which is not to say she's not up to the rough-and-tumble fumbles of real life, like losing an engine. To test that possibility, I killed one of the Cummins, and she held a steerable, steady course with the other turning 2250 rpm and the boat doing 19.1 mph, as measured on my Stalker ATS radar gun.
"I love this boat," Reiter laughed, as I put the gun and the rest of my test gear away, and Knowles throttled up for the run back home. All three of us shared a moment of amused eye contact.
"That's what it's all about, Ken," Knowles grinned broadly, taking hold of the brim of his Tilley hat.
Knowles Boat Company Phone: (772) 334-4334. Fax: (772) 334-4354.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.