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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Huckins Atlantic 44

I have grown used to waiting for ladies. It no longer bothers me that my female friends take a bit longer to get ready than I do. Heck, I'll even go out on a limb and say that waiting is a treat. Why? Because I've come to value these moments as precious down time for catching up on reading, channel surfing, or sneaking in 40 winks.

Recently, I had to remind myself more than once of my Zen approach to waiting. It was Monday morning—breakdown day at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show—and I was sweating too much, tapping my toes, and pacing. Why was I so impatient? Because I had an impending date with a classic beauty: the retro-style Huckins Atlantic 44.

Little wonder I was edgy. Huckins Yachts occupies a stately position in U.S. powerboating, its name conjuring images of American yachts from a bygone era. Frank Pembroke Huckins founded the yard in 1928, and he dubbed the first Huckins, a 42-foot Express Cruiser, the “Fairform Flyer.”

The 44 utilizes a version of the patented Quadraconic hull, a term Frank Pembroke Huckins adopted to describe a design of his own invention. In an effort to combine the best attributes of displacement and planing hulls, his Quadraconic hull featured a sharp entry with four distinct conical sections and a flat aft section. He also employed a series of steps he described as "resembling the teeth of a saw," to help the boat plane more quickly. Both the design and the theories behind it were dismissed at the time, but they were redeemed during World War II when the Quadraconic hull was chosen by the Navy for its PT boat, which Huckins and two other yards ended up building.

The 44 I was about to test also has a history: She is actually a re-engineered version of the Atlantic that Huckins built in the 1950's and 1960's. But in place of a jig-built wooden design, the yard now employs hand-laid fiberglass, CoreCell below the waterline, E-glass, and vinylester resin. The latest 44 took nine months to complete at Huckins' Jacksonville yard.

And speaking of time, I was still waiting, this time for traffic to clear. As Cindy Purcell, Huckins’ marketing rep, welcomed me aboard Hull No. 454, I hustled onto the teak swim platform and through a 1'9"-wide transom door that provides access to the cockpit. When the boat is docked at higher quays, the cockpit can be accessed on either side via the aforementioned step plates and ladders. Stowage here is excellent: Two forward lockers flanking the two-foot-wide centerline saloon door are each wide enough to swallow a few scrub brushes and their 48-inch-long handles, with room left for a five-gallon bucket and 100-foot hose.

The cockpit also allows access to the engine room though a hatch in the sole and down a four-step stainless steel ladder. At 4'8", headroom’s at a premium here, but the 2'4"-wide walkway between the 380-hp Cummins QSB5.9 380 diesel inboards allows access to all service points, as does the 1'4" clearance above them. The 9.5-kW Northern Lights diesel genset sits aft, and while it's easy to access and service, I was surprised by its lack of a hushbox. Purcell explained that the company believes that enclosures hinder access and inhibit cooling. I anticipated that the sound-attenuation panels made of fire-resistant, aluminum-face melamine foam on the bulkheads as well as the ER headliner would inhibit transmission of engine and genset noise—and it did, moderately, as I later took a reading of 88 dB-A at the helm (65 dB-A is the level of normal conversation) at the 44’s average top speed of 33.2 mph.

But if anyone has concerns about a tight engine space, they'll soon be quelled by the comfort of the cockpit and below-decks layout. The bridge deck's two L-shape settees—aft, to port and starboard—are each roomy enough for three people and convert into a C-shape settee. Forward-facing seating is available on the comfortable Stidd double companion seat that sits just above the bridge deck's two Sub-Zero drawer-style freezers. The helm is to starboard, complete with a Stidd Admiral 500 helm chair facing a Furuno NavNet chartplotter, a custom six-spoke mahogany wheel, a rosewood-accented instrument panel, and an electronically actuated, forward-facing window directly in front. Large windows to port and starboard provide excellent sightlines and slide open for cross-ventilation.

The top-shelf woodwork I observed in the saloon set the stage for what I found below. The mahogany interior is stunning, its superb joinery a testament to Huckins' 77-year history, as is the cherry-and-ash sole. An L-shape Ultraleather settee is to starboard, directly across from the port-side galley. Down a centerline companionway, the forepeak master&mdash:with 6'5" headroom&mdash:is fitted with a queen island berth and offers two 2'4"x1'6"x3'9" cedar-lined hanging lockers and four roomy drawers below the berth. There's also access here to the head and shower. A second stateroom, aft and to port, has upper and lower single berths and shares head privileges with the master.

Once we were finally off the dock, heavy traffic and 20-knot winds had whipped the ocean into messy three- and four-footers. The 44 was unfazed. She didn't need trim tabs to get on plane in less than ten seconds at 15 mph, with a steady trim reading averaging just above three degrees, only rising above four degrees near WOT. Her fuel-sipping nature was also impressive: she'll cruise at 22.3 mph at 2000 rpm, getting better than one mile per gallon (1.22), with a range of 447 miles.

A big part of the Atlantic's initial appeal will likely be her retro design. But I think her rough-water performance, based on the PT boats that helped win the Asia-Pacific Theater, will ultimately prove to be more compelling. After my time spent aboard, I can certainly say she was well worth the wait.

Huckins Yacht
(904) 389-1125

This article originally appeared in the January 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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