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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Hinckley SC42

I had three questions in mind when I pulled into the parking lot behind the venerable, white-clapboard house that serves as the Hinckley sales office in Southwest Harbor, Maine. First, why was Hinckley, originator of the most popular jet-powered 36-footer ever built, the Picnic Boat, introducing two new sport cruisers, each offered with nothing but plain ol’ twin-screw inboard power? Second, what would these boats, the SC38 and the SC42, look like and how would they perform?

And third, where was the best place in town to get a couple of lobster rolls?

Even in the parking lot, the fog was wicked. In fact, it was so wicked that, while unloading test gear from my rental car, I began wondering whether there’d be enough visibility out on the water to actually sea trial the test boat du jour, an SC42 prototype optioned out with a hardtop, a few fish-fighting essentials, and a set of 730-hp MAN D2876 LE 405 diesel inboards, each turning a big H&H propeller. As I trudged up the office steps, I could see my friend Ben Ellison inside. A resident of nearby Camden as well as PMY’s electronics editor, he was already chatting up the Hinckley folks and drinking hot coffee, an appealing idea given the clamminess in the air. Ellison was going to join me for the sea trial of the 42—if it in fact took place. He was interested in the boat’s unusual exhaust system.

“Let’s do your first question first, Bill,” said Hinckley marketing head Ed Roberts after we’d all exchanged pleasantries. He then quickly synopsized the thinking behind the SC introduction. “We hope to tap a wholly new set of customers,” he explained, “people who want to own a Hinckley but haven’t bought one thus far, mostly because they’re into inboard power as well as a slightly lower price point, relative to our Talaria line.”

Ellison asked if Hinckley was backing away from jets in any way. “No, not at all,” Roberts replied, citing as proof the upcoming launch of the company’s largest jet boat to date, the Talaria 55.

“Now to your second question,” Roberts said as he handed Ellison and me a couple of neatly stapled stacks of drawings, renderings, and photographs, all depicting various versions of the new SC38 and SC42. Silence ensued. Finally Ellison and I glanced knowingly over our glasses at each other. The SCs were gorgeous, whether portrayed in open configurations or tricked out with tuna towers, outriggers, hardtops, or combinations thereof. It seemed obvious that the traditional New England bass boat was the primary inspiration for styling and layout, but there’d been plenty of updating, too. To gauge just how much, all you had to do was peruse the photo of the company’s first sport cruiser, designed by Henry Hinckley in 1940. It was an angular creature, truth be told—even a tad clunky.

The SC hull form was anything but, however. Drawn by Sarasota-based naval architect Michael Peters, a guy who’s done numerous offshore race boats and performers for manufacturers like Cabo, Intrepid, Cigarette, and Magnum, it featured short prop tunnels to boost speed while reducing shaft angle and draft, parabolic hull sections with a transom deadrise of 20 degrees to soften the ride in challenging seas, and a wraparound chine to shed spray, especially at the bow.

“Fog’s still thick,” said Roberts at length, nodding towards the harbor outside, an observation that cast doubt on my getting the rest of my second question answered via sea trial, at least within the next few hours. Nevertheless, we all departed the office, piled into Roberts’ big SUV, and hit the trail for nearby Manset, where our test boat was waiting.

Miracle of miracles! When we arrived, the sun was peeking through weakly but periodically; it looked like we’d be able to safely sea trial the test boat, at least during breaks in the fog. So, once our electronic MANs were cranked (with nary a whiff of smoke, by the way), off we went, creeping north toward Somes Sound, with a fog signal blaring from our single-trumpet Kahlenberg air horn and a set of exquisitely detailed images on our optional Raymarine RL80C radar and RL80CRC chartplotter.

En route to Somes, mostly because I’d so instantaneously and joyously been attracted to her close-quarters-handling characteristics, I was temporarily overcome with quirkiness and drove the SC42 backwards through a mooring field chockful of sailboats—with all due respect for the vagaries of fog and circumstance, of course. It was a piece of cake. I merely centered the wheel, rotated the Stidd helm chair slightly, and manipulated the Teleflex levers with my fingers while looking over my left shoulder. Visibility was great, all the way around, and the level of maneuverability was gratifying—using the throttles to the right of the wheel was totally unnecessary. Didn’t need the thruster, either!

I put the boat on plane in a slick-calm sea once we got to Somes and the mist cleared for a while. As the accompanying acceleration curve shows, the process went smoothly, without the stalls or struggles that flat spots and/or dips signify. The top speed of 45.2 mph was sporty, in part due to the optimized strength-to-weight ratio of Hinckley’s DualGuard Composite Construction, which, among other things, entails infusion of hull and deck with vinylester resin using SCRIMP. Our range figures looked good from an offshore fishing perspective, although it’s worth noting that we had an extra, optional 110-gallon fuel tank onboard, which stretched our figures somewhat. Running angles coming out of the hole were lofty enough to almost obviate visibility over the bow, at least momentarily, an attribute I corrected by applying tab prior to goosing the throttles. And the boat’s turning radius at speed was pretty broad, a foible that I’m told Hinckley will soon address by adding articulation to the SC42’s rudders.

We just beat the fog back to the dock. To take advantage of the warmth afforded by a couple of still hot-to-the-touch diesels, Ellison and I toured the engine room first, after lifting the bridge deck (with large day hatch for daily engine-room checks) via hinges on the forward edge and electric actuators with plenty of travel. Accessibility to service points was good and so was the engineering, what with the strikingly compact VonWidmann Designs exhaust system and the savvy arrangement of auxiliary equipment. Wire runs were installed in slapdash fashion in spots, though, an aesthetic matter the engineers at Hinckley say they’re working on. For example, I came across a fuel-gauge sender wire that was merely tie-wrapped to a fuel-tank fitting when it should have been secured with proper connectors to a nearby stringer.

The rest of the boat was spectacular. Hinckley’s justly renowned for a superb fit and finish, and the test boat’s accommodations, both below and topside, lived up to the company’s reputation and then some—for pure high-toned class you still can’t beat multiple layers of tried-and-true Epifanes high-gloss varnish. The layout was typical of the express-boat genre, with a master forward, galley/head/dinette area abaft it, and another dinette/lounge area topside, between the helm area and the cockpit. Standout features included a separate stall shower in the head and a two-person bench opposite the starboard-side Stidd at the helm, with a reversible back so it works as both companion and dinette seating.

“You had a third question, right?” Roberts grinned as Ellison and I finished up.

“Most assuredly,” I replied. “The best place in town to get a couple of lobster rolls?”

A short drive answered that query. Within ten minutes of entering the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound on Bar Harbor Road, I was constrained to enthuse, “Great food...great boat...great day!” Ellison and Roberts were too busy eating to agree.

The Hinckley Company
(207) 244-5531

This article originally appeared in the October 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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