Ghosts of Cruisers Past

Spectator - February 2001

Spectator — 2001

By Tom Fexas

Ghosts of Cruisers Past
Our wheel of fortune.
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Ghosts
• Part 2: Ghosts continued
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Your Spectator is never wrong. I have always prided myself on keeping my readers ahead of the curve, and over the past 15 years my prognostications in this column are documented to have been 99.8 percent correct. Among the things I have predicted are the intrusion of government regulations, electronic control problems, remote boats, submarine yachts, and styling trends. I predicted the ascendance of blob styling, the development of retro boats, and the popularity of paramilitary cruisers.

When Tom Fexas Yacht Design was doing round-style boats in the `70s, everybody else was doing origami boats littered with hard corners. In 1978 we introduced one of the first retro boats to go into production, the now-famous Midnight Lace. Being five to 10 years ahead is laudable, but being 22 years ahead is a little scary. In fact, maybe we were into classic boats too early. Although many Midnight Lace 44s and 52s were sold, we failed to capitalize on a trend that has now swept the industry.

Well, we're back in the classic/paramilitary boat business big time, and I haven't had so much fun since I was chasing my future wife around southern Brazil. Let's face it, nobody goes into the yacht design business to make money. Sometimes you make a few bucks, but the main purpose of the endeavor is to have fun. Arbitrage guys, dot-comers, and bastions of industry may have every orifice exuding bucks, but they don't seem to have much fun. Fun involves conceiving brand-new vessels from napkin sketches and notes scribbled on coffee-stained yellow paper. From such humble beginnings can spring a magnificent new vessel.

I love all kinds of boats. Each has its "hook." Creating large motoryachts--villages at sea on a grand scale--is a daunting proposition, but the rewards are great. Sportfishermen are always interesting to do because every owner wants something different, and maximum performance and fishability must be squeezed out of the design for it to be a success. Go-anywhere expedition vessels have their own quiet confidence; the ability to plod through anything at anytime is inspiring. Here at TFYD we also do a lot of yachts from 60 to 100 feet, each with its own set of requirements to suit the owners, which keeps things interesting. But one of my all-time favorite endeavors is designing boats that hearken to the trim cruisers of the `30s, `40s and `50s. Nowadays some call these dayboats, others call them picnic boats or express cruisers, but they really are just simple cruisers, usually between 40 and 50 feet, conceived to bring people back to the basic pleasures of boating.

In September 1993 I wrote, "As I predicted many years ago, and I recently expanded on, we are presently in the midst of the blobist period in the timeline of yacht styling. Ever since the early `80s, boats have become increasingly blobby and will continue to do so until they have virtually no discernable form at all and we can no longer stand to look at them." Well, friends, we have now reached that point.

Some amoeba boats today are so double-butt ugly that they hurt the eyes and induce the dry heaves. Hinckley, San Juan Composites, Freedom, Alden, Eastbay, and Sabreline, among others, have rushed to fill the styling void. So have we.

Next page > Ghosts, Part 2 > Page 1, 2

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

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