Peter O’Connell is the new CEO of Hinckley Yachts. He owns a Hinckley Picnic Boat and enjoys cruising Long Island Sound and points north. The builder has set the bar for bespoke Down East cruising yacht designs, and has innovated regularly as boatbuilding technology has advanced over the past few decades.
What are some new demands you’re seeing from your clients?
Time is the greatest luxury today; our clients value it above all. Boating has to deliver a high-quality experience each and every time the family steps aboard. The boat has to be ready to deliver on the promises of comfort and fun, and it has to perform at its peak. That is steering us toward engineering systems that are not only reliable, but easy to use. It’s no longer enough to deliver a great boat; you have to deliver a great boating experience over time. It starts with training the owner so that he or she is knowledgeable and confident, and then providing very comprehensive services, which have taken on greater importance. Technical advances like remote connectivity now enable owners to know about the condition of the boat. If your batteries aren’t charging or you’ve picked up some bad fuel, you can see it and avoid that downtime. Digital switching is taking the mystery out of electrical systems making the standards for life aboard more like those we expect at home. Down East boat buyers are also looking for higher speeds. They’re not content with 20 knots anymore—they want to be in the mid-30s to 40 knots, plus efficiency at those higher speeds.
What advice do you have for someone walking the show in search of a Down East boat?
Propulsion is a major consideration. If you like to poke into the shallows, if your kids want to jump off the swim platform and play around behind the boat, you might want to consider jets. In addition to the shoal draft and the safety benefits, jets, which have only a handful of moving parts, are highly reliable, low maintenance, and efficient at today’s higher speeds. You’ll also want to consider the boat’s layout and whether it suits you. Are the social spaces big enough for entertaining? Do you need all those berths or will the builder trade them out for a desk or dinette? Some builders are willing to customize more than others.
Any final buying tips?
There are two that we think matter. Go for a sea trial. There is no substitute for an in-person demo as you’ll learn how a boat feels and sounds when it’s running, and how easy it is to handle. Second, compare new and used. While the traditional Down East look may be timeless, this current generation of boats really is different. The new features that are available on boats make a substantial difference to your ultimate enjoyment of boating.