Borrowing lines from a bygone era and a hullform used on PT boats, the Huckins 45 Sportfisherman moves the iconic brand into the future.
After I’d learned a little about the owner of Wombat, the new Huckins 45 Sportfisherman, I really wanted to interview him. An experienced boater, he’s owned a string of boats over the years, the last one being a Bertram. Bertram and Huckins? Now what could those two brands have in common that would attract this guy?
Unfortunately our schedules never quite matched up so I wasn’t able to ask him, but I did the next best thing: I asked Cindy Purcell, who with her husband Buddy owns Huckins and who personally deals with every customer. “Actually, Huckins and Bertram have a lot in common,” she explained. “After Dick Bertram [Bertram’s founder] had taken a 48 Huckins out of [Miami’s] Government Cut on a strong ebb tide bucking an east wind, he wrote my grandfather [Frank Huckins] that he was amazed a boat could take those seas on the beam with virtually no rolling. That’s the connection—they’re both great sea boats.”
That’s high praise from the man who was instrumental in popularizing the deep-V hullform. The rough-sea prowess of those early Bertrams is the stuff of legend, and yet the connection is ironic in that Huckins’s trademark Quadraconic hull form is the very antithesis of a deep-V. Its seaworthiness is the result of a warped hull that transitions from very fine forward sections into after sections that are nearly flat. For the entire length the surfaces on either side of centerline are concave, which along with a full-length spray knocker on each side, produces a famously dry ride, a characteristic a few of those early Bertrams lacked.
Flat aftersections produce more lift and thereby better efficiency, which means among other things that less horsepower should be required to get the boat on plane and produce a given speed. Huckins says that in this particular iteration the flatness aft also produces a degree of athwartships stability that obviates the need for trim tabs, of which Wombat has none.
The proof of these theories was borne out by our sea trial. Wombat’s running angles barely exceeded 3 degrees at any point, and there was no hump during acceleration, just a gentle, almost imperceptible transition from displacement to planing speeds. Generous lift in the after sections is surely one reason for this but so is careful attention to balance and weight. Huckins has long experimented with alternatives to conventional construction. It began sheathing wood with resin—a forerunner to cold molding—back in 1960, and in 1976 launched the largest cored motoryacht ever built in the United States. In short, this quiet little yard tucked away in northeastern Florida has been building composites longer than just about anyone, and along with all this experience comes a cognizance about what goes into each boat—no marble soles or countertops on Wombat. Huckins knows how to build light yet strong, which is why Wombat’s displacement is a svelte 27,000 pounds.
The combination of lift and lightness is abetted by careful attention to balance. Placement of masses, including engines, the generator, and especially the single 415-gallon fuel tank—forward of the engines where changes in fuel load will least impact the running angle—are all crucial to the Huckins formula. Getting everything right on Wombat was complicated by the fact that she is the first Huckins with pods: ZF 2800s. (Being fully custom, the 45 is available with virtually any power you desire.) The absence of marine gears bolted to the engines and the additional weight of pods near the transom entailed additional calculations by Bill Prince Yacht Design, which did most of the engineering.
The results are hard to argue with: Wombat topped out at just under 35 knots with modest power: twin 480-horsepower Cummins QSM11s. More impressive, she was on plane at about 10 knots, where she got roughly a mile per gallon, and she even made a remarkable 16 knots on one engine. Although her fuel tankage is also modest, she enjoys a 415-mile range at 2250 rpm and 20.33 knots.
This kind of performance is particularly noteworthy when you consider that while it has evolved, the Quadraconic hullform is essentially the same design Frank Huckins drew back in 1928 and the one with which he won the PT boat sea trials. But then at Huckins an obsession with stability extends beyond matters of boat performance. One of the oldest family boatbuilders in the United States, it has remained under the same ownership despite cataclysms such as The Luxury Tax and The Great Recession. And while tradition is highly revered at Huckins and is reflected in both hull design and aesthetics, the company has never shied away from innovation. Besides pods, Huckins has built both Arneson Drive and water-jet boats, as well as straight inboards, and back in 1984 it launched a 50-footer powered by four outboards, which topped out at 33 knots.
I suspect that this unique combination of comfort with new technology and reverence for tradition was one reason why Wombat’s owner picked Huckins. Inside and out, this boat is very much the conservative sportfisherman, but beneath her traditional profile, she’s thoroughly modern in both design and performance.
This combination was strikingly illustrated after the sea trial when I headed upstairs to the design loft where John Hall hand-draws renderings of each new boat, tailored to each prospective owner. As I walked through the aged building, I passed pictures, sketches, and press clippings of previous Huckins launches lining nearly every wall, some so faded and yellowed with age they were barely readable. After the three of us had examined a number of hull drawings depicting the features of the Quadraconic hull and I was turning to leave, Cindy drew my attention to a much-aged oak flat file lining one wall. “See this?” she asked. “In here are the drawings for every Huckins ever built—486 of them.” She pulled open a drawer at random, and there were the engineering sketches for what looked like a yachtified PT boat, dated in 1949.
Now that’s a legacy.
Brokerage Listings Powered by BoatQuest.com
Click to see listings of Huckins Yachts currently for sale on BoatQuest.com.
Warranty: 5 years on hull, 1 year on workmanship
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 69°F; humidity: 50%; seas: flat
Load During Boat Test
327 gal. fuel, 100 gal. water, 6 persons, 1,000 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/480-hp Cummins QSM11 diesels w/ ZF 2800 pods
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF2800 pod/1.75:1
- Props: H14 propset
- Price as Tested: Upon request (custom yacht)
This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.