Timeless

When two powerhouse design teams and a world-class boatbuilder collaborate on a custom project, the result is the Hood 57 LM.

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Timeless. It’s a word that’s thrown around much too cavalierly for my taste. It seems that in today’s over-marketed world, everything, from the newest Toyota to the pizza place down the street, is offering a “timeless” experience. Come on now. My Mount Rushmore of yachts that are truly timeless includes the J-Class sailing ships of the 1930s and a handful of commuter yachts—namely the 74-foot Aphrodite built in 1937 and the 1960s Riva Ariston. Yes, these are all older yachts, but you can’t pass the test of time without, well, time.

Walking atop the frozen terra firma on a sub-30-degree evening in Thomaston, Maine’s famed Lyman-Morse grounds, I laid eyes on a boat that aims to elbow its way onto that hallowed list.

The sun was sinking fast behind an evergreen horizon as the last employees primed and polished the new Hood 57 LM. My breath climbed skyward as I admired the first-of-its-kind craft. I have a confession; like many of you, I learned of this new model from scrolling through my social media feed. With lines from an era decades past and enough brightwork to give a varnisher a mental breakdown, I immediately thought damn, that’s a beautiful boat as I captured a screen shot. Before long, I was driving down a lonely Maine highway just a couple weeks ahead of Thanksgiving. I needed to learn more about this mysterious beauty.

Early the next morning, I’d be properly introduced by the team who brought her to life. Sipping coffee from a Dunkin Donuts Box of Joe was Chris Hood of C.W. Hood Yachts, Bob Stephens of Stephens Waring Yacht Design and Drew Lyman of Lyman-Morse boatbuilding. Besides having well-known last names, they all boast reputations synonymous with the design and construction of well-known boats. Individual superheroes in our sport, and in many ways longtime competitors, they assembled together like a boat-nerd’s Avengers. Individually, they have many beautiful designs to their names, but when a project as monumental as the request for the Hood 57 LM arose, only with their combined powers could they save Earth—I mean, build the boat.

I follow the three aboard. The swim platform is level with the dock, so it’s an easy step. The salon is bright, with retro automotive touches everywhere. Hood looks especially at home aboard the 57, which makes sense; he’s been visiting the boat on a monthly basis since
construction began in December 2018, and he’s been thinking about this project on a near-hourly basis. Not only one of the designers, he also serves as the owner’s de facto project manager.

Three members of the dream team —Bob Stephens, Chris Hood and Drew Lyman—enjoying a cold morning run on the Hood 57 LM.

Three members of the dream team —Bob Stephens, Chris Hood and Drew Lyman—enjoying a cold morning run on the Hood 57 LM.

“This project started when the owner came by my shop one day to talk about a boat we were restoring for him. We walked into the yard and he said, ‘I like what you’re doing here, but I think I want a bigger boat,’” says Hood. “I said ‘Okay, what are you thinking?’ He said, ‘Something 55 or 60 feet, can you do that?’ I said sure,” he recalls with a laugh. When asked more about what he was looking for, the client replied, “Well, I have a Hinckley 44, and I’m thinking seriously of a Palm Beach 60, but I want something different. Can we do something that’s really creative?” Again, Hood said sure.

Over the next three to four months, Hood drafted countless sketches with the owner to commit his vision to paper. “He said wide side decks were essential and that the boat would be an entertaining platform,” says Hood. “He didn’t even want staterooms. I talked him into it!”

Also on the owner’s list of nonnegotiables was an emphasis on the cockpit space and a gentle rake of the bow and hull flare. Hood had originally planned to build the boat at his Marblehead, Massachusetts, yard, but as the complexity of the project grew, he selflessly concluded that he would need to bring in some additional manpower.

The builder is not bashful in admitting that this boat’s brightwork, while stunning, will be a lot of work to maintain.

The builder is not bashful in admitting that this boat’s brightwork, while stunning, will be a lot of work to maintain.

He would find just that in his competitors at Stephens Waring, founded and led by Bob Stephens and Paul Waring. “I had met Paul and Bob over the years at various boat shows and always respected their work and designs. I liked talking to them; they’re very approachable,” says Hood. “So, I made a call, one thing led to another and we said let’s get going. Then it was time to find a builder.”

Stephens and Waring had completed a similarly ambitious project in a custom 65-foot sailboat built by the team at Lyman-Morse that had exceeded all expectations. In an industry where there’s rarely more than a degree of separation, the principals of C.W. Hood, Stephens Waring and Lyman-Morse met, built out a program and committed to tackle the 57 together.

This would be the first time Chris Hood and Drew Lyman worked together directly, but their family names were already linked. “His father [Cabot Lyman] and my uncle [Ted Hood] have built boats together,” says Hood. “I felt like I was part of the family already.”

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Like something out of Braveheart, the northern clans were united once again. Surely with such pedigrees behind them all, there must have been some bumping of heads, right? With what was either genuine honesty or incredible poker faces they all shook their heads no. “It’s not bumping heads so much as discussing the details,” said a careful Lyman.

“I’ve never heard the word ‘no’ from Lyman-Morse,” says Hood. “Well, I don’t know about never,” replies Drew with a laugh. “Same with Stephen Waring. We tackle problems and issues together. That’s what differentiates us. We figure out solutions.”

If the secret to their collaborative success is tight-lipped, the end product speaks loudly enough for itself. The two-stateroom layout is as opulent as the rest of the boat. There are examples of creative engineering everywhere, like an origami-inspired cockpit table, a disappearing commuter-yacht-style lounge in the bow and a “hidden” grill in the cockpit. (To really get a sense of how this space flows together, I invite you to check out our video below.)

What I’d prefer to talk about here are my two favorite spaces. One is the engine room that houses Volvo Penta IPS 1350s. Access to this space is simply impressive, courtesy of an hydraulically lifting cockpit (Cabo style) that allows you to walk down into the space with only a slight hunch.

The second is what the dream team aptly calls the systems room. Access to all the major systems is incredibly easy, and adding to that is how thoroughly labeled everything is. “The systems room is the heart of the boat. I’ve grown up on boats where everything is shoehorned in, and this space is just a dream,” beams Hood. “I’d come up during the build process and say, ‘What’s going on in the systems room?’ and everyone would be smiling and saying, ‘We love working in here!’ We put a lot of effort into making sure everything has a place.”

Seeing such modern engineering in this space almost makes you forget that the 57 is built using a wood-composite method; it starts in a jig like a traditional wooden-built boat but benefits from resin-infused skins and laminated stringers. Having spent hours at this point admiring the boat dockside, I was anxious to see how this modern classic would handle underway.

As we idled out the channel, the crew profusely praised their experience working with Volvo-Penta and installing the IPS pods. “We knew the potential of the IPS system, and we knew it was the only way to get the performance the owner wanted,” explains Stephens. “The biggest thing Volvo Penta was involved with was the structure around the engines. They supply extensive drawings. They ran our 3D-modeled hull through their simulator and made suggestions, like adding a degree of deadrise here or widening the chines. They gave a lot of feedback that led us to alter the hull shape.”

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When the 57 finally found open water and her throttles were pushed forward, she gracefully glided to a near-40-knot top end. We weren’t in any sort of seas, but you could just feel that all their work on the hull shape had paid off. It was one of those rides that makes you give the MFD a double take. It was so quiet, and the ride so smooth, I thought we were cruising at closer to 20 knots. Lobster pots passing in a blur betrayed this illusion.

I took the helm at a less-than-enviable point in our cruise. Lobster pots dotted the seascape as far as I could see. I’ve had plenty of experience with the maneuverability courtesy of Volvo Penta IPS, but less so with Maine’s minefields. I hoped the IPS would see me through.

The boat’s handling proved both silky yet grippy and responsive, traits I was thankful for as the others aboard chatted in the salon. I would hate to put this party into a tailspin with the telltale vibration that comes from snagging a line. I felt like Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit as I moved the 57 like an overly aggressive pawn through a cluttered chess board. When it comes to cruising through the lobster fields of Maine, you need to be thinking three or four moves ahead. Of course, I could have slowed the boat down, but its mid-20-knot cruise was far too fun, and I was much too macho to retreat the throttles.

I breathed a silent sigh of relief when Lyman relieved me to land the 57 back alongside its slip, a chore he made look like child’s play thanks to a) his lifetime spent docking boats here and b) the assist that comes from the joystick control.

Back at the dock, with fingers and toes starting to tingle from the cold, I once again found myself taking in this one-of-a-kind vessel with her impeccable teak brightwork. Is this really the end of this story? I wondered. After years of work, is the boat simply to be delivered to a proud owner, a one-off to be admired wherever she may roam?

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I ask, half jokingly, when should I return to Maine to test hull number two? Sideways glances and mischievous looks pass among the three before a confession tumbles out. “This is the showpiece,” confides Lyman. “We want to come up with a realistic pricing program with layered options [for a future build]. Here’s the deal: When you come to Lyman-Morse, you’re not coming to do what everyone else has done. Hull number two is going to be different. And that’s what we expect here. We’re not a high-volume production builder, but if our next boat was exactly the same, maybe it could be done in just under a year.”

Hood and Stephens jump in and speculate that perhaps hull two could be a coupe, or bigger, or then again maybe smaller. It’s plain to see that what excites this trio the most is imagining what the future will look like for this new model line. It’s in the unknown where they find purpose.

It’s far too early to speculate if this collaboration can yield an all-new brand of boat, but from everything I’ve seen, I think the Hood 57 LM achieved rarefied status. It’s indeed a design that I consider timeless.

Hood 57 LM Specifications:

LOA: 57'3"
Beam: 17'6"
Draft: 4'10"
Displ.: 66,000 lbs.
Fuel: 900 gal.
Water: 150 gal.
Power: 2/1,000-hp Volvo IPS 1350

This article originally appeared in the February 2021 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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