Summer Special

The Protector 330 Targa makes short work of tackling three Northeast cruising destinations in a single day.

For many boaters in the Northeast, Block Island sunsets are the epitome of summer.

For many boaters in the Northeast, Block Island sunsets are the epitome of summer.

My skin is coated in a summer’s worth of salt as we pound home through Buzzards Bay, the sun setting over the chop. It’s an end-of-summer sunset if I’ve ever seen one, the chilly air posing a stark contrast to the earlier heat and humidity. Once the sun disappears over the waves, I settle into the brisk conditions and we shoot through the darkness.

Ten hours prior, the team threw the lines from the Protector 330 Targa in Warren, Rhode Island, and headed towards Montauk, New York, to kick off what would become a long yet refreshing day at sea. After slowly making our way through the bay, Andrew Carleton, cofounder of Any Water Yachts, one of two Protector dealers in the U.S., and our official captain for the day, pushed down the throttle, and the twin 400-hp Mercury outboards roared to life as the coast beside us became a blur. Wow, this is a fast boat, I thought to myself as we instantly propelled into the 45-knot range, still well below the 330’s top end. And we were going to need all of that speed.

VIDEO: Testing the Protector 330 Targa

A couple weeks before, Carleton and his business partner, Brian Peterson, made us an offer: Test one of the models from ­Protector’s Targa line for one day, and one day only. Anything that we could squeeze into that time frame was fair game. We accepted the challenge and put our heads together. These RIBs are meant to withstand the elements, ­earning a reputation of being extremely safe and comfortable in rough conditions at any speed, which has made them popular Coast Guard vessels and America’s Cup tenders. Today, Protector is making a notable splash in the recreational market among new and experienced boat owners alike, all of whom are attracted to their bold performance and forgiving hull sides. How could we best test these boats the way they are meant to be used?

Perhaps our judgment was a bit distorted after a summer of significantly less cruising than usual, but we finally decided upon an ambitious mission: hit three iconic Northeast cruising destinations in one day.

The Targa line, which includes four models ranging from 31 to 41 feet, was recently redesigned above the waterline to include a few more creature comforts, including sliding sun roofs, cup holders and deepened companionways to provide more real estate at the helm and headroom in the cabin. With these added amenities and a hull renowned for its comfortable ride, we hoped to make it back to the dock in time for dinner, without getting beaten up.

The Protector 330 Targa has a helm worth figthing over; this is a fun and sporty boat to drive.

The Protector 330 Targa has a helm worth figthing over; this is a fun and sporty boat to drive.

It was a tall order, but Carleton and Peterson bravely accepted the challenge, and so myself, Editor-in-Chief Dan Harding, Senior Editor Simon Murray and Digital Director John Turner boarded the 330 Targa on a late August morning.

It’s a calm morning as we jet through fluctuating patches of clear blue skies and heavy fog, and although the Protector doesn’t have the chance to demonstrate her seakeeping in steep waves, she immediately reveals her sporty character; this boat is fun to drive. In between turns at the helm, I settle onto the aft bench seating in the cockpit, where the ride is exceptionally dry, save for when the captain carves sharp turns at speed.

Warren to Montauk is the longest jaunt of the day, and we pull into the Montauk Yacht Club at 11:45, feeling energized. Located on the eastern end of Long Island, the hamlet is perhaps best known for its recreational and commercial fishing industries, allegedly boasting more saltwater fishing records than any other port in the world. And although today many patrons of Montauk’s booming tourism industry consist of beach bums and bar-goers rather than avid anglers, the fishing industry is still the main attraction. Therefore, our trip to Montauk would not be complete without testing the bountiful waters for ourselves.

The Fish Dock is the closest thing Cutthunk has to a downtown. Here, you can purchase lobster, chowder and fresh oysters from the locals.

The Fish Dock is the closest thing Cutthunk has to a downtown. Here, you can purchase lobster, chowder and fresh oysters from the locals.

Just like the waterways around Montauk sport a diverse mix of weathered fishing vessels and sparkling new Vikings, the streets are full of modern G-Wagons and vintage off-roaders; here, tradition blends with the modern attractions that continually welcome fresh hordes of tourists each summer. New or old, all of the vehicles look equally appealing as we hike down the street in the heat of day, fishing gear in hand, to partake in Montauk’s favorite pastime: surfcasting.

Bluefish, striped bass, fluke and more thrive along the shorelines, while shark, tuna and marlin lurk in the waters offshore. None of these species showed up on our line, however. Chalk it up to amateur casting or bad luck, but there was little time to despair. Rather than catching our lunch, we would enjoy it at our next destination: Block Island.

Block Island is a little less rooted in a rich fishing history and a bit more known for its relaxed summer tourist crowd and its 17 miles of beaches, many of which are shielded by cliffs. For many New England boaters, Block’s Great Salt Pond is a physical manifestation of summer—the pond often welcomes more than 1,300 boaters on busy summer weekends. It’s a little less packed this year, the pandemic changing many people’s cruising plans, but the spirit of summer hangs in the air, even in the final days of the season.

Lookout Hill, Cuttyhunk

Lookout Hill, Cuttyhunk

After cruising through more fluctuating stretches of dense fog and clear blue skies, we dock the Protector at the Block Island Boat Basin and make a beeline for The Oar, which overlooks the Great Salt Pond, for a well-deserved lunch of lobster rolls and mudslides—two island staples. By the time we finish lunch and fill up at the fuel dock, it is just after 4 o’clock. Normally, this is when I would consider wrapping up the day and heading back to port, especially as the cooler air sweeps in and thunderstorms linger in the forecast, but this is not an ordinary day, and it is certainly not an ordinary boat test. We aim to hit the trifecta. So, we head for Buzzards Bay. Cuttyhunk is the final destination.

If you’ve never heard of Cuttyhunk, you’re not alone. Though not far from Martha’s Vineyard, the outermost of the Elizabeth Islands is perhaps New England’s best-kept secret for anglers, drawing the same crowd of old salts year after year while largely keeping tourists at bay. You will never encounter 1,300 boaters on the island at once, even on the busiest of weekends, but if you are hoping to escape the crowds at the island’s neighboring destinations, or you want to hook some striped bass along the rocky shoreline, then there is no better place in the Northeast to do just that.

The intermittent fog from earlier in the day has thickened, the normally sunny and welcoming entrance to the harbor now resembling a post-apocalyptic world, sailboats lurking eerily in the mist. The fog has lifted some when we tie the Protector to the finger piers, but it still lingers over the bay. When we trek to the top of Lookout Hill, where naval officers surveyed the ocean for U-Boats during World War II, the usual 360-degree view of Buzzards Bay, Vineyard Sound and the Atlantic is masked by the vapor.

Cuttyhunk is as salty as it gets. Fishing and lobstering are the ways of life for many residents.

Cuttyhunk is as salty as it gets. Fishing and lobstering are the ways of life for many residents.

Elsewhere, fog may be gloom-inducing, but on such a small island as Cuttyhunk, where the population consists almost entirely of weathered anglers and barefoot island children, it creates an even more pronounced sense of closeness. Cuttyhunk is its own world, a step back in time, and although it has far fewer amenities or attractions than the other destinations we visited on our trip, it is perhaps the most captivating. The fog wants to draw us in, and we want to let it, but even after completing the cruising trifecta, there are more nautical miles to cover.

It’s 7 o’clock when we pull out of the finger piers and encounter a resident angler returning to the dock on his center console. “Be careful. It gets really shallow here,” he warns.

We spin the Protector around. “Bow thrusters! Wow, what a boat—800 horses!” the fisherman muses as he navigates his own boat into its slip. He continues to admire our vessel as we leave the dock in our wake.

The Block Island Boat Basin is a gateway to summer activities, or in our case, lobster rolls and mudslides at The Oar. 

The Block Island Boat Basin is a gateway to summer activities, or in our case, lobster rolls and mudslides at The Oar. 

And he was right: What a boat indeed, especially for jetting among all of the beloved islands and outcrops that draw boaters to the Northeast, where calm days can turn sporty and new destinations always beckon. With a boat rated for serious seas and conditions that would send even the most weathered boaters back to the slip, you don’t have to worry about performance when you press the throttle down; the Protector will get you there, and it will do so quickly and safely.

We settle into our final stretch of the day. The fog wore off just in time for us to catch the sun’s descent over the sea as it bids farewell to summer. Next year, there will be more cruising—hopefully much more cruising—but today, we compensated for some lost days on the water.

It’s 8:30 p.m. when we arrive back in Warren, some 150 nautical miles later. We were a little late for dinner, but hey, there’s no sense in settling down for a meal when the sun is still in the sky.

The Protector 330 Targa

The Protector 330 Targa

This article originally appeared in Outboard magazine.

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