While I like to look at boats, they do not all tug at my heart. Among a fleet of cruising boats, there may be one that stands apart, sparkling brighter than the rest. A boat that gets my heart beating and captures my imagination.

As I mentioned in the past, if you do not feel an emotional tug when you dinghy back to your own boat, you have the wrong boat. Set your sights on a boat that speaks to your heart.

What is that about? Is it the overall look, the lines, the abundance (or absence) of gear on deck, or maybe knowing where this boat has been or what she is capable of?

“If I had that boat, I could go to Tahiti...if I wanted.” How many times have I heard that statement!

Is beauty inherent in a design or are there other reasons for its appeal? I looked up several definitions of beauty, and most dictionaries agree that it is a combination of qualities that pleases the aesthetic and intellectual senses.

Some sources also state that beauty provides an experience of pleasure and satisfaction. And one art class workbook states that beauty, as it relates to art, is the interaction of lines, color, texture, sound, shape, motion, and size. They combine in ways to please the senses.

Size is apparently important. When it was first introduced, everyone thought the 26-foot Nordic Tug was an endearing little cruiser because it was cute. That cuteness did not hold up as the model line got larger, however. And I always thought the bows on Kadey-Krogen trawlers were like big happy smiles. Profile and lines are obviously important.

To name a couple of my favorites, a Hinckley Bermuda 40, sitting at anchor, is simply beautiful to look at, with graceful lines and elegant proportions. The B40 has stood the test of time and remains a stunning yacht.

Perhaps at the top of my list of favorite sailboats is the Valiant 42. When I first saw a Valiant under full sail on Puget Sound in the 1970s, it stopped me in my tracks as its motion and balance was so exquisitely competent. I get the same reaction today whenever I see a Valiant. I could go to Tahiti on that boat…if I wanted.

It does not matter that both designs are dated by today’s standards. They are performance classics. I might suggest the Bermuda 40 is like a ballet dancer, while the Valiant is more of a triathlete. Both are outstanding athletes. I wish I owned one of each.

The ruggedness and obvious capability of the Northern Marine brand shows its roots in the commercial world, tough and reliable sea boats that must have a high degree of survivability in nasty weather. This capability is no illusion. They are beautiful yachts not only because of custom elegant interiors. The strength of the design, with features such as the large, hydraulic drum windlass on the foredeck, and industrial strength systems, are sheer beauty to me.

Sure, we can stop in Tahiti, but let’s keep going...

Now here is the rub. Not all designs and boats are pleasing to the eye. Despite this, sometimes the function of a design is so well executed that it can be appreciated in ways that no one would consider in the traditional sense. I can think of no boat more fitting of that description than the custom trawler built on a lobster boat hull that I came across on the Erie Canal. I can assure you they maximized interior space to provide the best living accommodations for their style of cruising. It was a case of maximum function over pleasing lines. I recall the boat was named Shoebox.

Shoebox - Custom Trawler Lobster Boat

Metaphorically speaking, there can be beauty even if others don’t see it.

We all appreciate the look of well-maintained teak decks and gleaming exterior brightwork. While we can acknowledge such beauty, today most of us prefer the functionality of more contemporary exterior and interior finishes.

Talk about pleasing the senses, who doesn’t love the sight of a large sailboat speeding along with all sails pulling strong? Modern gear and systems make sailing a large boat much less work, offering a comfortable cruising platform with better performance. Efforts to make boats simpler to operate keeps these sailboats within the physical abilities of older couples who still experience pleasure and satisfaction in sailing. I really like that. A great example is the Tartan 4700. From its Leisure Furl mainsail furling to electric winches, she is impressive under sail and beautiful, the modern hull shape and deck layout practical and safe, while the interior is both a pleasure to live aboard and comfortable while cruising.

On the flip side, I am a bit confused by the express cruiser style of boat. The concept goes over my head. One naval architect remarked at a SNAME conference at the Naval Academy that these boats are designed from the inside out. Guess that must be true.


Sometimes marketing attempts to lure us into thinking that beauty comes from being big with massive capability. Look at magazine ads over the years as they try to convince us that one needs an overweight battlewagon, with all kinds of extra gear, to safely go cruising. A small ship capable of surviving a 360-degree rollover in extreme weather, complete with self-deploying sea anchor. None of which is necessary unless you plan to follow in Shackleton’s footsteps.

It is a common misconception is that bigger is always better. Buying a boat with more than you need, and excessive capability, is not always good, and often doesn’t make sense. A yacht designed for bluewater passages will limit you, for example, if your plan is to do the Great Loop or enjoy coastal waterway cruising. It will exceed height and draft restrictions, have unnecessarily large fuel and water tankage, and offer limited close quarter maneuvering. That beautiful bluewater dream machine usually just translates to be a big waste of money.

While sitting through a presentation on preparing a large and expensive trawler yacht for remote cruising, I remembered that one of Art DeFever’s 40-foot trawlers, an older boat from the late ‘70s, safely provided her owners a wonderful South American cruising adventure that included rounding Cape Horn, not once, but twice.

I could also tell you the story of a Grand Banks 42 Classic that safely crossed the Pacific from Hawaii to Seattle. No stunt, just careful preparation and planning by its owner.

Jimmy Cornell’s recent webinar on world cruising included statistics to show that most sailing yachts taking part in his world rallies these days are production boats, not special purpose custom yachts. (Production boats are rarely finished or equipped to the level necessary for such rallies, by the way, as the builders know that most of their buyers don’t want to do that. It would make the boats unaffordable. It is left to the individual owners.)

So big and custom don’t necessarily equate to the best choice, or guarantee a high score in a beauty contest.

In terms of form and function, the truth of the matter is that modern, semi-displacement motoryachts make fabulous cruising boats, as they represent a satisfying balance of both form and function. They don’t need to be overly built in steel or unpainted aluminum, have get home propulsion, and anti-pirate defense systems. Just whatever needs to be done to make them self-sufficient away from marinas. These yachts cruise quite comfortably and economically at trawler speeds yet one can bump up the throttles when desired.

I appreciate the beauty of the balance motoryachts represent. They have well executed interiors and accommodation plans that provide a high level of accessibility, comfort, and elegance to match the look and lines of the exterior. The Hampton or Endurance, the Regency, the Fleming, and Northwest Yachts are fine examples of the combination of sophistication and function, supremely suited for this lifestyle. They have all the comforts of home yet perform well in the cruising conditions most pursue.

And there are smaller motoryachts, tugs, and Downeast cruisers that find that same balance.

At the end of the day, coming back to the mothership in the dinghy is satisfying enough when you tie up to a large swim platform with staples to hold onto and cleats for the lines. To easily step onto the yacht, no need for gymnastics or maintaining balance, is as good as it gets. Same with the canine crew.

I think I will amend my own definition of beauty. It is still a combination of qualities that please the intellectual and emotional senses, but now must also include comfort for everyone on board.

Happy wife, happy life. And the dishwasher is much appreciated.


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