There is a popular style of cruising boat that continues to remain the preferred choice of many who want a cruising boat that is fast, economical, and able to accommodate a crew in comfort. And with a look that just hints of the traditional lobster boats of Maine and the Maritime Provinces. Even the term Downeast refers to the coastal region of New England east to Canada’s Maritime Provinces.
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With few exceptions, despite marketing to the contrary, these boats have nothing to do with the traditional lobster boats that work the cold waters in search of lobster. True lobster boats, such as those from Jarvis Newman, Spencer Lincoln, Lee Wilbur, Duffy, Beal, and Wesmac, can be built into cruising boats using the same hulls as their working sisterships. But they are the exception.
The evolution of the traditional-looking lobster boat concept into a new kind of cruising boat came from designers who took the hull form into more complex shapes with higher speed efficiency which truly established the Downeast style. These designers include C. Raymond Hunt, Doug Zurn, Ted Hood, Bruce King, Kevin Burns, and Sparkman & Stevens. Traditional lobster boats have a deep forefoot and high bow to move through waves, and a keel with skeg, flat sections aft, and are relatively narrow. Today’s Downeast boats bear no resemblance to a lobster boat underwater.
What is appealing about the Downeast style is the elegantly simple profile, and large cockpit that flows into a cabin and forward accommodations. The boats are comfortable going fast in the ocean, stable due to hull shape and keel, yet they work just as well running slowly as a cocktail cruiser around a quiet backwater. They can go fishing and cruising, and fit the boating needs of many people who tire of the work of sailing or the high maintenance of a large motoryacht.
And they just look right. While some of these boats are built with flybridges, they don’t always work for the hull shape and can be uncomfortable when turning at the higher speeds some of these are capable of.
There are many builders of the Downeast style boat, and each year we see more of these boats come from international builders. Grand Banks Eastbay, Sabre, Back Cove, Vicem, MJM, Little Harbor, Hinckley, Legacy, and Hunt are just a few of the brands that fit this category.
Some Downeast boats have a single diesel to cruise at 15-20 knots. Other models come with twin engines for even higher performance, such as the Eastbay, MJM, and Sabre.
Most Downeast boats have bow thrusters to assist the single engine in close quarter maneuvering, and that combination is well proven and simple.
The master forward stateroom usually has a V-berth or island berth, depending on the size of the boat, and there may be a smaller, second stateroom with a shared head. Only the larger models have even more accommodations. The boat’s galley can be up or down, depending on the layout, and most find the interior a good layout for short-term and seasonal cruising. These boats are good for the Great Loop, but most lack the accommodations and storage for full-time living aboard.
Clean lines, simple profile, good sea keeping, speed, economy, and nice living spaces define the Downeast boat. It is a design and style that offers just enough to satisfy the cruising and boating needs of many people, and are especially popular with ex-sailors who find the look appealing.
If this style boat appeals to you, attending a boat show will help you wade through the many variations and choices, Traditional Downeast boats may have gleaming varnished brightwork, while others skip the teak and keep it clean, simple, and modern.
Every year it seems there are more models and builders in this category.
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