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Power & Motor Yacht - - IN THIS ISSUE - BY JEANNE CRAIG

The new flag­ship of Hinckley’s le­gendary Pic­nic Boat line is equal parts in­no­va­tion and tra­di­tional styling.

PPeter O’Con­nell was stand­ing be­side Hull No. 1 of the Hinckley Pic­nic Boat 40, talk­ing about his week­end aboard the ex­cit­ing build that had just hit the wa­ter. While cruis­ing on the new flag­ship of an iconic se­ries, O’Con­nell, the com­pany’s CEO, de­cided to make a run to Block Is­land for the night. He made a reser­va­tion and headed to the ma­rina. When he ar­rived, he dis­cov­ered the dock­mas­ter had as­signed the 40 a high-pro­file slip on a T-dock near the fa­cil­ity’s en­trance. “He told us he was not about to hide this boat in the back of the ma­rina,” said O’Con­nell with a smile.

I took in the boat that was tied up at Hinckley’s ship­yard in Portsmouth, R.I., and un­der­stood why. The 40—the largest model in the lineup to date—was cer­tainly made to be seen. The flag­ship looks a lot like the other mod­els in the se­ries; that is, it’s a lob­ster-boat in­spired craft with the tenor of a proper gen­tle­man’s mo­to­ry­acht. The 40 has that curved sheer and sig­na­ture to­erail, the bright­work warmed by coats of var­nish, and the smooth hull sur­face that’s strik­ing be­cause it seems to take the paint just so. But as I’d learn, that patina didn’t hap­pen by chance. It’s the re­sult of con­struc­tion tech­niques that are rel­a­tively for­ward-think­ing—more so than you might imag­ine in a boat that ap­pears to make ev­ery­thing look so easy.

“We want to keep things sim­ple for the owner, so we de­signed this boat to be easy to han­dle and use,” said Scott Bryant, Hinckley’s vice pres­i­dent of prod­uct devel­op­ment. He was at the dock, along with Peter Sal­adino (the com­pany’s chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer), and the pair was ea­ger to get aboard the 40 and take it for a sea trial on Nar­ra­gansett Bay. We said good­bye to O’Con­nell and Bryant stepped to the helm, where he would demon­strate that point about ef­fort­less han­dling.

Like the first Pic­nic Boat that de­buted al­most 25 years ago, the new 40 is pow­ered by jet drives and Hinckley’s patented JetStick steer­ing. Two decades ago, this propul­sion was highly un­usual on a mid­sized recre­ational boat. And yet it was a game-changer be­cause it of­fered those who love the wa­ter a chance to ex­plore the cran­nies of a coast­line aboard a shoal-draft ves­sel that was highly ma­neu­ver­able and ef­fi­cient. It was a sim­ple idea, but Hinckley did it el­e­gantly. As a re­sult, the Pic­nic Boat spawned im­i­ta­tors, al­though over time, it’s main­tained its place as a true orig­i­nal.

The 40—with a draft of just 2 feet, 2 inches—fea­tures the builder’s new­est it­er­a­tion of JetStick, the joy­stick-op­er­ated steer­ing and con­trol sys­tem. With mil­i­tary spec­i­fi­ca­tion hard­ware, it’s more ro­bust and of­fers greater pre­ci­sion and re­sponse. To em­pha­size this point, Bryant ex­pertly ma­neu­vered the gleam­ing boat out of the slip and down a fair­way flanked by ex­tra­or­di­nary rac­ing sail­boats and cus­tom yachts. “Even a sea­soned skip­per might think of this place as a high-anx­i­ety ma­rina,” said Sal­adino. And yet Bryant manned the helm with low-key cool, di­rect­ing the boat with gen­tle twists of the stick.

Once in the bay, he switched from the JetStick to the throt­tles so we could mea­sure the boat’s speed. The 40 had stan­dard power— twin Hamil­tonJet 322s pow­ered by 480-hp Cum­mins diesels. On open wa­ter, Bryant gave me the wheel so I could ex­pe­ri­ence the new Dy­namic Steer­ing sys­tem, de­signed to au­to­mat­i­cally ad­just steer­ing ten­sion and sen­si­tiv­ity based on speed. If any­thing, it brings the boat driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence closer to the one you have at the wheel of a car. It was fun to put the boat into hard turns at a de­cent clip. “Peo­ple have the im­pres­sion jets won’t cor­ner,” said Bryant. And yet the Michael Peters-de­signed mod­i­fied deep-V hull on this 40 held its bal­ance and con­trol and be­haved beau­ti­fully with nary a slip.

Our sea trial re­vealed a few nice sur­prises, in­clud­ing a top-end speed closer to 36 knots—a full knot faster than the builder recorded in its ini­tial test run. As we cruised along the Rhode Is­land shore­line on a beau­ti­ful sum­mer day, Bryant ex­plained that the 40’s strong per­for­mance was the re­sult of that for­ward-think­ing con­struc­tion.

Hinckley flexed its ex­per­tise with ad­vanced com­pos­ite materials and build tech­niques on this Pic­nic Boat. The hull, for in­stance, com­bines an in­ner layer of car­bon fiber with an outer layer of Kevlar (and healthy doses of Core­cell foam core). In­ter­est­ingly, the cloth is laid

up dry in the mold, so fibers can be aligned in the right di­rec­tion. “That en­ables us to get the per­fect resin-to-glass ra­tio, to op­ti­mize weight and stiff­ness,” said Bryant. The struc­tural grid is also laid up dry in the hull. Then, ev­ery­thing is vac­uum-in­fused with epoxy. “We ba­si­cally re­tooled the fac­tory to build parts in­fus­ing epoxy in­stead of vinylester [used on pre­vi­ous Pic­nic Boats]. As a re­sult, the boats are stronger and more durable.” The com­pany is so con­fi­dent in the struc­tural in­tegrity of this 40 that it guar­an­tees the hull and deck for life. In the end, this con­struc­tion method en­abled Hinckley to pull a lot of weight out of the boat, while adding strength and en­hanc­ing per­for­mance. Says Bryant, “When peo­ple ask us how we were able to get such good ef­fi­ciency, I say through tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion, not by throw­ing beau­ti­ful things off the boat.”

It’s true the 40 is not light on crea­ture com­forts. It was made to be an en­ter­tainer, with all the ap­point­ments of a lux­ury craft, now ar­ranged in a reimag­ined cock­pit. Un­like the orig­i­nal Pic­nic Boat, which di­rected pas­sen­gers down the cen­ter of the deck—and, un­for­tu­nately, right through the mid­dle of the con­ver­sa­tion area—the 40 keeps foot traf­fic to the star­board side of the boat, where an open walk­way makes it easy to move fore and aft. The so­cial ar­eas— fur­nished with lounges, good legroom and ex­pand­able ta­bles—are set to port. There’s one in the aft cock­pit and another in the pi­lot­house, just aft of the helm. The skip­per, by the way, has ex­cel­lent sight­lines, thanks to a huge wind­shield and big win­dows to port and star­board—the one be­side the helm slides open.

The 40 has its share of cool fea­tures, al­though my fa­vorite is the pow­ered hull­side door. It opens with the click of a re­mote and slides neatly into the gun­wale, rather than open­ing into the cock­pit, so us­able space isn’t sac­ri­ficed. There’s also an ex­tended swim plat­form, SureShade re­tractable sun shade in the cock­pit and CZone in the cabin—this dig­i­tal switch in­ter­face re­places the tra­di­tional fuse panel and con­trols of all the on­board elec­tri­cal sys­tems, from pumps and lights to elec­tron­ics.

The 40 is a day yacht at heart, but if the mood strikes for a night aboard, there’s a com­fort­able cabin with a con­vert­ible berth for­ward (at 86 inches wide at the top, it’s larger than a Cal­i­for­nia king), a full gal­ley and an ex­cep­tion­ally large head—it’s so roomy, in fact, it re­ally can dou­ble as a chang­ing room. And then there is the in­te­rior wood­work, which is beau­ti­fully fin­ished, as you’d ex­pect in a boat built by one of Maine’s pre­mier yards. “The ex­pe­ri­ence you’ll have on the 40 is still very Hinckley,” says Bryant. “We just ar­rived there a lit­tle dif­fer­ently on this boat.”

Hinckley Yachts, 207-244-5531; hinck­leyy­achts.com

The cock­pit lay­out cre­ates a clear walk­way to star­board; cherry wood is stan­dard in the cabin, but teak is an op­tion on the semi­cus­tom 40.

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