Soundings - - Classics - IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY JIM EWING — Steve Knauth

The Hamp­ton boat is one of those won­der­ful, en­dur­ing de­signs that has sur­vived for more than a cen­tury, tweaked and mod­i­fied by builders along the way.

For more than 40 years, Dick Pulsifer hand-built his ver­sion, the Pulsifer Hamp­ton, in Brunswick, Maine, turn­ing out 113 of his craft. Long be­fore Pulsifer started build­ing them, Char­lie Gomes built Hamp­ton boats for a half-cen­tury on Maine’s Casco Bay, be­gin­ning with sail­ing mod­els in 1902.

As a lobster boat, the Hamp­ton proved ca­pa­cious, sea­wor­thy and fast. Once, a gen­tle­man with a new 30-foot yacht chal­lenged a Hamp­ton-boat fish­er­man to a 12-mile race around Casco Bay’s Half­way Rock Light. Marine writer War­ren Wat­son de­scribes the ac­tion in a 1909 ar­ti­cle: Out on the “open ocean the won­der­ful seago­ing qual­i­ties of the Hamp­ton boat were demon­strated. The yacht

pounded and stag­gered ... mak­ing bad weather ... the old ‘had­dock choker’ sliced through the seas and drove to wind­ward like a ship.” The yacht gave up. The Hamp­ton won.

An in­board en­gine soon re­placed the sails; Wat­son de­scribes the de­sign changes by writ­ing, “Bows are [now] very high and the free­board is car­ried well aft. [A] rad­i­cal change is the new seine [flat] stern in place of the old, which tended to squat.” The Hamp­ton boat, he con­cludes, “makes an ideal mo­tor­boat for fish­ing ... for, with spray hood, these boats may ven­ture out safely in nearly any kind of weather.”

One can say the same about Pulsifer’s ver­sion. The 22- footer’s round-bilge, built-down hull has a plumb bow, a fine en­try and a flat stern. Also in­board-pow­ered, its 29-hp Yan­mar diesel de­liv­ers an 11-knot cruis­ing speed. Pulsifer’s strip-plank con­struc­tion didn’t change much over the years; oak was used for the back­bone, floor timbers, frames and deck beams, with white pine for the plank­ing and floor­boards.

Pulsifer said, these days the Hamp­ton boat is more than just a lobster boat: “made to fish, haul lobster traps, fire­wood, dogs and camp sup­plies, to swim from, tow kids on floats or just to cruise around.” Pulsifer built his last boat in 2017, and trans­ferred the busi­ness to for­mer em­ployee and co-worker John Lentz in Jan­uary of 2018. Lentz, who for the past ten years main­tained a large fleet of Pulsifer Hamp­tons for their own­ers, will con­tinue to build new ones at his own shop in Top­sham, Maine. Other than maybe cus­tomiz­ing the hull color or en­gine size, he does not in­tend to change Pulsifer’s tried and true de­sign. “It’s a well-built boat that was de­vel­oped for Casco Bay,” Lentz says, “it’s the per­fect boat for the area.”

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