BIG­GER FASTER STRONGER

A LEG­END CON­TIN­UES TO GROW

Soundings - - Classics - BY PIM VAN HEM­MEN

We’re do­ing about 25 knots on the Nar­ra­gansett River, head­ing into steady 1- to 2- foot waves, when Peter O’Con­nell asks if I want to see his new Pic­nic Boat 40,

Cham­plain, “put the brakes on.” I tell him I’d love to see it. He warns the rest of the crew to brace them­selves, and with a flick of his wrist, he re­verses the buck­ets on the boat’s jets. The im­pact is instant. The twin Hamil­tonJets switch their for­ward thrust, and the bow falls from its perch above the waves and drops deep into the wa­ter. The boat’s progress is com­pletely stalled, the bow pops back up and the Pic­nic Boat is sit­ting still in the mid­dle of the river. It took less than 4 sec­onds and four boat lengths. O’Con­nell, who is The Hinck­ley Com­pany pres­i­dent and CEO, has a big grin on his face. He knows the boat just did some­thing re­ally im­pres­sive, and he is right.

Be­fore naval ar­chi­tect Michael Peters and the Hinck­ley de­sign team drew the 40, Hinck­ley did mar­ket re­search, in par­tic­u­lar with cur­rent Pic­nic Boat own­ers. They wanted a big­ger, even more user-friendly boat than the 37- and 34-foot models.

One thing Hinck­ley added is a hull-side door. On pre­vi­ous Pic­nic Boats, peo­ple would step on the swim plat­form and then use the tran­som door, or they would swing a leg over the side of the boat to get into the cock­pit. On the 40, Hinck­ley added the door on the star­board side of the cock­pit and cre­ated a nifty way to have it hide in­side the hull, in­stead of tak­ing up cock­pit space when it swung open, says Peter Sal­adino, Hinck­ley’s chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer. Own­ers also didn’t want to lean over the gun­wale (and the wa­ter) to reach an in­te­rior door han­dle, so Hinck­ley made the door re­motely op­er­ated. O’Con­nell demon­strated the fea­ture by push­ing a but­ton on his boat’s key fob, which caused the door to open, fold it­self into a neat lit­tle pack­age and then slip it­self in­side the gun­wale.

To make short­handed dock­ing eas­ier, the star­board side of the 40 has an un­ob­structed path from the helm to the stern. Both the pi­lot­house’s L-shaped lounge and the cock­pit’s fore and aft seats are to port. The po­si­tion­ing gives the helms­man or mate clear ac­cess to the star­board side of the boat to han­dle lines with­out trip­ping over dock­ing-averse or boat-ag­nos­tic guests.

O’Con­nell’s boat in­cludes three op­tions: He or­dered teak decks and hull ports, and the swim plat­form is ex­tended 11 inches be­cause he knew the kids would “prac­ti­cally live back there,” he says. Once through the hull-side door, the cock­pit lounge has a bright-fin­ish teak table­top and room for four peo­ple to hang out com­fort­ably. An ice chest and cooler are also here, be­neath an elec­tri­cally op­er­ated SureShade awning. (Many of the boat’s fea­tures, in­clud­ing the pi­lot­house side win­dows and over­head hatches, are con­trolled by the push of a but­ton.)

A sin­gle step leads up to the pi­lot­house, which is open and bright with ex­cel­lent views. An L-shaped lounge is to port with an­other brightly fin­ished teak fold­ing ta­ble. For­ward of the lounge is a cap­tain’s chair, and to star­board is a dou­ble seat. The con­sole is con­structed in Hinck­ley’s sig­na­ture var­nished teak and has the same curve across the top as the orig­i­nal Bruce King-de­signed Pic­nic Boat. The con­sole ac­com­mo­dates two Garmin touch-screens and eight gauges with stain­less bezels (a nice touch) to mon­i­tor engine func­tions. Abaft the helm sta­tion is a wet bar: Hy­dra­tion and li­ba­tion are rarely out of reach aboard this boat.

For prac­ti­cal­ity, the wind­shield wiper mo­tors are in­stalled above the win­dows where they’re easy to ser­vice. Their brown hous­ings blend in with the teak trim. Had O’Con­nell not pointed them out, I might never have no­ticed them. The high-gloss teak win­dow trim that hides the tracks for the elec­tri­cally op­er­ated side win­dows also can be eas­ily re­moved for ser­vic­ing thanks to slot­ted bronze screws (no Phillips head screws here — and yes, all the slots on the screws line up per­fectly). These are small de­tails, but they re­flect Hinck­ley’s care­ful ap­proach to boat­build­ing. The 40 looks like a yacht, and yet, as O’Con­nell says, in all the best ways, “it’s still a boat.”

A few steps down from the pi­lot­house is the for­ward cabin. The port gal­ley has deep coun­ters, cherry cab­i­nets, a two-burner elec­tric stove­top, twin sinks, a mi­crowave and a re­frig­er­a­tor. Head­room in the cabin is 6 feet, 3 inches.

The brightly var­nished holly and teak sole is con­structed of ve­neer over foam core. As O’Con­nell says, “You get the wood with­out the weight.” Foam core is also used in the hull and decks. The 40 weighs in at 25,000 pounds. That may seem like a siz­able in­crease over the 37’s 19,000 pounds, but the 40 is over 5 feet longer and 19 inches wider, which adds up to a lot of ad­di­tional in­te­rior vol­ume. The 40 dwarfs the nearby 37-foot­ers in the har­bor.

Like all of Hinck­ley’s Pic­nic Boats, the 40’s hull uses punc­tur­ere­sis­tant Kevlar on the out­side with Core­cell M foam and car­bon fiber for strength in­side. But un­like pre­vi­ous Pic­nic Boats, the 40 does not use vinylester. Hinck­ley ori­ents the Kevlar and car­bon lay­ers for op­ti­mal load-car­ry­ing abil­ity and in­fuses the en­tire hull with epoxy to chem­i­cally bond the ma­te­ri­als. There is no cos­metic layer. All boats are Awl­gripped at the end of the con­struc­tion process. By switch­ing to this con­struc­tion method, which Hinck­ley says is stronger and more ex­pen­sive, but also more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly, the builder aims to end through-print­ing that may oc­cur as boats age. The process is now used to build all Hinck­ley boats, with hull and deck con­struc­tion guar­an­teed for life.

O’Con­nell opted for stan­dard white sur­faces with satin-fin­ished cherry cab­i­netry for a clean-look­ing, Her­reshoff-style in­te­rior. The fit and fin­ish on the cab­i­netry is typ­i­cal Hinck­ley: per­fect. With an open lay­out that in­cludes bow seat­ing around an­other brightly fin­ished teak ta­ble, and with lots of port­holes, hull ports and over­head hatches, the cabin is light and spa­cious. The ta­ble con­verts to a berth, and the cush­ions have ded­i­cated stowage be­hind the steps to the pi­lot­house. An Is­land King ar­range­ment will be made avail­able in the fu­ture.

I liked all of O’Con­nell’s choices, many of them stan­dard, but as he says, “The own­ers get to choose. If they want the boat’s in­te­rior all teaked out, we will do that.”

Hinck­ley did not skimp on the roomy head and shower, which share a space to star­board of the gal­ley. The shower has a wet locker in­side the shower bench for bathing suits, and a bi­fold glass door to keep the head dry. Although the head and shower take a fair bite out of the cabin space, noth­ing feels cramped.

Ven­ti­la­tion in­side the cabin from above is good, and air con­di­tion­ing be­lowdecks is stan­dard, so if things get too hot, own­ers can close off the cabin from the pi­lot­house and chill out us­ing shore power or by fir­ing up the op­tional gen­er­a­tor. Air con­di­tion­ing is avail­able as an op­tion for the pi­lot­house as well. O’Con­nell did not choose it for Cham­plain; the pi­lot­house is wide open at the stern, and be­cause the win­dows and over­head hatches all open, there is ven­ti­la­tion from all four sides and above.

The boat’s elec­tri­cal sys­tems are con­trolled by choos­ing pre-pro­grammed op­tions from the CZone mul­ti­func­tion dis­play. It is mounted to port of the cabin steps, but in­stead of be­ing a tra­di­tional fuse panel with dozens of switches, it is min­i­mal­ist and lets skip­pers switch from day to night mode with the push of one but­ton, or con­trol in­di­vid­ual lights one at a time.

The engine com­part­ment is well lit and big enough to ac­cess the twin 480-hp Cum­mins diesels. Op­tional 550-hp en­gines are avail­able and take the builder’s re­ported top speed from 35 to 38 knots. You won’t be throw­ing a party down here, but that’s what the rest of the boat is for. A sec­ond hatch aft in the cock­pit al­lows ac­cess to the Hamil­tonJet 322 wa­ter jets and pro­vides ad­di­tional stowage.

The orig­i­nal, 1994 Pic­nic Boat, with its rudderless, flat stern and sin­gle wa­ter jet, was a great boat. But ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­view Peters gave to Sound­ings in 2008, it was “prone to bow steer­ing and stern slid­ing in cer­tain sea con­di­tions.” Peters ad­dressed that in the Pic­nic Boat 37 by in­creas­ing the dead­rise to 19 de­grees at the tran­som and by adding a fuller bow. That trend con­tin­ues on the 40, which tracked beau­ti­fully, even in tight turns, dur­ing my sea trial. The vis­i­bil­ity from the helm was, well, fan­tas­tic. The view aft was com­pletely un­ob­structed, and as I turned the boat

while stand­ing at the helm, I was able to see 360 de­grees around me. Sound lev­els at the helm at cruis­ing speed were in the high 70 to low 80 deci­bels, and con­ver­sa­tion in the pi­lot­house was easy. The noise level in­creased only min­i­mally later, when O’Con­nell jammed the throt­tle wide open and pushed the 40 to 36 knots — a knot past its ad­ver­tised top speed of 35.

O’Con­nell jokes that he got him­self the tough­est slip in the ma­rina, and he may be right. It has only about 50 to 60 feet of wa­ter for­ward of it, and to port is a slop­ing wall of riprap. Us­ing the joy­stick in dock mode (one of four drive modes avail­able on the lat­est gen­er­a­tion Jet­stick sys­tem), O’Con­nell backed the boat in and made the task look easy. Per­form­ing the same move in that spot on a sim­i­lar­sized, tra­di­tional boat, even with a bow thruster or twin screws, would re­quire some se­ri­ous boat-han­dling chops.

I still pre­fer the wheel to the joy­stick, but af­ter a quick Jet­stick primer, I was turn­ing the boat in place with a twist of my wrist. If you are used to props, rud­ders and a wheel, then the thought of driv­ing a jet-pow­ered boat with a joy­stick might not be ap­peal­ing, but driv­ing a 40 with jets has its mer­its. And Hinck­ley pro­vides new own­ers with three full days of ori­en­ta­tion and hands-on train­ing un­der the tute­lage of a Hinck­ley em­ployee. Its cer­ti­fied pre-owned pro­gram pro­vides the same ser­vice.

Asked why the new Pic­nic Boats con­tinue to have jet drives, joy­sticks and inboards in­stead of out­boards, O’Con­nell pro­vides a laun­dry list of rea­sons. “It’s what we know and who we are,” he says. “We have 24 years of de­vel­op­ment in Jet­stick. It’s easy to move into. It’s about not snag­ging lob­ster pot lines, hav­ing the com­fort and safety with kids on board, and not hav­ing to worry about ma­neu­ver­ing the boat.”

The Hinck­ley Pic­nic Boat 40, like its pre­de­ces­sors, is a day or week­end boat for a cou­ple or fam­ily, but I could eas­ily see my­self tak­ing a boat like Cham­plain for a lengthy cruise down the At­lantic seaboard to the Ba­hamas, or up to Maine for a few weeks. I know the gal­ley is not de­signed for long voyage pro­vi­sion­ing or prep­ping gourmet meals, but Hinck­ley en­ter­tains cus­tom op­tion re­quests. Hang a stain­less grill off the stern, and you’re ready to go.

The Pic­nic Boat 40 has plenty of in­side and out­side seat­ing, and with the push of a but­ton, the cock­pit’s SureShade awning can be de­ployed from be­low the hard­top.

LOA: 42 feet LWL: 36 feet, 2½ inches BEAM: 12 feet, 10 inches DRAFT: 2 feet, 2 inches DIS­PLACE­MENT: 25,000 pounds POWER: twin 480-hp Cum­mins diesels with Hamil­tonJet 322 drives; op­tional twin 550-hp Cum­mins SPEED: 35 knots top, 31 knots cruise; 38 knots top (op­tional power) TANK­AGE: 375 gal­lons fuel, 80 gal­lons wa­ter, 35 gal­lons waste PRICE: $1,285,000 LO­CA­TION: Hinck­ley Yachts, South­west Har­bor, Maine, (207) 244-5531. hinck­leyy­achts.com

The cock­pit will com­fort­ably seat four or more peo­ple. Be­low, the cabin is bright and spa­cious. The ta­ble low­ers and con­verts to a vee berth.

The hull-side door au­to­mat­i­cally stows in the gun­wale, al­low­ing for easy board­ings. An ex­tended swim plat­form is an op­tion.

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