Back to the Future
A storied boatbuilder relaunches as Wheeler Yacht Company to bring a classic fishing boat design back to life. Pilar.
LOA: 39ft. 4in. (11.99m) LWL: 38ft. 9in. (11.81m) BEAM: 12ft. (3.66m) DRAFT: 2ft. 10in. (0.87m) DISPLACEMENT: 20,600 lbs. POWER: 2 x Cummins QSB 6.7L
ZF Marine 220 A SPEED (max.): 23 knots RANGE: 400 nm
Ernest Hemingway ordered Pilar, a modified 38-foot Playmate model built by the Wheeler Shipyard Corporation, in 1934. During the 30 years that followed, Pilar was said to have ridden out four hurricanes at sea, out-fished and out-performed most vessels in her class and provided inspiration for several of Hemingway’s celebrated literary works. Now, more than a half-century later, the builder’s brand is primed for a relaunch as the Wheeler Yacht Company, beginning with the Wheeler Pilar 38—a modern-day version of the original Wheeler Playmate that Hemingway loved so much.
While there has been on-and-off talk in recent years of this design coming back to life, the news today is that design and engineering by Bill Prince Yacht Design are officially complete. Slated for construction at Brooklin Boat Yard in Maine, the Wheeler Pilar 38 will be a spitting image of the original while sporting modern amenities and adhering to American Bureau of Shipping and U.S. Coast Guard standards. Adding to the project’s historical bearing, the buyer behind hull number 1 is Wes Wheeler, great-grandson of Howard Wheeler, who built the original
“Like the original, this is a wood boat,” Prince said. “But unlike the original, she’s cold-molded, meaning there are no planks and seams on the hull, and the wood-epoxy structure is extremely strong and lightweight. Every inch of the new Pilar has been reverse-engineered to the highest standards, employing 21st-century technology and production techniques. Modern diesels, air conditioning and state-of-the art electronics are all there, but are hidden from view to enhance the feeling of historical authenticity.”
Judging by the rendering above, Papa Hemingway would be proud.