From the masthead introducing: boats of distinction
Who among us doesn’t appreciate the art and science of the superyacht? Notwithstanding the idiosyncratic tastes of their owners, these vessels— 160, 170, 180 feet and above— represent the pinnacle of yacht design, engineering, innovation, craftsmanship and luxury.
But such elements can be equally present in smaller packages. Witness Dudley Dawson’s Sternlines column in the September/October issue: “Dragonflies and Bald Eagles.” Dawson, a naval architect and large-yacht expert, extolls the unique pleasures of messing about in small boats. He makes the point that even if you do own a large yacht, it pays to have a smaller boat (or two or three) on hand for more intimate adventures. “Small boats can fulfill big dreams and make big memories,” he wrote. In that spirit, we’ve decided to extend the range of our coverage to include Boats of Distinction of any size.
What is a Boat of Distinction? Well, that’s a subjective call. The elements mentioned above will inform and direct us. Suffice to say, we like to think that we—and you—know one when we see one.
To me, lines and proportion are paramount. I used to take the uninitiated to a park overlooking the harbor in my former home of Marblehead, Massachusetts, so they could scan the 2,500-plus boats moored below and flag the ones they thought were the prettiest. Invariably, they’d choose the classic sailing yachts. My favorites were two 28-foot, canoe-stern Rozinante yawls designed by L. Francis Herreshoff, whose home overlooked the scene.
The ’60s, ’70s and ’80s were not kind to those of us who love looking at boats as much as playing on them. Powerboats designed and built to favor function over form heavily populated the marinas and mooring fields across America. Bloated, white blobs that sacrificed proportion and beauty (at least to my eyes) for interior space were the rule. That’s not to say that countless people, myself included, didn’t enjoy great days on the water in those boats, but hell, I just hated looking at them.
Then, along came The Hinckley Company’s lobster-boat-inspired Picnic Boat in 1994, and the tide started to turn. Production builders around the globe tapped that vibe, embracing the notion that not everyone wanted a boat that had a ton of space for its length and blew around like a Styrofoam cup on the water when approaching a slip.
But a smaller Boat of Distinction doesn’t have to look like a Down East design to be noteworthy. A spate of mold-breaking, innovative contemporary designs are redefining cool and, dare I say, beautiful. Many take advantage of propulsion and hull-design advances. They show creative use of space without blobs and bulges. More and more take into account the reason most of us enjoy spending time on boats: interaction with the marine environment.
No boat suits every taste or every owner’s use, but I’m happy that designers and builders are stepping out. As always, we’ll continue to present the finest large yachts on the planet, but you’ll be seeing some of these smaller Boats of Distinction in coming issues, too. We hope you like what you see and, better still, that these boats inspire you to spend more time on the water.