After years of cruising the Intracoastal Waterway on twin-engine boats ranging from a fast, 42-foot semi-displacement trawler to a 49-foot fulldisplacement trawler, Ray and Donna Kurlak were ready to commission the cruiser of their dreams.
Because Ray stands 6 feet 7 inches tall, he was looking for a builder that could accommodate his height in the interior of a semi-custom design. And while the Kurlaks enjoy cruising together, with their Lab mix Sofie by their side, they didn't have a driving need for a layout that was cut up into multiple staterooms. That being said, they do have grandkids and great-grandkids who come aboard from time to time, so the goal was a simple-to-maintain, seaworthy vessel with a comfortable raised pilothouse.
"We've always been owner-operators, so that dictated the size, generally," Ray said. "We wanted to stay in the 50- to 55-foot range, a size more easily handled by the two of us. The last boat we owned was a Grand Banks 49 MY with an aft raised flush deck, ample interior space, and a king-size bed in the owner's cabin aft. I loved the stand-up engine room and the reliability of the twin Cat 3208s, but I've owned higher-speed boats in the past, which is probably why I didn't adjust well to the 9.4-knot cruising speed displacement hull."
The Kurlaks found the boat they were looking for in the Duffy 50, a stretched version of a 48-foot design by the same name from the board of noted Downeast designer Spencer Lincoln. And after thoroughly discussing their mission with Atlantic Boat Company President Nate Hopkins, they commissioned the Brooklin, Maine-based builder to lay the keel for Two's Company.
"Actually, the basic hull structure is pretty much the same as a Duffy 48," said Hopkins. "We've done stretch versions on this model a number of times, so it wasn't a completely new equation. The biggest difference in this stretch was the pilothouse forward and the larger enclosure for the main cabin that the Kurlaks wanted. In a normal Maine-style sedan cruiser, with a trunk cabin and a pilothouse and a large cockpit, the pilothouse ends up being further aft. To keep the weights where we wanted them, we had to put the engine room slightly under the main cabin floor to get the weight and balance right."
Geoff van Gorkom of Van Gorkom Yacht Design in Newport, Rhode Island, did all the weight and balance studies for the extension, as well as the engineering for the laminate schedule. He modeled the boat using a computer program that allowed them to move weights around and predict changes in trim.
"Having a proper running angle was mandatory," Hopkins said, "and it was spot-on when the boat was launched. We did three float tests to check our predictions, two during the buildup after all the composite work was done and the essential structure was in place. Then we did it again with the interior installed, and filled all the water and fuel tanks. The stretched design floated within an inch of its predicted lines."
The other major project was the custom deck, and it was an interesting problem, indeed. The craftsmen at Atlantic Boat Company, skilled workers who have launched 1,250 hulls in the last 40-plus years, built a wooden male mold in the shop-essentially the shape of the air inside the structure-then laid fiberglass over it to form the finished inner surface of the deck, pilothouse, and main cabin. To achieve a fair inner surface, they handlaid up multiple layers of light fiberglass cloth on top of the mold. Instead of using a single piece of 25-lb. cloth on the inner laminate, which might show print-through patterns of the fabric, they used two layers of 12-lb. cloth, butting and staggering the seams so they were able to make a very strong but very smooth inner laminate. Then they added a layer of coring, covered it with layers of fiberglass, and faired the part again.
They also built the overhangs out of core material, then glassed the entire outer layer of the part, making the outer fiberglass layers relatively smooth and very strong. Finally, they faired the part one more time and Awlgripped the entire part. The finish was dazzling.
The raised bulwarks forward on Two's Company were created by adding height to the mold; the hull sides were all laid up as one piece, making the addition rigid and stiff. Overlapping layers of knitted fabric and a foam core were used throughout the hull. The deck mold rests on a flange inside the hull at the original sheerline, and it is glassed in place for strength and waterproof integrity. On the outside, Ray specified a beefy commercial rail, through-bolted for strength, so he could lay up against pilings with no fear of damaging the hull.
Foam stringers to strengthen the hull were glued and then fiberglassed in place. This makes it possible to build engine beds specific to the application. Atlantic Boat does so much custom work and installs so many different kinds of motors, a molded stringer system is impossible. A customer requesting a flybridge fishing boat on this hull would need an entirely different engine placement. The beauty of the design is that there's so much space in the engine room, there's always great access for almost any engine. The yard lets the customer pick the engine based on the desired cruise speed, and together they determine what the overall systems equipment package and interior build will weigh. The floors inside the boat are all supported by fiberglass I-beams that span from side to side, with 3 inches of sound insulation underneath.
"The shaft angle is mounted very flat, because the engine is mounted low, down into the full-length keel space," Hopkins said. "And in this boat's case, the keel was extended 2 feet, and the rudder and prop are completely protected. The prop is a five-blade Hung Shen nibral wheel. Ray wanted a spare prop, so we bought the replacement wheel first and let him run it for a season. Based on what we learned about the boat's performance, we ordered the nibral wheel and shaped it for optimal performance."
This hull can be easily stretched up to 56 feet, according to the builder. Ray Kurlak had a particular layout in mind and knew what he wanted in the way of performance-he didn't want to be pinned down by marginal weather, and he wanted to run twice as fast as before. The hull has a fine entry and deep forefoot for comfortable wave entry at higher speeds, so it slices through the waves well, without excessive lift. It also has flatter sections aft for good side-to-side stability and improved speed. Lying beam-to in the small wave troughs during our sea trial, the boat didn't exhibit a snap roll. She seemed to stiffen on the shoulders and dampen herself nicely, the keel undoubtedly adding a certain amount of resistance.
Atlantic Boat Company has always been in Brooklin, Maine, a pretty, quiet little town near West Penobscot Bay and Deer Island, home of WoodenBoat magazine and its annual boatbuilding school. Atlantic Boat offers seven basic models with the Duffy nameplate, the smallest being a 26, and it builds between 10 and 12 boats a year. They have a very experienced crew, skilled craftspeople who can do fiberglass layup, mechanical installations, woodworking, plumbing and electrical work, and even electronics-usually Furuno and Raymarine installations. Hopkins is justifiably proud of the fact that they only subcontract a few components, like stainless steel safety rails and window parts.
CLASSIC DOWNEAST CRAFTSMANSHIP
The trawler-style pilothouse on Two's Company is the main living area during the day, and it accommodates the helm to starboard, a capacious nav station to port, and a long, L-shaped settee and table behind the helm. Aft are a large, U-shaped galley, pantry, desk, day head, and small cabin with over-and-under berths. The interior is finished in varnished teak with a teakand- holly cabin sole.
"We tend to cruise in the fall and spring, when the temperatures can be cooler and the weather less predictable," Ray said, "which is why, almost exclusively, I chose to operate all our boats from the lower helm, even the ones with flybridges. We appreciate the protection from the weather, as well as the reduced noise levels so that we can talk normally under way. When we realized that we only used the upper station when docking, or to take in a little sun on a nice day, the need for a flybridge diminished. As a result, we can get under more ICW bridges than ever before and have made it easy to lower the mast."
There's a tremendous amount of room in the pilothouse with this design. The helm is set to starboard, rather than on the centerline, giving a better view of the water ahead past the high bow. Having a long history with Furuno electronics, Ray specified them for Two's Company. The helm console is large enough for a 12-inch multifunction display, a multi-data display, two VHF radios, and a Caterpillar digital engine readout, which provides engine performance data like load indication and fuel usage to help achieve efficient cruising speeds. Ray has all his routing on a laptop running Nobeltec Admiral so that he can upload routes; he feeds a second GPS to the laptop as a backup.
With two VHFs available, Ray can monitor Channel 13 for commercial operations in busy ports like Norfolk, Virginia. He also can operate an electronic foghorn on one while scanning Channels 9, 13, and 16 simultaneously on the other. To improve cellular communications, the boat has a wireless amplifier and a separate antenna. Scanned split- or full-screen images from TV cameras in the engine room, and mounted on the cabin top looking aft to give a better view of overtaking boats or the slip into which he is backing, are controlled with an EverPlex 4CQ switcher and are displayed on a dedicated monitor.
Visibility is outstanding, even with the Avon 311 RIB and Nick Jackson crane mounted on the centerline atop the cabin aft. Two aft-facing windows let you look past both sides of the dink. This is a nice setup for two people running a boat on the ICW, with room to port of the companionway, or on the large table in front of the settee, for the navigator to keep track of progress on paper charts while the helmsman uses the electronic chart display.
A king-size bed with a Select Comfort air mattress dominates the owner's stateroom, in the forward cabin. The Kurlaks praise the beautiful woodwork by Atlantic Boat craftsman Jim Staples, with due credit to the cabinetmakers in the shop. The floor is handlaid teak and holly, ripped on the saw in the yard as the boat was being built. Tall curved doors throughout the boat, plus extra headroom in all the cabins, provide clearance for a man of Ray's height. In the main cabin on the port side there's a huge, U-shaped galley, with Corian counters above loads of storage lockers. A home-size pantry is found on the centerline, next to a large refrigerator-freezer by Nova Kool, selected by the Kurlaks because it ventilates into the cabin and doesn't need ducting to the outside. There's a microwave with vent over the electric cooktop, plus a deep sink for pot soaking and cleanup. Aft of the breakfast bar, there's a small computer desk to port of the door leading to the cockpit, with the day head and bunk room to starboard.
THE HOLY PLACE
The engine room, accessed through a hidden door near the settee, features a fairly typical centerline single-engine layout. There are shelves on the sides for the genset, batteries, Hydro-Slave tank for the hydraulic rudder control, SeaLand vacuum pump and holding tank, and most other systems components, which are easily reached. Access to all sides of the engine is amazing, with walkways between the inner and outer stringer for maximum headroom. All of the wiring and plumbing runs are neatly installed and secured against movement.
If you have to pull the engine because of severe damage to the block, it will clear the doorway aft when disassembled, minus the heat exchangers. Most of the time, though, this engine would be rebuilt in place. In the sedan version, the engine would come out of one big hatch. Two's Company has a 24VDC system, served by a Xantrex charger and inverter, and 24-to- 12VDC step-down for electronics. A Fireboy automatic fire-suppression system and Delta "T" Systems engine room ventilation were also installed.
"Ray's decision to set a cruising speed at 70 percent load will help ensure that the C18 engine will be longlived," Hopkins said. "We have a lot of these engines working commercially in Maine, many of them with over 2,000 hours a year. The Caterpillar 3406E was the forerunner, and I know lots of boats with these engines in the 20,000-hour range."
With roughly 4,800 nautical miles under the keel, Ray has found the boat's fuel consumption to be 7gph at 9 knots, giving him a range of 810 nautical miles. At 18 knots, fuel burn rises to 32gph and range falls to 354 nautical miles. Both range values are approximate and are based on 90 percent tankage.
"We selected American Boat because we loved the Duffy look and reputation," Ray said. "Nate Hopkins and his crew listen to what you want to do, and if they can do it, they make it happen."