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Trawler Design: Boat Dysmorphic Behavior

Is the Albacore 40 a truly classic design? The way my eyes see her makes it hard for me to tell.

My editor does not dictate a specific type of design for each of these small forays into the cluttered mind of a boat designer/builder, but on a recent visit to my neck of the woods, he and I embarked on a discussion about classic boats. Some might say that I have little experience on that subject, but I have spent much time cogitating on it and making countless drawing board attempts to achieve it.

There are flaws in the genre, as there seems to be no single definition of what a classic boat is. What some designers might see as a glass half full is certainly countered by the glass-half-empty designers who never will have a shot at the elusive classic label.

The Devlin-designed Albacore 40 concept

The Devlin-designed Albacore 40 concept

Truth be told about boat design, there is always some little point or feature that might be adjusted, a line tweaked just a bit to more truly embrace any type. This never-ending torment is the condemnation of the boat designer. Add in being a boatbuilder, and you can quickly run into a syndrome.

Dysmorphic behavior is a mental health disorder in which you cannot stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance (read: in your boat’s appearance or, in the case of a designer, in your design’s appearance). Such flaws appear minor or cannot be seen by others, but you may feel so embarrassed, ashamed and anxious that you avoid social situations. Our most beloved floating dream ship might indeed be a classic, but we all know the truth deep down. There are flaws, those runs in the varnish work, or those scratches, or those minor leaks. They all contribute toward the potential blacktop scuffs of our metaphoric elbows and knees in the boating world.

When it comes to boat design, it is a fleeting and elusive goal to come up with what might be perceived as beautiful or functionally classic boats. Beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder, and what might be considered beautiful is subjected to environmental experience—a long history of looking at all different types of boats. Filtering out the chaff and focusing on the few truly classic beauties can leave us spending thousands of dollars trying to put a bit of rouge on the cheeks of our current water love. And many boaters spend good money on shapes reminiscent of Star Wars movie props. They love those boats through thick and thin.

Quite often in a classic boat, function needs to take a back seat to styling—and that can be a conflict. Should the designer start with the exterior and work his way into the innards of the boat, eventually fulfilling the customer’s brief? Or should he start in reverse with the accommodations and somehow then wrap a cloak about the frame? Is this design potentially a classic in the interior sense, even though the exterior falls way short?

I am quite sure that a true classic has its design started from the exterior, which is how I drew the Albacore 40. I then worked my way into the interior, allowing me to attempt to get a firm fix on the styling and appearance first.

LOA: 40ft. 11.5in.
LWL: 37ft.
LOD: 54ft. 3in.
Beam: 12ft. 2.5in.
Draft: 2ft. 8in. (max); 2ft. 1in. (min)
Displacement: 18,900 lbs.
Propulsion: 2x 350-hp outboards

The original preliminary design was done for my former landlord, who wanted a boat that meshed with his gold-chain personality, yet was not so far afield of the rest of the floating kindred that it would make him feel ostentatious on the water. Simple but, hopefully, classic lines would be the appropriate translation for a boat that could stretch its wings for a fast run on a smooth-water day and transport him 90-plus miles to the San Juan Islands. The design needed to be comfortable for him and his wife to overnight, but also handle more of a crowd for cocktails and dining when not out cruising the islands.

Devlin-designed Albacore 40 accommodations

Devlin-designed Albacore 40 accommodations

In the long run, he did not bite on a build project, but I later dusted off the design and finished it for a client in Korea. The boat was eventually built there by Heung Jin T&D Co. Ltd., and won boat of the year at the Korean International Boat Show in 2019. It is fitted out with twin 350-hp outboards and is a fine-looking boat on the water with stunning performance.

A classic? I do not honestly know, but give her a few decades. When the patina of newness is not even a distant memory, she might get a fair evaluation.