When the Australian distributor of Back Cove Yachts was asked what features he’d like in the new Downeast 37 he requested cockpit space, and more of it – big, fat, class-leading, flush-floored cockpit space. Plus an awning to keep the baking sun off balding heads.
Back Cove’s shiny new 37-footer belongs to a genre of craft deeply rooted to the northeastern US state of Maine, known locally as the Downeaster. It could be called the Downunder, for the 37 is far better suited to our summery lifestyle than that of frosty Rockland, home of Back Cove, where the average temperature is 7.3 degrees, exceeding 32 degrees on only 3.3 days a year. So to understand warm-weather boating they have to ask an expert … or at least an expat.
Jed Elderkin has lived in sunny Australia for 20 years. Since starting his firm Emarine in 2006, he has imported and delivered some 40 new Back Coves, and his orders now represent over 10 per cent of the boutique builder’s annual production. It’s enough to earn Elderkin a seat at the R&D design table.
“The Downeast 37 was really developed with our market in mind,” Elderkin says. “They take us seriously because we’re their largest export market.”
Elderkin’s buyers are typically day-boaters and occasional weekenders, empty-nesters mostly.
“They want to go out with a big group of friends, find a nice spot to anchor, lunch, swim, read the paper, take a stand-up paddleboard for a cruise, then go home and rinse it off.”
HULL AND HIGH WATER
The original lobster-trawler concept has been gentrified over the years with the round-bilge, semi-displacement hull form forsaken for a pleasure-seeking, deep-vee planing configuration. Still, the Downeast 37 stays faithful to its heritage.
Above the surface there’s a spoon bow, graceful tumblehome in the topsides and a sloped transom, upon which rests an open, hard-topped cabin.
Chief designer Kevin Burns, formerly of the prestigious naval-architecture firm Ward Setzer Yacht Design, has penned a deep entry with variable deadrise, flattening to 16 degrees aft and supplemented by down-turned chines and long spray rails for lift, stability and spray deflection. To improve running angle efficiency and reduce draft, the four-blade propeller resides in a pocket.
It’s an ideal compromise between ease of planing and ride softness, almost impossible to fault during our test on Sydney Harbour during which we encountered sharp two-metre seas stirred by chop and slop. The forefoot parted the waves with ease and the scalloped bow and chines did the rest.
At the Back Cove’s core is a single-engine installation. Mounted deep in the bilge, on the centreline, it brings tangible weight distribution benefits. For someone raised and grass-fed on twin motors, the single electronic throttle and gauge will look and feel peculiar at first touch. You quickly adjust.
Automatic Lenco trim-tabs tackle the task of ride levelling with silent nonchalance, giving the driver one less thing to think about. Similarly, new proportional-power thruster technology brings finger-tip precision to the historically daunting prospect of docking a single-engine hull – a must-have option, I’d suggest.
Our 37 sported the top power option, a common-rail 600hp Cummins QSC8.3; standard is a 480hp Cummins, a 530 Yanmar is the middle option. Acceleration from standstill was rapid, with the 11-tonne hull maintaining a minimum plane at around 10 knots (18.5km/h).
Back Cove’s performance data shows the 600’s cruising sweet spot to be around 2000rpm, producing 16 knots (29.6km/h) for the price of 40lt/h. It uses twice that (80lt/h) at 2600rpm, for 23 knots (42.6km/h).
Top speed is 29.7 knots (55km/h), bringing range from the 1135lt tank down to 225nm. Idling at 600 revs, it’s good for five knots (9km/h) and 2205nm, drinking 2.3lt/h.
Noise levels are pleasantly subdued, largely thanks to a well-sealed and insulated engine compartment, along with exhausts exiting from the aft corners at an angle. The foam-cored hull with resin-infused stringer system and a rattle-free interior build also contribute.
LIVING IT U/P
The Downeast 37’s traditional working-boat functionality caters well to a modern recreational watersport lifestyle, be that diving, fishing, paddle-boarding or whatever takes your fancy.
Stretching from the marlin board to the cabin companionway, the cockpit and helm deck are at one level. Twin removable, L-shaped aft cockpit seats can seat eight to 10 people in comfort. The furling awning, which integrates seamlessly with the hardtop, can be left extended when underway, but is quick and simple to stow.
Under the hardtop, there’s a two-person lounge to starboard and raised dinette to port, seating three to four people depending on how you place the backrest shared with the front passenger seat.
Lift the port seat moulding, via gas struts, and a storage area of Aladdin proportions is revealed. Tables, scuba tanks, folding bikes, an inflatable dinghy, spare food supplies – down the hatch they go.
The 6kVA Kohler generator sits quietly in the aft lazarette along with the house and engine batteries, all easily accessible. Extra provision has been made for cockpit refrigeration and ice-making on the Australian-spec boat.
The helm has a nice-quality Stidd helm chair, timber wheel and wood-grained dash. A VesselView engine display was fitted, but otherwise the test boat was awaiting its electronics – a Garmin 8015 GPSMAP with radar, a VHF radio, and Simrad autopilot.
Three steps down, the cabin has all that a couple could want for weekending. Décor is a nod to another legendary American designer, Nathanael Herreshoff, with white panels contrasting the cherrywood trim.
A tidy, L-shaped galley nestles to port, with a two-burner electric stove and convection microwave, underbench fridge/freezer, and a Corian benchtop incorporating a large circular sink and inbuilt garbage recess.
Opposite, the bathroom has a separate walk-in shower cubicle, single sink and electric flush toilet. An overhead mirror and another full length mirror on the door complete the picture.
A privacy curtain runs across the bulkhead to separate the master suite, with its large island bed. Four drawers rest beneath the bed and there’s a bureau to port and hanging locker to starboard (topped by a TV).
Price as tested, turn-key and drive-away, is $625,000, while around mid-$500K will get you the 480hp base model and a few desirable options. It’s likely that resale value will be strong, as the Back Cove’s style will never date.
Easy on fuel, easy to maintain, easy on life … it’s the Harley of the high seas.
SPECIFICATIONS: Back Cove Downeast 37
Hull length: 11.64m
Engine: 1 x Cummins QSC8.3 600hp
Genset: 6kVA Kohler
Fuel capacity: 1135lt
Water capacity: 454lt
Capacity sleeping: 2 persons
Price from: $575,000
Price as tested: $625,000
For more information, contact: Emarine, tel: (02) 9969 3757. Web: emarine.com.au.