There's plenty that's new this year in boats and boating equipment. That's the inescapable conclusion after repeated wanderings through the National Motor Boat Show which closed in New York last week.
First noticed was the 40-foot molded plywood sloop shown by Luders. Her 60-foot mast towered above the armada of sail and power craft gathered in the huge Kingsbridge Armory. Never before had such a large auxiliary-powered sailboat been made of plywood. "Never again, either," thought some, as they noted her price tag of $38,500. That isn't cheap, it's true, but she's built to last and to provide easy maintenance through the years. As such, this type of construction could catch on in large boats just as it already has in smaller craft, both sail and power.
There was nothing startlingly new among the larger power cruisers, except for some of the equipment we later found on them. It was the smaller power boats that made the news. Ten years ago the cheapest two-berth power cruiser at any of the shows was about $1,500. In 1940 dollars that was a fair piece of change. Today, even though boat prices have kept pace with cars, homes and fur coats, one can still get a two-berth cruiser for $1,500 and even less. What's the catch? None, really, except that she's smaller and different—she's an outboard cruiser.
Outboard motors have advanced so tremendously in the past few years that cruisers with the engine outside the boat are now entirely practical. The motors now boast gear shifts, remote fuel tanks, electric starters and generators—and one manufacturer (Scott-Atwater) even has a motor which bails your boat. The big advance in these motors this year is their comparative quietness, something impossible to demonstrate at the show but nonetheless true.
In the competition among builders of outboard cruisers to produce the most boat in the fewest feet at the lowest price, some wondrous compromises have been made. The most startling seen at the Boat Show was the arrangement of the galley sink on one 18-foot outboard cruiser. When it was swung up, one discovered it had been draining into the toilet. The sink in upward position formed a wall of privacy.
While outboard cruisers are no longer new, their increasing popularity was demonstrated by unprecedented numbers at this show. They are infinitely better in design, too. For the first time all at the show had proper protection against swamping due to the cut-down transoms required to get the propeller low enough to function. There is now either a watertight bulkhead forward of the transom, or the motor is supported from a bracket off the transom, or it is mounted in a watertight well inside the boat.
A few years ago the largest outboards at the show were 25 hp, and not many of them. Now there's the Mercury 40-hp and Scott-Atwater 30. It's a backbreaking job to mount these 25-hp and larger motors on the transom, not to mention the chance of losing one's grip and seeing close to $500 worth of machinery sink out of sight. That's why the motor-handling davit in the cockpit of the Topper outboard cruiser makes so much sense. It's one of those new features so simple and so vitally necessary that one wonders why it wasn't commonplace years ago.
Paralleling the rise in outboard boats and cruisers is a rise in the production of trailers to transport them on. Whereas only 1,000 trailers were built 10 years ago, about 100 times that number are turned out annually today. Never before had so many been displayed at the show; and in the majority of cases, the basic design was pretty much unchanged except for the addition of tilt devices on some to make the boat slide more easily into the water. The one truly new "trailer" was that offered by The Anchorage. It was a boat with detachable wheels, which makes even trailers unnecessary.
Kit boats, the feature of recent boat shows, are still prevalent but seem to be slipping as manufacturers continue to close the price gap between finished boats and those sold in kit form. The kits, however, can often mean the difference between owning and not owning a boat and as such are destined to retain a justified if slightly subdued popularity.