Marrying a bowrider to a classic New England cruiser equals, at least in the case of the Daychaser 48, a fresh take on day-boat design. Barton & Gray‘s salty 48-footer was launched last night, as the club moves to diversify its fleet.
The 17-year-old boat club, with annual memberships starting at $39,500, has built up a fleet of nearly 70 Hinckleys in 30 ports across the country. It has used these 36- through 44-footers to introduce mostly non-boaters to the water, buffing the Hinckley experience with a captain and concierge service.
And while Hinckley is considered by many to be America’s most elegant weekender, it doesn’t always fit in with Barton & Gray’s business model of one- to five-hour cruises.
“There was too much wasted space, especially in the staterooms, since members don’t sleep in them,” co-founder Doug Gray told Robb Report. “Because we’re a commercial venture, US Coast Guard regulations also forced us to retrofit many of the boats, which is expensive. Those regulations often prohibited our members from going up on the bow.”
That meant that groups of up to 12 had to huddle around the captain at the helm or cram into the aft cockpit, leaving about half of the boat’s space unused. The better solution: An elegant, open-bow vessel resembling a classic cruiser that, underneath the fancy dress, is a functional day boat.
Gray took the concept to a few boatbuilders who “basically laughed us out of the room,” he says. “At that point, we realized we had to do it ourselves.”
Well, not exactly. The team worked with naval architect Doug Zurn on the concept and contracted manufacturing to Boston Boatworks, which has built series boats for upscale brands like MJM as well as stylized motor launches for several resorts.
There were Covid-related delays, but the first Daychaser 48 is now in New York waters, with plans to use it, and a second 48, at its Florida locations over the winter. Gray expects to take delivery of ten more this year, with eight based in Florida and the Bahamas.
What’s so unique about the design? As mentioned, the Daychaser combines the elegance of a Hinckley-esque cruiser with the bowrider concept. The navy-blue hull and omnipresent teak and mahogany root it firmly in New England tradition, but the open bow is a first for that style. The second feature worth noting: the 550-hp Cummins diesels coupled to Hamilton jet drives (jet drives helped make the Hinckley Picnic Boat an instant icon). Jets not only enhance maneuverability but let the boat nudge up to beaches without worrying about propellers.
Most dayboats these days are based on center consoles, derived from offshore fishing boats, while a handful of others have cruiser origins, and tend to be a bit cluttered on the topsides.
This boat is different. Zurn did a good job defining social spaces for multiple guests, as Barton & Gray needs for its members, including the large bow area. “At some point, I expect all 12 guests to be up in front,” he says, “so we used a very large design.” The door and windows leading aft were also highly engineered to keep the helm and cockpit dry while the boat’s running.
The Daychaser also has a cockpit galley, bar with two stools, separate table and lounges, and twin helm seat. It’s all dressed up in wood. Usage boils down to being an elegant party platform, so attention was paid to creating more nooks than you’d find on a typical 48-footer for storing food, bottles and other sundries for island picnics or sunset cruises.
“Most of the meals will be catered, so we also designed in large refrigerators and freezers,” says Zurn. The swim platform at the stern also offers excellent access to the water, with more storage for water toys.
Despite the focus topside, the 48 also has a cabin with a single berth, toilet and shower, and even a table to work. “We wanted to create a space that didn’t feel like a boat, but offered people solitude and privacy,” says Zurn.
Unlike Zurn’s other designs, this day-tripper will spend most of its time cruising between 8 and 20 knots, so it doesn’t have to be a speed demon. That let the designers widen the beam to nearly 15’ for additional space, though the boat weighs a third less than similar 48-footers. The team had to design to Coast Guard requirements which were challenging in some cases, but added safety to the overall design.
Will this be a breakthrough boat? Possibly. In the last decade, time-challenged boat owners have moved away from cruisers towards day boats. This Daychaser, with its wood and salty lines, could be the beginning of a trend towards larger, luxe day boats targeting a more affluent market than the center consoles reach.
Beyond member use, Barton & Gray plans to sell Daychasers individually for $2.59 million, which includes a full management program.