As Editor-in-Chief Dan Harding approaches his 100th boat review, he comes across a surprising new build that he says might be the most impressive yet. And it’s only 14-feet long.
As I approached the new boat, I can’t help but stare longer than is polite at her dark hull color. Her angular sheer and proud bow remind me of a vessel from a bygone era. At 14 feet LOA and with a 4-foot beam, it’s fair to say that this boat is smaller than many that we typically review; still, my job title proves that I know a yacht when I see one.
Perhaps one of the most notable features of the new build is an enormous on-deck master stateroom with a single twin berth. Amenities also include a forward stateroom with a pair of portlights that, well, don’t exactly bathe the space in natural light but they do the job.
There’s also a mast forward, a nicely laid out helm complete with a Harry Potter owl that closely resembles a parrot. If you’re not thoroughly confused by now, I’ll admit, the boutique builder wasn’t Hinckley or Sabre, but my old man. And the new boat was a plywood pirate ship/bed he custom built over a series of weekends as a surprise for Connor.
I’d like to say that when Connor first saw the boat it was love at first sight, but that wouldn’t be entirely honest. Late for a nap, and being filmed by no less than three phones, he shyly shuffled away from it and proclaimed, “I don’t like it.”
If you’ve never heard the sound of a grandfather’s heart breaking, I can tell you, it’s kind of like stepping on a handful of Pringles.
A few hours, and an overdue nap. later Connor would change his tune. He eventually crawled into the secret cabin forward (with a little encouragement from his mom). He would spin the ship’s wheel with glee as his uncle pretended to be tossed about in the seas. The twin mattress became his new favorite hangout. He even allowed Salty and me to climb aboard for a tryptophan-fueled power nap.
At one point Connor even made up for his early disappointment by grabbing my dad by the hand and saying, “go play pirate ship boat.” When it comes to grandkids, it seems, hearts are easily mended.
So, my official review? Well, it doesn’t have amenities, or propulsion (save for a swath of a sail made from one of my old sails), it’s not NMEA 2000 compatible, I shudder to think what the USCG or ABYC would say. I’m not a yacht designer but I have a feeling it might just get a nod of approval from my friend Bill Prince. In all, I think this boat should be judged not by what it doesn’t have, but by what it does: the ability to entertain and inspire a toddler. Built with plywood and a whole lot of love, it’s safe to say I have a new favorite boat.
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