Seapiper 37

Seapiper 37

Beat of its Own Drum

Usually,a boat turns heads because of its undeniable beauty. But occasionally, like in the case of the Seapiper 37, it turns them because it’s just plain different. 
With all due respect, funky even.

Regardless of one’s first impressions, there’s no denying the Seapiper has an organic buzz, especially among online communities. What’s more, the recent 2023 merger with Seattle Yachts effectively began a new era. Not only does the 37 now benefit from the backing of one of America’s preeminent yacht builders and broker networks, but the boats are now built domestically for the first time. The Seapiper 37 has a fascinating story; from the daydreams of her Dutch designer to the Anacortes, Washington factory floor to one intrepid owner drawn to the Arctic by the Northwest Passage’s siren song.

Built for practicality and easy maintenance on long passages, Seapiper hull #15 is being completed in Anacortes, Washington.

Photo: Courtesy Seapiper

The Seapiper 37 began with the imagination of professional designer and CAD engineer Ritzo Muntinga, who started fleshing out his vision around 2010. “I’ve always liked self-contained systems for living in,” said Muntinga. “You know, log cabins … I really am attracted to those for some reason.” He started noodling a design for a cruising boat with a mid-cockpit as a passion project. A central aspect of his design was a large sliding door that separates the center cockpit from the helm. When open, the pilothouse and cockpit would become one space for the skipper to mingle with everyone.

“Part of it [the Seapiper 37’s layout] has to do with my roots,” continued Muntinga. “I’m originally from Holland and this is kind of like a mini version of a fishing trawler you see in the North Sea. That’s the lines that she has … the goal was to design a boat that was efficient to run and exceptionally easy to maintain.”

Muntinga defied traditional boat debuts by uploading Seapiper 37 design details to his own website. “I filled [my website] with information about this boat, which obviously didn’t exist yet,” he said. “Every section of the boat had dedicated CAD renderings.”

For the first time, Seapiper 37s are being built in the states. 

Photo: Courtesy Seapiper

Muntinga designed the Seapiper 37 to be a trailerable, long-distance passagemaker at an affordable price point. The 37 is relatively heavy, with an 13,000 pound approximate weight (about a 17,000 pound displacement) with a narrow 8.5-foot beam. There was a plucky, “little ship” attitude and when trailering; Muntinga referred to the boat as a “highway needle.” All systems were designed with ease of access, maintenance and repair for amateur skippers in remote locations.

“They [the systems] are high quality and easy to understand,” said Muntinga. “An experienced boater in five minutes will know where everything is and how to operate it.” Muntinga reckoned one or two reasonably competent boaters on a Seapiper 37 should be able to horizon chase to their heart’s content. His unusual strategy worked. Before long, he had four deposits from clients to build the first hulls. He started building the tooling in California where he lives but couldn’t build the boats there due to financial constraints. The first fourteen hulls were thus built abroad, but the pandemic and subsequent—and ongoing—implosion of the globalized supply chain pushed Muntinga to build the boats here in the states. The search for a domestic builder led him to Seattle Yachts.

Behold the Seapiper 37 mold in all its glory. 

Photo: Courtesy Seapiper

“Boats are part of the heritage here,” said Linn Jennings, who was brought on as director of manufacturing operations of Seattle Yachts’ Anacortes, Washington, yard in 2023. “It’s just part of the soul of Anacortes … for me personally, it feels good to be here in a community where it’s huge. And you know, I’m a boat guy. I like hanging out with boat guys.”

Jennings has been in the volume boat production game his entire working life. When he first saw the Seapiper designs, Jennings admitted he wasn’t sure what to think. “Honestly, my first impression was that it was kind of a Swiss army knife of boats, trying to do everything a little bit, but didn’t really have a niche.” However, he came around to appreciating it: “There’s a difference between seeing the boat in a picture or looking at the drawings and climbing around on it.”

Seattle Yachts decided to take a chance and add the boat to its roster. For Jennings, the combination of trailerability and versatile passagemaking opens a world of cruising to those of us holding down a regular job. “The Seapiper, it kind of opens opportunities,” he said. “The more I looked at it … the more I thought, that’s pretty cool. It doesn’t shut doors … you can be up in the arctic this year, you can be in the tropics next year.”

Seapiper 37 owner André Lay aboard his beloved Cavendish (hull #14). At the time of this writing, Lay has completed a fuel-sipping journey from his home port of San Francisco clear to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Photo: Courtesy André Lay

The center cockpit design also won him over. Essentially Muntinga just took a typical layout, split the cabin, slid back the wheelhouse and salon, and put the bulk of the cockpit and entertainment space between the accommodations. “I think the center cockpit, honestly, took a little while for me to warm up to,” said Jennings. “But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about my wife and I and the kids and grandkids; the mid cockpit is very cool. Virtually every 37-footer out there has a forward cabin. The Seapiper just chooses to move the bulk of the cockpit between the accommodations for a lot of legitimate reasons.”

“I just think it’s a versatile little boat,” concluded Jennings. “It’d be the perfect couple’s boat, just to get out and be able to do whatever they wanted. It’s a narrow waterline beam, it’s long and narrow. It’s going to be fuel efficient, it’s going to be good in chop. It’s going to be stable, it has that ballasted keel.”

Jennings is bringing his decades of manufacturing process expertise to bear. Hulls 15 and 16 are in various stages of build on the factory floor. Seattle Yachts is becoming fully acquainted with its new acquisition and the build process is being refined. A handful of tweaks have been made from hull number one in the spirit of improvement, like water tank placement. Once perfected, Jennings anticipates a new Seapiper 37 can be built every two months.

According to the designer, the lines of the Seapiper 37 are inspired by Dutch North Sea working vessels—and we can see the inspiration.

Photo: Courtesy Seapiper

The relatively long length and narrow beam speaks to an efficiency focus. “[The Seapiper 37] truly sips fuel,” said Muntinga. “The average fuel consumption is about a gallon per hour with a normal cruising speed of 6.5 to 7 knots.” He anticipates the efficiency will improve slightly now that the boats are built by Seattle Yachts in Anacortes with an infused resin layup versus hand laid fiberglass to make the new hulls a bit lighter.

But while the “highway needle” profile is great for efficiency, a potential drawback could be tenderness and handling roll. “When you’re talking about boats in this size class … they’re all in the 10-foot beam range,” said Muntinga. “All of them will have a certain level of rolliness to them. Every single one. And that has to do with the overall size and weight. Seapiper is no different and is no worse than the competition in that class.”

He cited the Seapiper 37’s low center of gravity as a means to reduce roll. Another perk of a narrower beam is that stabilizer systems are more effective. The Seakeeper is not standard, but an available option for the build.

Photo: Courtesy Seapiper

André Lay is a professional mariner and owner of Seapiper 37 hull number 14, which he christened Cavendish. His original introduction was via Muntinga’s online renderings, which led to an in-person meeting and in-water tour of a completed boat in the spring of 2019. “We set foot on one of the Seapipers, the thing was in the water and I was already really excited about it,” recalled Lay. “I’m a kid who sees the bike he wants for Christmas, oh man, I’m sure I want it. Then he goes to the bike shop, and it’s everything I thought and more.”

For Lay, the Seapiper 37 represented an upgrade from an old wooden boat that he didn’t deem cruise-worthy. He also completed two sailboat deliveries and knew what kind of adventuring he preferred after the high-seas experience. “I am down for going the same direction for a long period of time,” he said.

Lay also learned that sailing, while fun, wasn’t his cup of tea. “If I didn’t want to have a stick in the center of the boat but I did want to go really far, the answer was a trawler,” he said. However, well-known trawlers with established pedigrees also have the commensurate price tag. “I’m a guy who works for his living, I’m not a newly retired ophthalmologist who goes out and buys a brand new Nordhavn.”

Lay’s primary motivation for purchasing Cavendish is an epic dream to circumnavigate North America via the Northwest Passage. “For reasons unknown the North fascinates me,” he said. “I’ve been casually reading about the Northwest Passage and how with temperatures trending to increase, the sea ice retreats more and more, and now the passage is becoming a navigable passage again without an icebreaker.”

Although a heavy duty rig is required to haul her, the narrow beam of the Seapiper 37 makes the boat trailerable without special permits­—a bonus for folks who might want to cruise the Northwestern U.S. in the summer, and Southeastern latitudes during the winter.

Photo: Courtesy Seapiper

Lay confided his arctic dreams to Muntinga, who deemed his concept “not too crazy.” Lay reckons the Seapiper 37’s range, shallow draft, simple and reliable systems, and more are all features of a boat worthy of the Jack London-style Call of the Wild. Flash forward to October 2023 and Lay departed his home waters of San Francisco Bay for Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, as a first leg of a North American circumnavigation. Ultimately, this journey will lead through the Caribbean and up the East Coast. He eventually hopes to get to Greenland and that he’s “freaking ready to go for it.”

When we spoke after his Mexico run in December, Lay reported a favorable experience. “Overall, the boat has performed admirably. I find that having a cruising rpm of something like 1600 to 1900 rpm is pleasant for me and the noise environment and for the boat. That’s also kind of the primo spot for fuel consumption. I say it’s averaging 6 knots.”

His crossing from the bottom of Baja to Puerto Vallarta was around 500 nautical miles solo. “I was comfortable enough to sit out and do this multi-day passage on my own and still get plenty of rest,” he said. “The boat was riding great, it wasn’t giving me any problems. I’ve got electronics and you know I’m up near the helm, I’ve got the settee in the salon. Got alarms set for AIS targets and radar targets. It was great, there were no targets. I got plenty of rest, it was peaceful.”

A highlight was a pause “smack in the middle” of the blue-water transit. “I just put the boat in neutral, turned the life ring over, and popped in [the water] and just lay there. Rejoiced in the majesty of clear blue water and nothing around for hundreds of miles.” In other words, he experienced a slice of paradise.

“All in all, the boat did really well,” he said.

So, was there anywhere she didn’t do so well? “It doesn’t do well with following seas,” said Lay. “I think that’s pretty common for most any boat, but there were some times with some pretty windy conditions. It was nighttime, it was blowing from behind. And man, like, you’re having to hand steer; it was very grueling to be hand steering all day and all night and the boat is just listing like crazy and things are flinging around. I know that can happen sometimes when you’re a small boat on a big ocean.”

The boat itself though, was fine. “Besides picking things up, the boat is nothing worse for wear. She kept on.”

Lay’s analysis highlights the pros and cons of the long, narrow hull form. “I’ll be the first to point out it’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “Part of the reason it’s even a remote possibility to do long passages from a monetary standpoint is the efficiency of the boat. One of the key ingredients of that is the narrow beam, so that’s one edge of the sword. Naturally, the other edge is that she will be more rolly and tender than a boat with a wider beam.”

The timeless saying that there is no perfect boat, only a series of compromises, comes to mind. Lay is an outspoken advocate for the Seakeeper system, which he opted for. “That thing is so freaking cool,” he said. “It almost should be a standard feature. I understand why it’s not because it’s a lot of money, but without that stabilizer I would be singing a different tune.”

For those familiar with cars, the one-of-a-kind Honda Element—and its loyal fan base of adventurous outdoorspeople may be an apt comparison. The early days of Larry Graf’s Aspen Power Catamarans also come to mind. His asymmetrical proa hull, once an unknown design that initially caused pause, is now proven with an energized fan base and rendezvous community. Will the Seapiper 37 take its place in the boating world in a similar fashion? Only time will tell, but all the ingredients are there.

Seapiper 37 Specifications:

LOA: 37’2”
Beam: 8’6”
Draft: 2’11”
Displ.: 17,000 lb.
Fuel: 200 gal.
Water: 102 gal.
Cruising Speed: 7 to 8 knots
Top Speed: 9.5 knots

View the original article to see embedded media.

This article originally appeared in the March 2024 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.


Boat Lyfe