Fresh from the Travelift with project manager Eric Blake at one of the twin helms, Alchemy makes its maiden voyage through Center Harbor on route to the float at Brooklin Boat Yard. The first Hinckley Sou’wester 53 was finished off by BBY as part of a collaborative effort among three Maine boatbuilders. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTOS BY STEPHEN RAPPAPORT

Collaboration of three boat builders results in Alchemy



BROOKLIN — When elements combine with seemingly magical results, the process is often described as “alchemy.”

And when noted yacht designer Bill Tripp got together with three Maine boatyards — The Hinckley Co. in Trenton, the Brooklin Boat Yard and the Front Street Shipyard in Belfast — the result was literally Alchemy, a modern, Bill Tripp-designed pilothouse sloop launched at BBY on the 7 a.m. tide Monday.

Hinckley and BBY have both established worldwide reputations for the boats they build in yards that are just a few miles apart, but their first collaboration arose from a unique set of circumstances and knowledgeable customers whom BBY owner Steve White described as “a real joy to work with.”

Those feelings were reciprocal, said Duncan and Laura Hennes of Rye, N.Y., on Long Island Sound, as they waited patiently in the morning chill for their new boat to be launched.

Elegant joinerwork and finish characterize Alchemy. The roomy pilothouse features comfortable seating and the expansive views her owner wanted. A sliding glass door gives wide open access to the spacious cockpit where all sail controls are located within easy reach of the twin helms but out of the way of seated guests.

“I can’t say how happy I am,” Duncan Hennes said before Alchemy was launched. “I could have built this boat anywhere. I’m building it in Maine because I wanted to keep the jobs here and keep the industry vibrant.”

As the Travelift moved Alchemy into place for her christening he added, “I don’t think anybody matches the quality of these guys. They are absolutely expert at what they do.”

Hennes is an experienced sailor who has raced a J/105 “round the buoys” and a larger J/44, both production boats, offshore. When he decided it was time for a new boat devoted to cruising he turned to naval architect Bill Tripp III of Norwalk, Conn., for the design.

“He’s a genius, a good friend of mine and the production boat I wanted didn’t exist,” Hennes said.

What Hennes wanted was a cruising boat with a large, deck level pilothouse “where you don’t have to go downstairs for a cup of coffee.” At one point, he considered switching from sail to power to achieve the level of comfort he sought.

Thanks to Tripp and the three Maine boatyards, he didn’t have to.

A few years ago, Tripp designed a new 50-footer for Hinckley. A fast racer-cruiser, the new Bermuda 50 harkened back to the Hinckley Bermuda 40 — perhaps the company’s most iconic boat — designed by Tripp’s father in 1958.

Hinckley built the mold for the new hull, White said, so that it would be possible to stretch it to 53 feet in length but it had only used it for the slightly smaller B50. Tripp approached Hinckley about building the bigger boat but there was a problem.

“We were full up with our normal business,” Hinckley Vice President Phil Bennett said Monday. “We told him we could build the hull,” but couldn’t start the rest of the boat for longer than Hennes was willing to wait.

After making some inquiries, it turned out that BBY had an open building slot on its schedule, but couldn’t build the e-glass and carbon fiber composite deck and pilothouse structure. Front Street had that capacity and the project was on its way.

Hinckley delivered the hull—with interior bulkheads in place — to Brooklin last October, White said, and BBY got started installing the Yanmar diesel saildrive, bow thruster, the extensive plumbing, HVAC and electrical systems. Front Street delivered the deck and pilothouse mold in March, and work on the custom interior continued. The painted white bulkheads, immaculate joinery of varnished mahogany and varnished teak and maple soles “are very Hinckley,” White said Tuesday.

Brooklin boat yard project manager Eric Blake (left) shares a story with Alchemy’s owner Duncan Hennes and his wife Laura before she christened the new boat with the traditional Champagne bath.

Alchemy is, in fact, being billed as a “Hinckley Sou’wester 53” and the dark blue hull displays Hinckley’s trademarked gold cove stripe with the stylized Talaria emblems fore and aft. According to Bennett, the company would be willing to build more Sou’wester 53 hulls should the opportunity come along.

As the first 53-footer, Alchemy is certainly special. As with all modern Hinckleys, the hull and deck are built of carbon outer skins, foam core and carbon inner skin infused with epoxy resin. The foil for the keel is biaxial e-glass and epoxy-wrapped steel with a lead ballast bulb. A carbon rudder complements the modern underbody.

Alchemy has a single-level layout and a pilothouse with surrounding views from every direction. The pilothouse acts as an indoor/outdoor room, providing expansive, temperate space and natural light while running the boat from a joystick-equipped helm or entertaining in any weather. A sliding glass door design provides the flexibility and comfort.

Down two steps area a double stateroom to port with separate head to starboard and a spacious owners stateroom with private head and shower. Two steps down to port at the after end of the pilothouse is another double stateroom for a captain or occasional guests.

The deck and pilothouse structure, built at Front Street, is primarily constructed of epoxy-infused e-glass, a lightweight, high-strength woven glass fiber cloth. Once the deck was in place at BBY, the manufacturer of the glass pilothouse windows measured the openings with a laser, the delivered the finished glass inserts.

“They all fit perfectly,” White said.

Alchemy is a big boat, but has already proven to be quick.

The boat is 52 feet 4 inches long overall with a beam of 14 feet 3 inches and a draft of 8 feet 3 inches and a design displacement of an even 30,000 pounds.

With cruising her primary mission, Alchemy flies 1,624 square feet of Doyle Sailmaker sails including a mainsail that furls into the boom, a battened self-tacking jib set on a Furlex roller furler and a laminated “screecher” for sailing off the wind.

The triple-spreader carbon fiber mast stands 79 feet above the water, White said, and, with the electric furling boom, was built by Offshore Spars of Chesterfield, Michigan: The spar package features Nitronic 50 rod rigging. All winches, deck hardware and sail handling controls were furnished by Harken.

Alchemy is equipped with primarily with B&G sailing instruments and electronics, with a Simrad autopilot at the inside helm station.

Before the new boat went in the water Monday, Hennes said “I’m glad I named her Alchemy. You guys turn lead into gold.”

On Monday afternoon, Hennes, Doyle sailmaker Mark Bloch and the BBY crew took Alchemy out for her maiden sail trials. The results seemed to confirm what Hennes said earlier in the day.

“We got 8 ½ knots in 10 knots of breeze,” White said.

Alchemy will remain in Brooklin for about 10 days before her owner sails her back to her home port at the American Yacht Club in Rye.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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