If you've spent any time cruising the coast of New England in the summer, chances are you have come across a downeast boat. The original downeast-style was derived from the old Northeast vishing vessels that would venture into the Atlantic and bring the crew home safely with their catch. The raised V-shaped bow, long sheerlines, and low profiles allow a downeast boat to handle well in head-on or following seas. There are over 1,000 downeast boats sold on the market every year and generally speaking, most of them retain a good resale value. At United Yacht, we sell many downeast-style boats each month and would be happy to speak with you about selling yours or helping you find the right pre-owned vessel for your needs.
PRE-OWNED Downeast Boats
55' Dixon 55 Downeast 2015
Charleston, South Carolina, United States
55' Little Harbor WhisperJet Flybridge Cruiser 1999
Marco Island, Florida, United States
51' Dettling 2003
Palmeto, Florida, United States
42' Chesapeake Custom Deadrise 2008
Hampton, Virginia, United States
42' Provincial 42 1986
Branford, Connecticut, United States
40' Vento PB Picnic Boat 2022
New York, United States
HUNT & HARVEST
40' H&H Marine Osmond Beal 1999
Marshfield, Massachusetts, United States
38' Custom 38 Draketail Launch 2015
Fort Myers, Florida, United States
38' Northern Bay Down East 2007
Mystic, Connecticut, United States
34' Sabre 34 Express 2007
Queenstown, Maryland, United States
34' Webbers Cove Downeast 1977
Wickford, Rhode Island, United States
34' Webbers Cove Downeast 1977
Pawcatuck, Connecticut, United States
34' Legacy 34 Express 2004
Stone Harbor, New Jersey, United States
In Rhode Island a few models were built that possessed the Downeast style —DyerCraft as well as the Dyer 29. Many downeast-style brands followed suit and have continued to be a popular segment of the boating industry. Some of the most prolific downeast yacht brands include:
- Sabre Yachts
- Back Cove Yachts
- Grand Banks Yachts
- Hinckley Yachts
- Hunt Yachts
- MJM Yachts
- Legacy Yachts
Below are some frequently asked questions about downeast boats.
What is the Downeast Style boat?
In the same way that recreational trawler yachts were developed from the commercial tuna fleets of southern California by legendary naval architect, Arthur DeFever, the Downeast Style boats were developed from the Maine lobster fishing boats built by Will Frost of Jonesport, Maine in the 1920s. These boats featured a long sheer forward and sweep to aft with the low aft freeboard making it easier to haul in heavy lobster traps or nets over the sides. The pilothouse and cabin were located just forward of amidships giving plenty of deck workspace. A skeg running the centerline of the boat gave added directional stability by keeping roll to a minimum in heavier seas and protecting the running gear.
The low-slung cabin structure also served to minimize windage and gave the vessel a lower center of gravity providing safety, comfort, and economy. After WWII, lobster boat building shifted to Southwest Harbor in Maine, when Raymond Bunker and Ralph Ellis began their boat-building partnership in 1947. Their boats were characterized by the same classic lobster boat sweeping sheerline, a narrow 3 to 1 length-to-beam ratio, semi-displacement hull, generous deadrise amidships that flattened out aft for stability, large cockpit working space, low freeboard, fine entry for parting head seas, and unballasted keel (a design feature taken from 19th century sail-driven commercial fishing boats off coastal Maine). These fine-looking sturdy boats attracted the attention of wealthy summer residents that frequented coastal Maine in the late 1950s and they began ordering pleasure cruising versions for themselves around 1960.
The Downeast Style is essentially the same lobster boat as it was customized and upscaled to the desires of yachtsmen wanting pleasure boats with the same pretty lines. The helm station was expanded, and the minimal cabin was made luxurious with brightwork, galleys, heads, and comfortable V-berths. According to Don Ellis, who heads the Ellis Boat Company today, the hull shape remained the same; seaworthy, fuel efficient, and fast—with a low power-to-weight ratio. Heads were added and the interior fit and finish featured high end materials like varnished teak and mahogany. Wood planking gave way to fiberglass in the 1970s which greatly increased production. Many Downeast Style boat builders owe their beginnings to the iconic Bunker and Ellis designs. Modern Maine lobster boats still retain the original classic lines, but with some changes to take advantage of new marine technologies and other innovations. Engine power has increased to satisfy demand for speed and led to the popular annual lobster boat races in Maine!
Who builds Downeast Style boats today?
Recreational Downeast Style boats and yachts are now available in many makes, models, layouts, and features—sedan cruiser, sedan bridge, flybridge models; engines inboard (most common) or outboard (smaller boats); trunk cabin; with full skeg keel or built-down keel; advanced composite construction; bow thruster; IPS drives; air-conditioning; generator; icemaker, and wet bar are just a few of the options and design variations. Yet the classic Maine lobster boat essential features identifiably remain—the long graceful sheerline, large cockpit, fine entry; pilothouse and cabin positioned slightly forward and low. The style has been admired and reproduced by boat builders not only throughout New England (MJM Yachts/Boston Boatworks), but also the Pacific Northwest (San Juan) and Canada (Bruckmann); Australia (Palm Beach Yachts); Malaysia (Grand Banks); Italy (Ferretti’s Mochi Craft); Turkey (Vicem); Alachua, Florida (Marlow Mainship); Chesapeake Bay (Mathews Brothers, Mast & Mallet Boatworks).
Some of the most enduring Maine and New England custom boat builders and brands are Wilbur Yachts, Hinckley Picnic Boats, Sabre Yachts, Back Cove Yachts, Calvin Beal/SW Boatworks, CW Hood Yachts /Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding, Ellis Boat Company, Southport Island Marine, Lowell Brothers, MJM Yachts, Morgan Bay Boat Company, Fortier Boats, Atlantic Boat Company (Duffy), Eastern Boats, Wesmac Custom Boats, Padebco Custom Yachts, Newman & Grey Boats (Jarvis Newman), Taylored Boats (Willis Beale), West Bay Boats. There are many coastal boatyards that will build a custom Downeast Style boat—too many to list.
Current well-known makes include Hinckley, Grand Banks/Eastbay, Sabre, Willis Beale, Wilbur Yachts, Back Cove, Huckins Yachts, MJM, San Juan, Legacy, Bunker & Ellis, Duffy, Hunt Yachts, Fortier, Chesapeake, West Bay, Bruckmann, Calvin Beal, Webbers Cove, Morgan Bay, Wesmac, Vicem, Mochi Craft… This is by no means a comprehensive list.
How much does a Downeast Style boat cost?
Based on a range of 34ft-45ft and model years 2000-2009, midrange Listing Price is currently about $384,000. Lowest price in range was $89,000 with the highest listed at $679,000. For comparison by model years, based on a range of 34ft-45ft and model years 2010-2019, midrange Listing Price is currently (Aug. 2021) about $862,000. Lowest price in range was $325,000 with the highest listed at $1,399,000. Brands in these selected ranges include Sabre, Back Cove, Mainship, Island Packet, Duffy, GB Eastbay, Legacy Yachts, Mast & Mallet, Lyman-Morse, MJM, Northern Bay, Hinckley, H&H Marine, Hunt Yachts, San Juan, Huckins, Wesmac, Lowell Bros. and some custom boats. Of course, there are numerous variables impacting price, especially the engines, mechanical & electrical systems, electronics, floorplan, materials, and options. Custom or semi-custom builds are typically much higher as they are customized to the owner’s wishes and therefore unique in the market.
What is a Picnic Boat?
Hinckley Yachts invented the concept about 25 years ago as a new class of luxury open-air express yacht for harbor and coastal cruising. Based in Southwest Harbor, Maine, Hinckley designers transformed the “Downeast” lobster workboat style into an upscale luxury cruiser worthy of yacht club marinas in the northeast and beyond. The large cockpit and open deck layouts are ideal for lounging and entertaining. Hinckley’s iconic Picnic Boat style is recognizable with its distinctive hull sheer that curves inward at the transom and transom flagstaff. Hinckley Picnic Boats (registered trademark) offer elegant simplicity of form that is both functional and beautiful, able to handle Maine’s rugged coast and rough seas. Built to last with epoxy reinforced carbon fiber and Kevlar from bow to stern. Jet propulsion with jet stick drives for unrivaled handling and maneuverability add speed and fuel efficiencies as there are no appendages below the waterline to cause drag. Hinckley currently offers three models of Signature Edition Picnic Boats.
Are Downeast Boats express or sedan cruisers?
The Downeast Style boats are the most popular type of sedan cruiser characterized by the large open cockpit flowing into the helm deck and pilot house, great for lounging and entertaining. Low cabin roof is forward and raised above the foredeck area. Accommodations of one or more cabins and heads are below. Cabin roof and superstructure (pilot house) keep a low profile, like the Maine lobster boats that inspired the style, along with the long, graceful sweep from bow to the low cockpit coaming. Today some builders are adding flybridges (sedan bridge). Engines are usually inboard, and the semi-displacement hull design is faster than full-displacement trawler motor yachts.
Based on the Maine lobster boats, the hull design is also very stable in different sea conditions. In marketing, definitions and descriptions are often blurred and many Downeast sedan models are called “Express.” Grand Banks Eastbay, Sabre, Back Cove, Wesmac, Legacy Yachts, Hinckley, Hunt Yachts are just a few examples of Downeast sedan cruisers. Sedan cruisers are favored by yachtsmen who are transitioning from sail to power or prefer a minimal number of steps.
Express cruisers are a subset of the Motor Yacht category and do not have a flybridge. They typically feature sleek, contemporary lines with an aft sweeping radar arch and large open cockpits that flow into the helm deck area that may be slightly elevated, and interior main deck living area, allowing maximum outdoor/indoor space for relaxing and entertaining. Accommodations are below. Most are designed and powered for speedy cruising at 25-30 knots and are also called Sport Boats or Sport yachts. The ever-popular Sea Ray Sundancer is a prime example, also Sunseeker Predator, Formula Performance Cruiser, Larson Cabrio, Regal Commodore, Princess Sports Yachts, and too many others to list.