thinking behind a modern lobster boat"
By Mark Pearson
August 2001 Soundings
building thousands of sail-and powerboats under the Pearson
name, and more for companies like Rampage, Alden yachts, Freedom,
J-Boats and Alerion, my father, Everett Pearson, couldn't
leave well enough alone. Instead, he encouraged and inspired
the management of TPI Composites to take a close look at what
the market was currently offering in family cruising boats,
and challenged us to take a different, better approach.
of the pioneers in the fiberglass production boat industry,
Everett has always believed in making boating more accessible
by building boats that were reasonably priced and easy to
maintain. He played a big part in the industry's revolution
from wood to fiberglass, and he saw how new technology and
production efficiencies could produce better, more affordable
boats. But he also began to witness the trend of making boats
too complex, too expensive to maintain, and simply too expensive
for most boaters to own. More and more people were getting
out of boating because many of their experiences were far
don't we start with a clean sheet of paper and build a fun,
affordable boat that doesn't cost a fortune to operate and
maintain?" because the fundamental objective for this new
project at TPI. Partly due to the market shift to power vessels,
and partly due to the fact that we did not want to compete
with our biggest customer and strategic partner, J-Boats,
we decided to relaunch the Pearson yachts name with a mid-sized
powerboat. From the beginning, we called this design the True
in New England and being exposed to the simple beauty and
working-class honesty of the lobster boat, our design team
started our project by considering this classic boat's attributes
and attractiveness. Obviously, the tremendous success of so
many new Down East designs was a factor in our initial direction.
But the most compelling argument for this style came from
one of our managers, Jono Billings, who owns a 1958 36-foot
Royal Lowell-designed lobster boat.
is an avid, experienced cruiser who also is part owner of
Jamestown (R.I.) Boat Yard. Over the years he has seen just
about everything in maintenance, repairs and rebuilds. And
he has come to believe in the K.I.S.S. philosophy of keeping
it as simple as possible.
have seen too many frustrated boat owners who spend more of
their time getting things fixed than going cruising," says
Billings. "I realized that I was having a lot more fun on
my simple lobster boat than they were on their luxurious yacht
with complex systems and equipment. And the seaworthy performance
of the basic lobster boat has always provided a real sense
of confidence when the weather turns bad. I talked to Mark
and Everett about building a modern version of my boat."
seed was planted, and a team was formed at TPI to develop
this new concept. Olive Dent, TPI's in-house naval architect,
worked closely with Jono, Everett and me, and eventually we
created basic drawings and a three-dimensional model of the
True North 38. Knowing our design had to look different from
everything else on the market, we all agreed that its starting
point would include a plumb bow, a sweeping sheerline, a low
profile pilothouse and a reverse transom.
all had our own ideas of how people used their boats and what
features they wanted. When we compared notes, we found a common
thread that paralleled the popularity of the family sport
utility vehicle. Active boaters, especially those with kids,
want enough room to carry an assortment of water toys, which
might include a dinghy, a couple of kayaks, and fishing and
diving gear, as well as the requisite cruising accessories
like a barbecue grill, fenders, extra lines, spare anchors
and the like. And many want to venture off the beaten path,
getting away from the crowded marina scene. We likened the
concept to a "base camp" for all kinds of water sports.
some of these qualities can be found in the popular trawler
yachts, today's boater also wants to cover a log of cruising
ground quickly. So it was important that the True North cruise
comfortably in the low to mid-20-knot range, increasing the
choices for weekend getaways. The modern-day lobster boat
proved the ideal design.
right balance between comfortable amenities and rugged, easy-to-maintain
qualities also suggested an SUV mentality. We felt this boat
had to strike the perfect balance between luxury and practicality.
In fact, we heard many stories from owners of beautiful express
yachts who found that they were fighting a losing, expensive
battle trying to keep their boats up to "yacht" standards,
rather than going out with the kids or friends, and enjoying
a day on the water. And many others were questioning the wisdom
of having so much money tied up in something they didn't use
we had a good idea of what this boat would look like, how
it would perform, and how it was to be equipped, we decided
we should test our concept with potential customers. We hired
George Sass of Sass Communications in Annapolis, Md., to conduct
market research using a series of focus-group studies with
potential buyers. Sass specializes in the marine industry,
and his company provided us with some very valuable insight
into today's boater. Most encouraging was the fact that our
overall concept was well-received. But we also learned a lot
by listening to what these boaters had to say about how they
used their boats and what they wanted in their next boats.
wanted a boat that was more reliable. We heard one horror
story after another about bad dealers, poor boatyard service
and unreliable equipment. But we also heard a lot of contradictions.
While everyone demanded greater reliability, not everyone
was willing to give up creature comforts. And while everyone
understood the economic advantage of producing a "standard"
boat, everyone had different ideas of what that "standard"
should consist of.
a result, our True North 38 is available in three versions:
Sport, Explorer and Heritage. Each differs in the amount of
equipment included and , to some extent, the level of finish.
The Heritage, for example, includes air conditioning, a genset,
a complete electronics package and a yacht-finish wood-trimmed
interior. The Explorer is designed for coastal cruising and
includes an electric windlass and the electronics package.
The Sport is a good, basic boat with a competitive price that
will allow more boaters to get out on the water and have a
lot of fun.
knew that to stand out in the crowded marketplace we had to
offer something quite unique, and the True North 38 does so
in several ways. To begin with, the cockpit is large enough
to stow a 10-foot inflatable with its outboard attached. The
dinghy is easily brought aboard through the large, double
transom doors, eliminating the need for davits or a mast-and-boom
rig. We see the dinghy being an ideal place to store bicycles
and other cruising gear while under way. And there's plenty
of walk space and seating around the dinghy, thanks to the
wide side decks.
we see the boat being used as a center of water-sports activity,
we kept the pilothouse open to the cockpit, allowing a natural
traffic flow between the indoors and outdoors. The galley
is very accessible to those in the cockpit, so those with
wet swimsuits can satisfy their hunger and thirst without
leaving a trail behind them. To allow room for overnight guests,
the dinette settee expands, and the table converts to create
a double berth.
helmsman is not far from the action and has an excellent view
aft, making docking easier. In fact, the helm area commands
an excellent view all around, and we've spent a lot of time
getting the instrument panel right from a practical point,
as well as aesthetics. Sitting or standing, this is a very
comfortable boat to steer. A set of canvas and clear windows
can be fitted to the aft roof and cabin sides for full protection
to the helm area is a con-pilot/nav area, equipped with a
bench seat. We also decided to feature an easy-to-clean nonskid
flooring instead of the traditional teak and holly sole. Yes,
that traditional sole is beautiful, but after a season of
kids, dogs and guests without boat shoes, there's hell to
there's a sizable V-berth cabin with a full-sized head and
shower. Originally, we felt we needed a separate stall shower,
but our focus group studies told us not to waste the room.
Now that we see how much room there is in the cabin, we see
our customers were right on.
talking with owners of mid-sized express boats who also have
kids, we found there was a problem of what to do when the
children were ready for bed. Normally they would try to sleep
in the converted dinette area, but that would essentially
close off the boat to adults. We developed an optional loft
that is built athwartships of the V-berth, and that can fit
two kids. Put them to bed early, close off the forward cabin,
and the rest of the boat is ready to enjoy. When the adults
are ready to turn in, everyone can have a good night's sleep
in the forward cabin. And, of course, there's room for two
more in the pilothouse.
of the first questions people ask is whether this is a jet-driven
boat. While we considered a waterjet at the beginning of its
development, we are moving away from it. We understand the
popularity of these drives, but we also know they're expensive.
If someone absolutely wants one, we are pointing them in the
direction of those who are offering jetdrives. We simply feel
that for the initial cost and long-term maintenance simplicity,
a conventional single screw is the way to go. To make docking
maneuvers easy, a bow thruster is standard on all three models.
our patented SCRIMP construction system provides great strength
without undue weight, the True North 38 displaces a modest
15,000 pounds. Her long waterline length and hull shape contribute
to fuel-efficient running speeds. The sport, with a 350-hp
Yanmar diesel, will have a top speed of 22 knots and a cruising
speed of 18 knots. The Explorer and Heritage models feature
a 420-hp Yanmar for a top speed of more than 25 knots and
a cruising speed of 24 knots. Conservatively, each model will
have a range in excess of 300 nautical miles.
specified an AquaDrive antivibration system for each model,
which we have found to be an excellent investment in noise
and vibration reduction. It also reduces the need for exact
deadrise is a moderate 12 degrees, transitioning from a midship
deadrise of 20 degrees - an ideal shape for efficient, quick-planning
performance. And thanks to a fairly deep forefoot, the boat
will handle some nasty seas at cruising speeds. Her full skeg
not only will provide strength and protection for the running
gear, it will provide added directional stability in following
more than a boat
are committed to the success of this project and fully understand
the need to exceed the expectations of our customers. We've
decided to sell the boats directly, encouraging them to visit
our facility here in Rhode Island. We're setting up a network
of authorized service yards throughout the United States,
requiring each yard to undergo factory training. Boats will
be delivered on land to the yard closest to our customer,
and we will dispatch a factory technician to that yard to
take charge of commissioning the boat and teaching the new
owner how to operate and maintain her. The yard will agree
to provide a list of services, each with a preset cost, so
owners will never be surprised by their yard bill.
really want to improve the entire buying and owning experience
for our customers, and the only way we can do that is to work
directly with our customers and our preferred yards. Additionally,
we're working on a series of value-added services, including
boat-handling courses for spouses, flotilla cruising events
and open houses for test driving the boats.
from the early response we've had to the True North 38, we're
going in the right direction. Production for 2001 is pretty
much sold out, and we're now scheduling for early spring 2002
deliveries. Our customers are telling us that we've created
what they've been looking for: a good-looking boat with great
performance, lots of room, and at a reasonable cost. All of
which is music to Everett's ears - again.
Pearson, 38, is general manager of TPI Composites' marine
Division, and oversees the manufacturing of J-Boats and Alerion
Express sailboats, in additional to heading the new Pearson
yachts division. He grew up sailing and fishing with his family
on the Kickemuit River in Rhode Island, where he lives today.
He has participated in many offshore sportfishing tournaments,
many with his father, and enjoys family fishing, cruising
and a good round of golf.