BOAT TEST: BACK COVE 30
The world is my lobster and you don’t have to shell out in a big way with the budget-busting Back Cove 30. DAVID LOCKWOOD reports on a great family boat built in Maine on a local lobster-boat tradition
It's July and the local Back Cove importer, Jed Elderkin, is back home in Maine with his family. The middle daughter Daisy (8) takes a dive overboard the boat anchored in Boothbay Harbour, the soul of the Maine Coast, where the North Atlantic flows brisk. Ouch! According to official data it's about 15°C asunder.
Fast forward to Sydney Harbour one sunny Friday afternoon in September when Daisy takes another dive. Only this time it's from the transom on the Back Cove 30 (hull #2) built by a local Maine yard. Though worlds away the new entry-level lobster boat is a cracker by any measure. Elderkin's family of four kids aged from four to 17 are onboard to demonstrate by default the appeal of the Back Cove badge.
Although fresh off the ship, the Back Cove 30 didn't just wash up on our shores. Trade-a-Boat has been following the boat's development for some months. The 30 replaces the 29, the first Back Cove we tested back in December 2006. We've followed the Back Cove evolution from 26 (no longer in production) to 37-footer. But this 30 in some ways reflects a greater depth of thinking in keeping with its designer, Kevin Burns, a naval architect responsible for the company's flagship and, we hear, some custom boats beforehand.
Whereas the earlier Back Coves bent towards fishing pursuits, customer feedback has encouraged the yard to pursue family first. You can still fish from the accommodating cockpit on the 30, but its seating layout is superior for kicking back with lobster instead of a line in hand. And with a new centre transom door, a detail missing on the former 29, there's better access to the water than ever before.
Indeed, after lolling about on deck, we were rather enamoured by the Back Cove 30, a boat that was apparently designed with a clean sheet of paper in hand. While she looks a tad dumpy from some angles, the high-volume hull boasts a brilliant deck layout bundled with oodles of built-in seats in the sun and shade, while retaining its thoroughfare to the helm and cabin.
In keeping with most American-mad boats, headroom is a highpoint under the hardtop and down below. And with a traditional spoon bow, plenty of freeboard and a sloped transom, plus optional mast, the Back Cove 30 has salty good looks. Despite her modest dimensions, here's a boat that you'd be proud to own.
THE PRICE IS RIGHT
Thanks to the strong Aussie dollar, the Back Cove 30 costs $295,000 as tested with factory options (see specs) and local fit-up including antifouling; Raymarine C120W GPS/MAP with depth, 2kW HD radar and VHF radio; custom canvas drop curtains and clears; safety gear, docklines and fenders; and, fuel and registration. In other words, it's a turnkey boat in the good ol' Yankee way.
It's also honourable that Elderkin prefers to value-add rather than undercut the pre-exiting Back Cove market. That said, the bundle price compares most favourably with the old 29 that cost $310,000 in late-2006 with a 310hp Volvo Penta D6 engine and options. And this is a much bigger platform upon which to stage your lobster party.
Taking the old and applying the new is the Back Cove way. The hull on the 30 is fully resin infused, with vinylester resin and foam-core sandwich for exact tolerances and consistency. The mouldings, fit and finish, upholstery, and the quality of the deck fittings are all first class. Together, you get the impression this boat is built with pride rather than on a production line.
The lightly laden boat tips the scales at 5445kg, almost 1000kg more than the old 29. As touched on, that's because the 30 is a much bigger boat than its nomenclature suggests. Beam is 3.4m versus 3.23m on the 29, there's an extra 30cm of LOA, and 30lt more of both fuel and water. That's where the comparisons end.
Like all good single-engine boats, the deep-vee hull has a prop tunnel to lower the shaft angle and, thus, maximise thrust. Countering the prop walk when docking is a standard-issue bowthruster and, on our test boat, an optional sternthruster, too. As such, this really is a one-man docking proposition.
The running gear is all tried-and-tested, with a 1.5in Aquamet shaft, Nibral four-blade propeller, PSS dripless shaft log, Marelon seacocks on through-hull fittings, plus hydraulic (tilt) steering. An electric and manual lift raises the bridgedeck to access the Yanmar, its sea strainer and fuel filter, and Fireboy extinguisher system, among other things. The low-maintenance batteries are back in the lazarette, on shelves above the bilge.
You can specify an optional 4kW Fisher Panda generator ($12,000) and air-con (from $5500 for the cabin), but it's probably overkill on a boat of this calibre. Plenty of hatches, opening windows, and a centre opening windscreen pane ensure natural ventilation. Besides, the test boat had an optional factory-fitted 1800W inverter with third house battery ($2700) with which your can run your AV systems, and briefly a cappuccino machine, kettle or microwave. You might have to run the engine and alternator for an hour during the day but that's little price to pay. The boat also has hot/cold pressurised water using 240V (Shorepower) and a heat exchanger. The 225lt will suffice for a long weekend.
DAY AND NIGHT
The optional blue hull colour adds to the classic look above decks, while the varnished cherrywood cabin on the Back Cove 30 is warm and inviting. The bathroom to port has a freshwater electric head with holding-tank gauge, handheld shower, opening portlight and 12V vent, and plenty of dressing, head and shoulder room.
The galley with solid counter opposite is akin to what you might find on a 35-footer. Amenities include microwave oven, 240V/alcohol single-burner stove, 12/240V fridge with freezer tray, big sink and storage. But take a tip and add a barbecue back outdoors. And where's the water gauge?
Plenty of thought has gone into the accommodation plan. A vee-berth set around a small birds-eye maple dinette/drinks table in the bow - perfect for a late-night game of poker - converts to a double berth with a modicum of effort. In the process, you also gain a transverse single berth above for a kiddie.
You can sleep two more kids on the Back Cove 30 after another quick conversion. Head back up top to the wheelhouse (or helm deck as Back Cove calls it), flip the backrest for the co-pilot seat to port, then extend the base on the portside lounge and add the backrest cushions. Voila! A skipper's bed or twin kid bunk. With the rear clear curtain in place, you'll derive some weather protection, too.
That said, the Back Cove 30 is a standout family dayboat first and foremost. The seating plan is generous and you'll have no trouble finding somewhere to plonk yourself and watch the world go by. I particularly like the fact the helm and bridgedeck is shaded by a hardtop, thereby creating a wheelhouse that with opening windows and windscreen lets the air flow in but otherwise keeps the weather at bay.
The elevated seating enjoys terrific views through the surrounding glass, there's a catacomb of storage under the seats, while the step-down cockpit is no less accommodating. Traced by U-shaped seating, with lined storage and icebox bins below, it can seat four outdoors. A walkthrough centre transom door leads to the extra-deep swimplatform.
We did the headcount and reckon you can seat 10 people in real comfort on this 30-footer - it's truly class leading in this respect. And, as I write this after four days afloat and lots of boat perving, that's what most people do these days: entertain family and friends on the anchor, fire-up the barbie, then swim before weighing anchor and heading home refreshed. In this respect, the Back Cove 30 is ready to serve.
The stability of this boat also deserves mention. Whereas the traditional picnic boats with their narrower beam tend to rock and roll, which can be annoying when doing lunch in busy anchorages, the Back Cove 30 just sits. And that's saying something with the Elderkin clan suitably hyped up on Pringles and Gummy Bears.
FACTS & FIGURES
BACK COVE 30
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
This Back Cove 30 with the base 315hp Yanmar engine did 26.7kts at 3875rpm. If you want more speed, the upgraded (add $26,000) 370hp Volvo Penta D6 will give you 29.8kts, while the Cummins QSD-4.2 option (add $21,000) tops out at 28.4kts, according to the factory data. Of course, full noise (90dBa with the standard 315hp Yanmar) isn't where you want to run your boat all day. That said, this wasn't a noisy lobster boat.
At maximum continuous of 3600rpm (84dBa), you can reel in the sea miles at 24kts for a 350nm range based on 90 per cent of fuel capacity. In the optimum cruising groove of 3000 to 3200rpm (81dBa), the Back Cove 30 returns 17.5 to 20kts for a range of about 280nm. Although the hull is a deep-vee design with 16 degrees of deadrise at the transom, it performs through a wide rev range and 2800rpm (15.5kts according to the official data) was very pleasant.
Pull back to displacement speeds around 8kts and you'll see a 430nm-plus range. Fast or slow, the Back Cove 30 honours its birthplace and imparts a great sense of seaworthiness and confidence. Coastal runs will be no issue at all.
Single 315hp Yanmar 6LPA-STP diesel, full fuel and water with three aboard
RPM SPEED FUEL BURN (lt/h) RANGE (nm)
550 2.6kts 1.13 1248
1000 5kts 2.27 1200
1400 6.6kts 4.92 731
2000 8.7kts 13.62 348
2400 11.7kts 22.71 281
3000 17.5kts 34.06 280
3400 21.8kts 43.52 273
3875 26.7kts 64.35 226
* Official sea trial data supplied by Back Cove Yachts.
PRICE AS TESTED
$295,000 (at US90¢) w/ 315hp Yanmar diesel engine, and options
Factory: Dark blue hull colour with red boot stripe, Dune Ultrasuede interior cushions, Buckskin Ultraleather helm deck cushions, Regency sand Sunbrella cockpit seating cushions, ignition protected sternthruster, 12V cockpit/helm deck fridge, electric anchor windlass with anchor and chain, 1800W inverter with third house battery, and mast for hardtop. Dealer: Epoxy barrier coat and antifouling, Raymarine C120W GPS/map with depth, 2kW HD radar and VHF radio, custom canvas drop curtains and clears, safety equipment package, dock lines and fenders, registration and application of registration numbers and name to transom, full tank of fuel, comprehensive handover and orientation.
Approx $265,000 w/ 315hp Yanmar diesel engine
MATERIAL: Vacuum-bagged hull with Divinycell foam core and E-glass around through-hull fittings
TYPE: Hard-chine monohull with tunnel
LENGTH OVERALL: 10.34m inc. boarding platform
HULL LENGTH: 9.3m
DRAFT: Approx 0.8m
WEIGHT: 5450kg (fully loaded)
BERTHS: 3 + 2
HOLDING TANK: 113lt
MAKE/MODEL: Yanmar 6LPA-STP
TYPE: Six-cylinder turbo-diesel
RATED HP: 315hp at 3800rpm (max)
WEIGHT: Approx 408kg
GEARBOX (MAKE/RATIO): KMH50 / 2:13:1
PROPS: Four-blade bronze 20 x 23in Nibral
We spent most of our time swinging on the anchor on the Back Cove 30. After all, it's not everyday you get to play with a bunch of boating kids. AJ (17) was the eldest and he performed an impressive bomb. Frannie (13) found the tube the place to hang, while Daisy 'fell' off the swimplatform under suspicious circumstances. All while Augie (8) was polishing off the larder. Eventually, it all turned to chaos, such is life with a boatload of kids, but the Back Cove 30 handled the three adults and four kids beautifully.
In fact, everything about this boat is set to go the distance. Teaming single-engine economy with traditional seaworthiness, rugged deckware with modern comforts, head and legroom within a modest footprint, and seating for a crowd with weekend accommodation, this is a big little 30-footer. Add a local importer whose devoted to the marque and you're in good hands. We also like the fact that the boat has all-weather appeal thanks to its wheelhouse. We're supposing you'll use this 30 more often than not. It's not a handful to maintain or berth. There's really no excuse for not jumping aboard.
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