The Cobbett’s Pond Right of Passage
Whalers vs. “Lumies”
Cobbett’s Pond has an abundance of both Boston Whalers and small Aluminum boats. A few are models from the mid-century with period Johnson and Mercury engines. So the question is what is the best small boat to own? Is it the technical and minimalist looking Boston Whaler or a more gritty and down to earth aluminum boat? Both have offered freedom for teens and preteens (and older) on the water for decades.
THE BOSTON WHALER
The first Whaler that I can remember on Cobbett’s Pond was owned by Arthur Park. (Somebody else might have had one earlier?) His sons Doug and Arthur Jr. always were out water-skiing in the Whaler when I was a kid. Of course, the innovative thing about the Whaler was the fact it was “unsinkable.” Its hull would stay afloat even when cut in half with a saw, like was promoted in its early advertising which introduced it in the late 1950’s. Our neighbors the Solomons have a Whaler that the Michelson family has owned since the early 1980’s. It has the classic mahogany trim and seats.
Maineboats.com has a great piece on the Boston Whaler which you can check out in full online: “In 1958, Richard Fisher combined his engineering talents with Ray Hunt’s design visions to bring the 13-foot Boston Whaler into the world.” An article on Proboat.com goes further: “The story begins with three friends from Massachusetts: sailors Ray Hunt and Dick Fisher, and the quiet Bob Pierce, who when out sailing was known to turn the helm over to his wife or son so he could go below to “get something done.” Hunt, of course, was the brilliant yacht designer of sail and power, whose credits include the Concordia yawl, the International 110, and most famously, the deep-V powerboat hullform. Fisher had a degree in philosophy and sharp interest in the way things work. Pierce was mainly interested in machines…
Fisher became consumed with the idea of a superior small powerboat hullform, and was determined to improve upon Albert Hickman’s notorious Sea Sled.” (So what the heck was a Hickman Sea Sled and why was it notorious I ask myself.
Come to find out, the Hickman Sea Sled was the first boat designed with a inverted “v” hull creating a stable catamaran like design. You can still buy old mahogany Sea Sleds today.)
“The pair quickly found that they had tapped into a wellspring of want that propelled this revolutionary rectangle of fiberglass and foam into one of the most successful and beloved boats of all time. And it couldn’t have happened without boys and, as we shall see, girls. Beginning in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the leading edge of the middle class was just breaking out into second homes along the seashore and out at the lake. Dad worked and Mom rode herd on the kids. Naturally enough the kids wanted to be out on the water. The prospect of this scared Mom half to death until Dad came home with this funny looking boat on a trailer. Maybe Dad had seen the Life magazine story showing a proper gentleman in sport jacket, bow tie, and homburg sitting calmly in the stern of a Boston Whaler while a giant buck saw, stabbing up from the deep, cut the boat in two. Perhaps he’d seen this same gent in an advertisement streaking up the rapids of a tidal river at a steep angle. Or maybe that father had read the brilliant advertising headline, “The most compelling reason to put your trust in a Boston Whaler just went to baseball practice….Finally, they knew that two-stroke outboards had just taken a leap forward in terms of dependability, and were impressed that the original 13-foot Whaler could skim along with what seemed like incredible speed when pushed by horsepower in the 9- to 25-hp range. So there you had it: a kid’s need for independent adventure converged with a parent’s need for safety. This convergence, more than anything, explains the success of the first Whalers on the scene, despite what appeared to be, at first glance, little more than a non-nautical hodgepodge of curves and angles. The other thing that brought Dad around to a Whaler is that he knew boats, and guys who knew boats liked the Whaler right off. They liked the lateral stability afforded by the twin keels, and they appreciated the unibond construction, in which liquid foam injected into the cavity between the two fiberglass skins cured and bonded the hull into an unsinkable whole.”
Full Boston Whaler article at Maineboats.com: https://maineboats.com/print/issue-120/tickettoride
How do I know the Boston Whaler is beloved? Because I see parents stealing them from their kids to cruise the lake.