By John K. Hanson Jr.
Boat launchings and boat christenings are special celebrations that gather the all involved the act of creation: owners, designers, and builders. They also have an eternal and mythic quality — the symbolic transfer of a vessel from land to sea.
The June 15, 2016, christening of LUCKY WOMAN, the 1000th jetboat built by the Hinckley Company was all that and more.
I stood on the gangway leading to the Hinckley Company docks in Southwest Harbor as the shop crew gathered for the ceremony. The docks sunk low under the crowd and jokes about getting wet were rampant. When I worked the docks over forty years earlier they held mostly sailboats. Now distinctively designed poweryachts in the Hinckley jetboat family occupy most of the spots.
First launched in 1994, the jetboats gave this venerable sailboat company a new life and the boating world a new icon. If all 1,000 jetboats built so far were lined up bow to stern, the resulting line would stretch more than seven miles, according to Hinckley Chief Operating Officer Mike Arieta.
The first Hinckley Jetboat, the Picnic Boat, which started it all, was launched in Southwest Harbor. “Since then, we’ve had the pleasure of building these boats for a thousand families most of whom have come here to see the boat as it’s being built or, like these owners, come here to christen their new boat and enjoy the spectacular Maine cruising grounds,” said Hinckley’s General Manager of Maine Operations Andy Fitzpatrick.
LUCKY WOMAN is a Talaria 48 Flybridge model built for a Texas couple who plan to cruise the boat south to the Florida Gulf. It is the couples’ second Hinckley Jetboat.
In developing the first Hinckley Jetboat, the company was turning its attention from sail to power and wanted to distinguish the new model by building a boat that had a traditional downeast look, and offered technical advances over restored boats. At the time, waterjets had been used in military and commercial applications, but hadn’t been taken seriously by the recreational boating industry. With no underwater gear to run afoul of lobster pots the system seemed perfect for Hinckley, “and it quickly became apparent that jets make so much sense for any place where there is shoal water, or for anyone who likes to get in close to the beach,” said Phil Bennett, VP-Sales who took part in shaping the first Picnic Boat. “The concept just really took off.” The early Jetboats also incorporated new materials, like Kevlar, which would make the boats lighter, stronger and better suited to the new propulsion system.
Innovation was nothing new to The Hinckley Company of the 1990s. Henry Hinckley had set the course with the Bermuda 40 in the early 1960s when he crafted her stunning lines out of a radical, new material, fiberglass.
The control system that Hinckley developed a few years later further enhanced the Jetboat product. “The Hinckley Jetstick brought joystick operation to boating and allowed the person at the helm to have a degree of easy control that meant even novices could dock a boat with confidence,” said Bennett. And the rest is history.
After the successful introduction of the first Picnic Boat, Hinckley introduced larger and smaller models growing the line to its present offerings, boats from 29 to 55 feet in length including the current iteration of the Picnic Boat now 37 feet in length with twin jets. Hinckley also integrated the company vertically with the addition of its seven service operations which provide service and storage for Hinckleys and all makes and models of boat.
Today, the tradition of innovation continues with such advances as carbon fiber hull laminates, wireless remote steering and remote vessel connectivity all of which can be seen on the 1,000th Jetboat.
By John K. Hanson Jr.