Belkov 42 express
Length overall  41'8"
Length waterline  38'11"
Beam  13'10"
Draft  32'
Displacement  28,500 lb (wet)
Fuel Capacity  460 gals
Water Capacity  95 gals
Power twin Yanmar 420hp diesels

The helm features a custom teak cowling over the SIMRAD chart plotter.

Belkov's craftsmen displayed their mastery in this custom curved-front bookcase in the saloon. Note the contrasting finish of the light maple and the dark auburn of the Sapele throughout the interior.

From the slight tumblehome around the transom to the proud lift of the bow, the Belkov 42 Express is a handcrafted jewel box of a boat. Look at the teak caprail along the gunwales and the graceful curve of the coaming up to the arced cabin top, and the expansive lounge settee across the aft end of the cockpit. The boat is master craftsman Larry Belkov's take on the Downeast day runner. The Annapolis-based custom builder had made a mark with his yachty updates on the classic Chesapeake Bay Hooper Island draketails, and is putting that experience and flair to work on this now quite popular genre.

Actually, the Belkov Yacht Carpentry shop is across the harbor from Annapolis proper, in the maritime neighborhood of Eastport, where Larry and his crew of a dozen highly talented craftsmen have been building custom boats since 1983. The modified V planing hull of the 42 Express was designed by Mick Price and built using the state-of-the-art cold-molding method. All the structural components are of clear Douglas fir and Lloyd's certified, marine-grade Okoume plywood and West System Epoxy resin reinforced with a Dupont Kevlar skin coated with Awlgrip. There's no foam, bulsa or any other porous core material in the hull.

The first thing you notice as you step on board is the generous width of the side decks. Then that inviting lounge stretching across the transom, then the two facing bench seats with beautifully curved teak handrails set into the gleaming teak backrest. Walk between these two seating pods and you're in the helm deck underneath the hard top. There's a large L-shaped settee to port and another to starboard, and a Stidd adjustable captain's chair at the helm. Push a button on the dash and the seating pods lift to reveal the twin Yanmar 6LY2M-STE 420 HP diesels. The seats completely disguise the fact that there are engine boxes in the cockpit. The engines are coupled to V-drives with trolling valves to knock it back to half a knot for pin-drop quiet creek cruising and controlled docking.

The dash itself is of burled elm framed with teak, providing ample room for the dual analog gauges to be displayed so that they are easily read. This debut model has a custom teak module crafted to house a SIMRAD CA50 chart display unit. The Kobelt controls have the gear shifters to the left of the stainless wheel and the throttles to the right. As with his draketails, each throttle has a smaller side lever to control the trolling valves.

Heading out across the Chesapeake, we had the boat up over 31 knots at wide-open-throttle. A comfortable cruising speed seemed to be 28 knots, which happened to be at 2800 RPM. The boat handled well in tight turns, with very little slippage, and tracked fairly well, considering that unlike its lobster-boat counterparts, this hull has no skeg at all. The stainless rudders and the hydraulic steering made the boat quite responsive, which we proved by doing the 'crab-pot slalom' out at the mouth of the river. The nearly 14-foot beam made for quite a steady ride, and that allows the engines, and consequently the running gear, to be set well apart. This and the absence of a skeg allow you to spin the boat practically on its axis, just setting one engine in forward and one in reverse. It's so responsive, there's hardly a need for the bow thruster, except in very tricky docking conditions.

Larry estimates that at cruising speed, each Yanmar will burn just over 12 gallons per hour, so the two 230-gallon fuel tanks should provide a range of up to 500 nautical miles.

So the Belkov 42 performs as well as it looks, except that the more you look, the more you see that Larry's crew of craftsmen have built into every detail, especially in the joinery. Step down the companionway and you'll see, starting with the light maple sole. The AC/DC distribution panel is right inside the hatch, handy to the helm. The paneling and cabinetry are all in dazzling fiddle-back maple, with a tight, curly grain, lightly finished to contrast with the deep, lustrous auburn hue of the Sapele frames and moldings. Sapele is a Nigerian hard wood similar to African mahogany, but with an intricate grain pattern.

The galley to starboard has everything hidden behind this lush woodwork, including the refrigerator, ice maker, microwave and coffee maker. The two-burner electric cook top is mounted flush in the maple countertop. The deep, square sink has a nostalgic chromed faucet, and the cupboards are all fitted to keep the crockery from clattering. The settee across from the galley is a generous six feet long, and with the flick of a switch, the seat pulls out and the backrest drops down to form a guest double berth.

But the focal point of the saloon is the beautiful curved-front Sapele book case, with removable arced fiddles set in mortises. A cabinet under the bottom shelf is rigged for wine bottle storage, with burled Carpathian elm panels set in the cabinet doors.

There's a cedar-lined hanging locker along the passageway on the right. And they always say that 'two heads are better than one,' and so it is on the Belkov 42, with the guest head to port with a hand-held shower, Vacu-flush toilet and a deep porcelain bowl set into that Sapele-accented maple counter. The master head is on the starboard side, and it has an enclosed shower stall as well. Both showers have temperature-controlled faucets, so you set the preferred temperature from torrid to tepid, and it stays at that exact level throughout the shower.

The stateroom in the bow features a full-sized island berth on center, with hanging lockers on either side, a custom hatch overhead, and a bullseye lens set in the deck as a dramatic and functional lighting feature. The headliner is a beautifully finished custom fabric. The term, 'beautifully finished' seems to come up a lot when you talk about this boat, but it fits. As with any custom boat, the interior layout options are practically limitless within the confines of the hull, so I for one am looking forward to getting the chance to drool all over the next floating jewel box that comes out of Larry Belkov's shop.