Nauset 36
Length overall  36'
Beam 12'6"
Draft  3'2"
Standard power  Cummins C series 450hp diesel engine
Base Price  $255,000

The saloon is spacious, thanks to the generous beam. The folding table adjusts to turn the L-shaped settee into a double berth.

If Dawson Farber has nine customers a season, he considers that a banner year. Often, it's less, and that's fine with him. Dawson's in charge of the custom boatbuilding operation at Nauset Marine, based in Orleans, Massachusetts, on the "elbow" of Cape Cod.

Keeping the number of boats they build to a minimum means they can deliver the high-quality craftsmanship their customers have come to expect since they began building custom boats in 1970. That's when they started collecting the molds to build fiberglass hulls of classic Down-East lobster boats between 25 feet and 42 feet long, most of which were designed by the renowned Royal Lowell of Maine.

"Every one we build is custom, so they're all different," he explains. "We can do anything the customer likes on the interior,galley up, galley down, a unique treatment for the helm stations or the berthing arrangements. That's where the fun part is, because you never build two exactly the same. You're having fun with the customers and they become friends. It takes between five and seven months to build a boat, and they come to the yard at least once or twice a month and become part of the process, assuming they live within five or six hours from here."

His customers, he says, are mainly experienced boaters who are "coming down out of bigger power or sailboats. One couple I'm working with right now has a beautiful 40-foot sailboat. They're not prepared to give up cruising. In fact, they want to do more of it, but the sailboat is just too much for them to handle by themselves any more. Now, these are dyed-in-the-wool sailors, and they want that traditional look."

The advantage of a custom boat, he explains, is that once you've chosen the hull size, they'll finish it just about any way you want, creating your ideal boat to your own specifications, whether it's a center console, an open-cockpit express, a sedan cruiser, with or without a flybridge, plus a wide range of power options, including single or twin gas or diesel engines.

"This winter, we're working on a Nauset 36, a Nauset 33 aft-cabin bridge-deck cruiser, and two 28-foot hard-top cruisers, one with a yacht finish, and one as a commercial sportsman, for six-pack fishing charters" he explains. "That will carry us through June, when we'll start working on the next year's models."

Dawson has been working with Nauset since 1964, while he was still in high school. After college, he came back to work in the parts department, so when they started doing custom boatbuilding in the early 70's, he'd gotten to know the boats very well from the inside out. Now he's vice president of sales, responsible for the bulk of the custom operation.

Nauset started building the 36 in 1990, and I recently had a chance
to go for a ride on hull #19. I found Dawson's co-workers, Tom Collins and Marie Strand, on board the beautiful, red-hulled boat docked at the Burr Brothers Marina in Marion, Massachusetts. The first impression upon boarding is the openness of the saloon. The 12-foot, six-inch beam allows for quite a lot of living space. There's an L-shaped settee that opens up to a double berth for guests, facing another bench seat on the starboard side. The helm has a nice, tall bench seat, so you can see over the high, bluff bows. The three big windshield panes each have wipers, and the other side windows all open.

The Galley is quite open, though three steps down. There's a good amount of counter space, and since it's not shut off from the rest of the saloon by bulkheads, you can carry on a conversation with the pilot with no problem. The double stainless sink has deep, deep bowls. There's a three-burner propane range and oven,gimbaled in yachty fashion, and a refrigerator/ freezer compartment under a hatch in the countertop. There's some cabinet space for crockery and spices. A hatch under the sole reveals the bilge pumps, comfortingly accessible when you need to get at them in a hurry.

The enclosed head is likewise roomy, with adequate headroom. A curtain makes it into a shower stall. The forward cabin, with its island center berth, is really quite spacious. There's a hanging locker, two big storage compartments with shelves and counter space on top, and steps up to the berth. Two big, deep drawers underneath provide storage for bedding.

The cockpit is again spacious, with three hatches in the sole to access a deep lazarette. The teak is nicely finished, with a walk-through door to the swim platform. The side decks are adequate for transiting to the foredeck. You could tell that this model was rigged for serious cruising from the life raft on the bow and the dinghy mounted on the hard top.

Our mission that crisp autumn morning was to head out onto Buzzard's Bay to have an aerial photograph taken of the boat. We were to link up by VHF radio with photographer Joe Melanson, whom I knew wouldn't be hard to find. We'd just look for a tiny fishbowl-shaped helicopter with a guy with a big lens hanging sideways out of it, and that would be Joe. Meanwhile, I took the helm and got a feel for the boat as we slipped out between all the boats moored in Sippican Harbor, then opened up and ran back and forth between Bird Island and Cleveland Ledge at the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal.

Visibility is good from that perch at the helm, and acceleration was smooth and swift. With the single Cummins 450 hp diesel running wide open, we found a top speed of about 21.5 knots at 2600 rpm. I was getting a feel for the boat's keen tracking across the chop and in the turns, when the VHF crackled and the chopper appeared from behind us. We ran full bore due south as it pulled up along side and sat there in mid air like a hummingbird, then moved ahead and hovered at what seemed a mere 30 feet off the bow pulpit.

The VHF crackled again. It was Joe saying, "Don't look at the camera!" Right. He's close enough to see me looking at him through the windshield, but I'm not supposed to look at him or the helicopter his pilot is flying at 21.5 knots sideways, that close to our bow, while he's leisurely snapping away. Fortunately, the pilot is a real pro, so don't try that trick with your home chopper.