John martino, annapolis school of seamanship and annapolis yacht         management
The following review was written by John Martino and prepared by the marketing department of Chesapeake Bay Magazine. Mr. Martino is the founder and president of Annapolis Yacht Management and Annapolis School of Seamanship. He develops and teaches hands-on training courses for recreational boaters and professional mariners, and offers yacht delivery and onboard training services for powerboaters as well as sailors.

Suwanee 47
Length overall  47'
Beam 14'
Draft  3' 4"
Displacement  29,500 lbs
Fuel Capacity  250 gals
Water Capacity 150 gals
Base Price  $690,000

Like a VW Beetle or a Mini Cooper, the Suwanee 47 is a modern remake of an old classic. Originally built in the mid-1960s by the Kenner Boat Company in Arkansas, the Suwanee was designed to be a cruising houseboat boat with a yachty look—as opposed to the boxy little numbers that bob around on inland lakes. With lines saltier than the typical houseboat, she was often marketed as "the houseboat in yacht's clothing."

In 1970 young Eddie Wollenberg's family bought a Kenner Suwanee, and so began a life-long love affair. While some guys with a passion for a particular car or boat will find one to restore, Edward Wollenberg (friends still call him Eddie) decided to bring out a whole new line. In the early 1990s he bought the molds for the Suwanee 47 and went to work.

I met Wollenberg, founder and president of Piney Creek Boat Builders, at the 2007 Bay Bridge Boat Show, in Maryland where the all-new Suwanee made its debut. His enthusiasm and pride for the Suwanee radiated as he walked me through the boat, and I could tell that he was personally involved in every detail of construction from hull to fittings.

Our test boat was hull No. 1, with the "Classic-MK" layout (one of six optional layout plans). From the covered cockpit aft you enter the cabin through a single door. The saloon holds a U-shaped dinette to starboard and two director's chairs to port. The galley sits forward with a doorway leading to the starboard side deck. A lower helm station is to starboard with a double bench; a forward-facing companion seat to port can be used as a navigation area. Forward and down a few steps are two staterooms and a large "bathroom." I use the word bathroom, because it is equipped with a tub.

We got underway on a relatively flat but breezy day. From the very large flying bridge, Wolfenburg eased her out of the slip and into the channel, where I took the controls. She got up on plane easily, and we reached 18.5 knots wide open with twin Cummins 4.2L diesels coupled to Mercruiser Stern Drives. With 4 degrees of deadrise at the transom the Suwanee is designed primarily for inland waters but can certainly manage short coastal hops in fair weather.

When it was time to head back, we moved to the lower station. Operating from below, visibility was good and engine noise was acceptable. Back in the marina, maneuvering into the slip would have been easier with a bow thruster and single lever engine controls; this boat has neither.

The Suwanee 47 is a good choice for a family looking for a vacation home with the ability to cruise protected waters. Better still, Piney Creek Boat Builders is happy to work with buyers to provide a high degree of customization. You'll feel like a member of the family in no time.