Weekend with a 21 Pilot
Vineyard/Nantucket trip July 2019
Two years ago I was part of a team standing around the hull of a newly acquired day-boat. At that point we had only the hull mold. I counted 125yrs experience in our group ranging from builders, shipwrights and upholstery men. I represented the Sales view. As we stared at our “blank canvas” the question was raised, “what should this new project look like”? It was understood we wanted to introduce a runabout to our lineup. We are know as a down-east builder, however we wanted to attract a slightly wider audience. Perhaps some younger families interested in sport-boat performance. This pretty little hull has more deep-V than one would expect from us. “It has to have a head” was my first comment. “How are we going to fit that into a boat that traditionally just had open kick-space under the bow”? “That’s why you’re the builder and I’m not” was my thoughtfully delivered response. “But it has to have an adult sized head, not just one for the kids”.
That initial meeting set in motion a year of mocking up cockpit layouts, developing a new outboard bracket , and selecting the all-important windshield design (key to the overall look of the boat). I’d check in every couple weeks during my regular trips through our shop.
Back to the present day; I’ve got a pretty Seashell Green 21’ Pilot sitting in my driveway. I opted for the lounge seating configuration opposed to our cruiser seating layout. The lounge features a Capt’s bucket seat with bolster, a port-side lounge seat with a flip back-rest allowing forward seating or aft facing reclining, a full bench along the stern with removable backrest that converts to a transom walkthrough and a starboard side lounge that does double duty when then capt swivels around. I figured this arrangement would allow for sleeping in the cockpit as well is in the v-berth once the canvas enclosure was added.
To busy to have spent much time on it over the spring I worked to ready my ship for a week long trip from the Cape Cod to the Islands. The Pilots small cuddy was enough for one person to stretch out and allow for sleeping. I added three anchors, safely gear, dock lines and fenders and my personal effects.
I’m on the road early making way to my launch site at Childs Landing near Falmouth’s Waguoit Bay. Today it’s an easy trip from NH over the bridge to the Cape. My ½ ton pickup tows the Pilot effortlessly (except for the hit to my fuel economy). Post 4th action at the ramp was light, ample parking available. The cost being a 20-minute putt down the river and across the Bay towards open water.
My plan was to base out of Martha’s Vineyard then do day trips to Nantucket, the Elizabeth Islands, perhaps venture as far as Block Island if time and conditions allowed. Rather than head straight towards the Vineyard I set to exploring some of Cape Cods south shore. Falmouth’s Inner Harbor provided plenty of “eye candy” for a boater with a sweet tooth.
Once clear of the harbor I throttled up for the short 5-mile trip over to Vineyard Haven. My Pilot is powered by the standard Honda 135hp w/SS prop hanging off the standard engine bracket with full width swim platform. With our downeast models I tend to be a lazy driver often cruising in the lower to mid-teens. I quickly learned to appreciate the 20mph my ride delivered at a reasonably low 3900 rpm. In what seemed like no time at all I split the lighthouses on East and West Chop and entered VH Harbor. I’ve been known to say that speed is over-rated however I did appreciate the extra turns.
In the VH inner harbor I indulged myself with a tour around the mooring field, home to an impressive fleet of wooden sloops, yawls and small schooners. Years before they would be there welcoming me to the Island aboard the Ferry.
I have a history on Martha’s Vineyard. I lived on the island during 4 extended seasons around the early 80’s. An influential time in my life to say the least. People on the island dressed differently, they thought differently, they traveled. I remember the Vineyard with a smile.
I was familiar with the Island but not the waters around it. I was blessed to have the perfect guide, my sister and Vineyard resident, Christine Rose. Christine and I all lived here back in the day however it was Christine who circled back after college in California, two trips around the world over 4 years, and various other adventures. She’s built a career in Real Estate.
With the afternoon free we set off towards Chappaquiddick and Cape Poge Bay. I’ve explored CP Bay over the years aboard my kayak, yet it seemed new again in the runabout. My shallow draft meant we could approach areas off-limits to a larger cruising vessel. The rising tide afforded me more confidence to travel boldly. We eventually stopped for a walkabout on the prominent feature called the Elbow. I could feel whatever little stressors live in my body fly away as I sat on the bow surveying my universe.
After returning Christine to VH I backtracked around East Chop to bustling Oak Bluffs Harbor. I had reserved a bulkhead slip that allowed for Med-style docking. OB Harbor is desirable for putting boaters right downtown, close to restaurants, shops and pubs. Clearly, I was the little guy at the docks.
Day 2-Nantucket run. I started my day with a bike ride over one of my all-time favorite bike paths that that runs along the causeway between OB and Edgartown (I always travel with my bike, more on that later). Back aboard I top off the fuel and exit the harbor. Outside the jetty I find calm to 1’ seas with 5knts of wind pushing me along. My plan was to take the deep-water route to G17 then plot towards Nantucket Harbor. I throttle up to a comfortable 22mph. The Pilot experiences modest bow-rise out of the hole then settles in nicely on-plane in the upper teens if asked to. Granted it was a calm day on the Sound yet my vessel showed confidence building ability.
The Simrad counted down the miles to my way point. Nantucket’s low topography doesn’t show itself early. As I approach the harbor commercial traffic activity picks up. I slow to 14-15mph. My vessel takes a high, proud stance that allows me to roll over intimidating sets of ferry boat wakes.
In the protection of the harbor sits Billionaires Row. Docked Med-style is a grand display of Mega yachts, one more over the top than the next. After gawking at the fleet, I continue towards the day docks. $15 per hours gets me in town for a look around. My time on land can be summed up as dock walking, iced coffee, observing absurdly beautiful people and wishing I had my bike on this leg.
Before departing I seek out local knowledge from a pair of Charter Boat Capts. “Pass the southern edges of the ever changing Tuckernuck Shoals and take a bearing towards Cape Poge”. There’s not another boat in sight as I watch waves breaking in the distance and water churning close by. My sense of adventure is stoked!
By the time I’ve re-entered OB Harbor I had covered 71.6 miles with an average speed of 15.8 mph and a total fuel burn of 18.8 gph. I find my 21 Pilot to be nimble, fast, comfortable and capable. This is a boat that can stand up to a chop yet still be ready to drag the kids around on a wakeboard or offer the adults a sunset cruise getaway.
Something else has come to my attention. Now keep in mind as a 25yr boating industry guy I’m around a lot of boats. Never have I had so many people come up to me and comment about my boat. There’s something about the Pilots bold yet traditional lines that resonates with boaters. It’s fair to say no one will every accuse you of owning an ugly boat.
Check back in the weeks ahead for more reports. Thanks for following.