For years I have been echoing the claims of boat dealers that their more-diminutive vessels are perfect for owners wanting to step down from a larger boat into something more easily handled. And while it was believable, it had something of a hollow ring, often leaving me to feel guilty in passing on the assertion. In my heart, I wondered why anyone would forsake a roomy boat for a more cramped lifestyle?
So, it was with some relief that Peter, the new owner of this very pretty Back Cove 37 Classic, restored my faith in boat sales rhetoric by affirming his choice to step down from a larger vessel.
In its native America, a Back Cove is one of many brands of cruisers that owe a nod to the lobster fishing fleet of Maine. Known as Down Easters, a local equivalent might be the more luxurious Palm Beach, but in reality, there aren't many similar vessels on the local market. Because of its unique place locally, the Back Cove brand thrives , due to the wholehearted efforts of the brand’s local importer, Jed Elderkin and his dealership in Sydney’s Rozelle Superyacht Centre.
Apart from the single-level platform and some styling hints, the 37 is a far cry from a rugged and utilitarian fishing rig. The classically nautical lines and impeccable finish looked right at home among a myriad of luxury yachts in its pen in the Woolloomooloo Marina, right in the heart of Sydney. In such a setting it’s the epitome of city slicker boating, with all the traps of urban life offset by a handy boating escape. The trials of the working week can be cast off with the lines as you motor sedately to a secluded anchorage somewhere around the harbour or further afield.
Peter came to his 37 after stepping down from a Grand Banks 52, which he admitted was a bit of a handful when trying to park in blustery winds. But more importantly for a time-poor boatie, he reckons it took him 45 minutes to remove all the covers and get everything ready for departure, whereas his new boat can be prepared in a third of that time. Boating is supposed to be fun, and he found the stress of the big boat wasn’t worth the effort.
The Business of Leisure
That's not to suggest a 37 footer is everyone's definition of a small model, and according to Peter, it's the perfect harbour entertainer, while also accommodating plans to venture further afield. In the next few months, a voyage to the Whitsundays is in the offing.
The Back Cove is that sort of boat. One week lazing around on the harbour with friends and the next pointing north out of the heads to a tropical winter. And, with its bloodline running back to the fishing fleet working the coast of Maine, often in conditions that weren’t ideal, the 37’s seagoing credentials are more than superficial.
Underwater, the shape is more modern than the keel and round bilges of a traditional lobster boat and works to good effect in a seaway. A moderately sharp spoon bow meets reverse chines running to a deadrise with prop tunnels for protection , which also keep the shaft at the most efficient angle. Into a head sea, the combination of bow shape and pronounced chines softened the ride and send spray wide of the decks.
Established forty years ago as part of Northend Composites that also builds the upmarket Sabre Yachts, Black Cove employs modern building techniques for a combination of strength where it’s needed and light weight in the topsides to maximise balance. An outer layer of vinylester resin over a vacuum-infused layup gives added osmosis protection to the foam-cored hull, while multi-axial fibreglass reinforces bulkheads and mounting points.
I’ve said before that Back Coves are among the prettiest boats on the water and the 37 doesn’t disappoint. Even with more cabin space and less cockpit than the 37 Downeaster – its more dayboat-oriented sister ship – the cruising style of the 37 Classic remains sporty and well-proportioned. The single-level deck and raked roofline give it a low profile, while a hint of tumblehome and reverse transom add a nostalgic flavour. Here we have a solid, understated vessel without pretensions that will impress anyone with a knowing eye.
On board, it’s dressed to impress as well. I liked the nautical feeling in the saloon where enough real timber softens the fibreglass structure and the wrap around windows make the most of the views. Artisan-quality attention to detail is found in the timber joinery, dovetail joints in the drawers and the excellent finish of the trim and upholstery.
With an open arrangement to the cockpit, you could easily entertain a dozen or more guests for a day on the water, spreading out on bright blue and white striped cockpit lounges or stepping out onto the rear platform for a swim.
The galley is opposite the helm and is equipped with a Kenyon electric cooktop set into a Corian benchtop, a double door Vitrifrigo fridge, Isotherm Ice Maker, a microwave and lots of drawers. It’s a galley easily capable of serving up lunch, so a more intimate group could share a meal around the rich cherry and birds-eye maple table.
Downstairs in the bow is a twin cabin setup and a combination owner's ensuite and day head. Varnished cherry featured in the master cabin lends a homely atmosphere, and the large island berth has storage alongside, as well as in drawers below. There are only a couple of small side ports, but a large roof hatch bestows plenty of light and fresh air when desired.
The second cabin with double berth, storage cupboards and wall-mounted TV would make an ideal weekend guest cabin or a comfortable retreat for any children along for the ride.
Accommodation below reminds us that the 37 is more about cruising than showing guests a good time and a quick inspection of the helm confirms this – if the twin Stidd helm seats don’t give it away the fully optioned electronics package should.
Twin 14-inch Garmin 8214 screens integrate sounder, GPS, engine data, radar and autopilot to open the options for a comfortable and safe passage well beyond Sydney Heads. Automatic Lenco trim tabs, front and rear proportional Sidepower thrusters, intermittent three-blade wipers, tilt steering, cockpit, engine and reversing cameras, an electronic chain counter for the Quick winch and a decent sound system will all ease the way and make us look professional.
Meanwhile, a 9kv Onan gen set and Bluewater water-maker can extend our voyage or keep us comfortably at our anchorage until the wine runs low. The rear floor section lifts on both electric and manual rams for engine inspection or maintenance and the layout of essential components is straightforward and well marked.
Driving the Back Cove was a pleasure. Those bow thrusters at each end made escaping the pen simple and anxiety free, and before long we were cruising through the mayhem of a Sydney Harbour Saturday fleet of racing sailors, kayaks and zooming sportsboats in a hurry to somewhere. Vision and comfort were supreme, and I felt in command as we motored seaward.
Peter’s 37 has the optional 600 horsepower Cummins over the standard Cummins 480 and it delivered handy power along with the bonus of improved economy over the standard engine, according to Jed. The smooth passage and slow yawing through swells pointed to a low centre of gravity and a sensible distribution of the 11 tonnes of dry weight. We turned smoothly, without undue lean so that full vision was maintained through the wide and high screen and side windows at all times.
Underwater exhausts in the transom corners are designed to minimise sound and stymie any exhaust flow back into the boat. It’s a much more difficult build process, but the low noise and lack of fumes in the cockpit make it worthwhile.
If you needed it there’s speed out to 27 knots, where it still feels smooth and predictable across harbour chop. Noise levels were acceptable and right through the range I discovered neither vibrations nor nasty resonances through the hull.
More sensible application of the throttle lowers the pace and increases the range out to some very impressive figures for life at a slower pace.
1,800rpm feels like a happy cruise at 12 knots for a fuel use of 35 litres per hour and a safe range of 362 nautical miles. We saw pretty tasty economy around 1,100rpm. It might be only seven knots, but your 1,136-litre tank will take you 1,300 nautical miles, so if time isn’t your enemy that’s a big swag of coastal cruising.
Back Cove successfully mixes maritime heritage, modern technology and classic beauty in their versatile fleet. The 37 is a day boat and a coastal adventurer rolled into one. You can happily plod along at displacement speeds to cover big miles or open the taps for an early morning blast across the bay or out to sea for a feed.
Set up as tested it’s $945,000 with extras like engine upgrade, cockpit teak and awning, icemaker, televisions, Ocean Air blinds, and docking system – or $825,000 as a standard package.
The 37 fulfils most of the tasks of a larger boat, but being quicker to prepare for use, it’s likely you will hit the water more often. See you at Quarantine Beach, and if you’re in a bigger boat, chances are I’ll be ready for my second drink when you arrive.
Stylish design and quality finish
Versatile layout for either cruising or day use
Excellent docking ability and easily handled by a couple
Larger side ports in the master would be good
The Back Cove 37 classic captures the spirit of a nautical past in a modern but practical design. Being easily handled and very versatile, the temptation will be to get aboard at every opportunity for a day on the water or months of extended cruising.
Facts and Figures
BACK COVE 37 CLASSIC
Engine upgrade, cockpit teak and awning, docking system, icemaker, televisions in cabins, Ocean Air
blinds and more
PRICE AS TESTED
Type Monohull Cruiser
Length (overall) 12.8m
People 5 (night) 16 (day)
Make/model Cummins QSC600
Type In-line 6 cylinder four-stroke turbo diesel
RATED HP 600
Gear ratio 2.3:1 (ZF 286A)
Propeller 4-blade Nibral
Back Cove, Maine, USA
Sydney Superyacht Centre, Suite Q
Marine Ct. Rozelle 2039
P (02) 9810 0777