Island Packet 360: Sister Ship
A fresh take on the singular Estero, the Island Packet 360 signals a return to more traditional values. "Boat Review" from our April 2012 issue.
The bruised sky foretold thunderstorms as I shook Bill Bolin’s hand in the cockpit of the new Island Packet 360 after CW’s Boat of the Year testing on Chesapeake Bay. Bolin, Island Packet’s V.P. of sales and marketing, turned the bow into the steep chop kicked up by the blustery 20-knot southerly wind. Only one other boat was on the move. There was no mistaking its beige hull, wide plank bowsprit, Hoyt jib boom, and swim platform: another Island Packet. The couple aboard waved from inside the canvas enclosing the cockpit.
Bolin describes the 360 as “a centerfield homerun for Island Packet” that’s designed to appeal to the broad mid-market of cruising couples. It joins the Estero as the smallest boat that the company currently builds, and the two share the same hull. The Estero, introduced in 2009, has an unusual layout, with the owners cabin aft and the main saloon in the forepeak. The stateroom forward/guest cabin aft approach on the 360 is more conventional—except for the two deluxe reclining armchairs in the main cabin. With the table folded away against the forward bulkhead, the saloon converts to a luxurious living room.
Bob Johnson, Island Packet’s designer, believes in traditional boats with traditional virtues able to shrug off common cruising mishaps—grounding on rocks, hitting a submerged log, sliding over a drift net. While the majority of production boats have undergone a gradual shift over the past three decades toward fin keels and spade rudders, he’s continued to draw boats with his signature Full Foil Keel. Performance is only part of his design equation; seaworthiness and safety matter at least as much.
Not joining the yacht-design revolution doesn’t preclude change, though. Over the years, Johnson has incorporated developments in materials and construction to increase boat strength and durability. The rudder shape and the skeg design on the 360 were introduced on an earlier IP four years ago, and this keel has a foil that’s slightly different from the models that preceded it. Johnson said, “We keep tweaking and improving without violating the basic premise for the yacht, a boat that will take care of itself with very little effort for a cruising couple.”