Union River Boat Company is possibly the best-credentialed boatbuilder you’ve never heard of. Founded 20 years ago by Hinckley Company alumnus Richard Ryder, Union River has worked with a Who’s Who of Maine boatbuilders. Two years ago, it built tooling and parts for the Outward Bound Hurricane Island 30 designed by Rodger Martin. (See “Inward Bound,” October 2008.) That design, and a hazy economic outlook, inspired Ryder to start a project with which to occupy his workers in periods when they were “benched” between contracts with other builders.
Ryder and Martin looked into making a cruising version of the Outward Bound boat, but the hull, designed to be rowed by teenagers, just didn’t have enough freeboard. By raising the freeboard a few inches and bumping up the displacement a little, Martin drew a hull able to carry a cabin, along with a few cruising amenities. And so emerged the Presto 30.
Narrow of hull (at a trailerable 8 feet 6 inches) and shallow of draft, with a centerboard, the Presto 30 needed a sail plan with a low center of effort, and the cat ketch rig fit the bill. If the resulting vessel has the form of a sharpie, that’s no accident. Martin has long been an admirer of the sharpie and of Commodore Ralph Munroe, who crystallized the yacht version of this traditional workboat in his Presto. Hence the name.
The sharpie doesn’t lend itself to sumptuous accommodations, and what space is available is distributed around a large centerboard trunk, which in the sharpie’s workboat days also prevented its cargo of freshly harvested oysters from shifting. As small cruising boats go, the Presto 30 has perfectly comfortable appointments, but its accommodations have a different feel from those “modern” production cruisers of similar length.
Since the interior doesn’t come out of a mold, the builder is open to a range of layouts that would accommodate the Presto 30’s expected varied roles as daysailer or shoal-water camping cruiser.
“Presto,” to a musician, means quick. Commodore Monroe felt the term applied to his sharpie, and it applies to this one as well. On a gusty Annapolis afternoon, sailing on a beam reach, the Presto raced along, heeling hard in the puffs without getting too gnarly on the helm. The boat I tested had the high-performance rig featuring a square-top main and mizzen and wishbone booms. Phil Garland of Hall Spars (the co-owner of this first hull with Rodger Martin) will race the boat P.H.R.F. on Narragansett Bay. On the beat back to Annapolis for a strut in front of the sailboat show, the Presto showed itself to be weatherly as well.
A sharpie may not be everyone’s cruising cup of tea, but the Presto 30 is guaranteed to turn heads as a less formal and more versatile alternative to the teak-decked neoclassic style of daysailer currently in vogue.
Jeremy McGeary is a longtime CW boat reviewer.
LOA 30′ 0″ (9.14 m.)
LWL 28′ 9″ (8.76 m.)
Beam 8′ 6″ (2.59 m.)
Draft (board up/down) 1′ 1″/5′ 6″ (.33/1.68 m.)
Sail Area (high perf.)400 sq. ft. (37.16 sq. m.)
Ballast 1,050 lb. (476 kg.)
Displacement (light)3,915 lb. (1,776 kg.)
Water (optional) 20 gal. (76 l.)
Fuel (optional) 6 gal. (23 l.)
Holding (optional) 12 gal. (45 l.)
Mast Height 30’0″ (9.14 l)
Engine (optional) 9.9-hp Yamaha outboard or 12-hp Westerbeke diesel inboard
Designer Rodger Martin
Union River Boat Company