Williams 28 Bass Boat
September 12, 2012
The 28 Bass Boat from the John M. Williams Boat Company is a creative collaboration between yard owner Jock Williams and his primary designer, the late Lyford Stanley. Williams and Stanley made an interesting pair. Back in the early ‘70s, Williams, a Martha’s Vineyard native, educated racing sailor (he’s a former coach at the U.S. Naval Academy), and experienced shipwright (he served a year’s apprenticeship at a distinguished boatyard in Denmark) was running the fiberglass yacht production operation at the Hinckley boatyard on Maine’s Mount Desert Island.
One of Williams’s employees at Hinckley was Norma Stanley, Lyford’s wife. Stanley, the son of an island lighthouse keeper, was a Bass Harbor commercial fisherman and a fine wooden boatbuilder in his own right. By the late 1960s, he had built 18 workboats of his own design on the side, working from what he had learned in local boatyards, from his experience with the boats he had fished, and, in carving half-models, from an innate sense of how the shape of a boat’s hull affects performance. He had just finished a 36’ workboat that he thought captured the best of his design ideas.
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Norma suggested that Jock and Lyford build a mold from that 36’ hull and begin laying it up in fiberglass. Thus began a partnership that produced 6 different designs from 28’ to 44’ and has built several hundred work- and pleasure boats since 1973.
In November 2008, Lyford died after a short bout with cancer (Norma died 3 months later), but Jock Williams continues to work from those designs and half-models and adapt the hulls to his customers’ needs on a semi-custom basis. In his boatyard, he has managed to gather skillful Downeast craftsmen who can work in fiberglass as well as wood, and who are also adept at engineering vessel power, electrical, and plumbing systems.
The yard’s 28 Bass Boat shows off all of that expertise in an open layout on the proven Stanley 28 hull, along with a 260-hp Yanmar 6BY260, which is a common-rail, electronic diesel based on a BMW block. The 6BY260 is inherently clean, quiet, and quick. Jock based the new layout on classic “bass boats” like the Mackenzie-Gray Cuttyhunk, Dyer 29, and Crosby Striper inboards used by charter skippers around Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket to fish the rough tide rips of those waters for striped bass. Her high, varnished teak windshield and natural teak toe and rub rails blend well with the graceful-but-purposeful proportions of the Stanley 28 hull.
I can remember the first Stanley 28 I ever saw. She was Lyford’s own Norma J., with himself at the helm, bringing the mail out to Gotts Island, the small community where Norma grew up and where she and Lyford kept a summer place. The boat’s wake at 15 mph was remarkable: clean and flat, the sure sign of an efficient design. Norma J.’s power was modest: a light, 160-hp, 4-cylinder Yanmar inboard diesel. The boat had the cuddy cabin and half-open wheelhouse of a working lobsterboat, with weight concentrated amidships. Her fine bow entry cleaved the waves, while her sheerline curved gracefully from a “proud” Downeast bow down to her cockpit before rising slightly to reflect the way the hull curved in going toward the rounded, wave-deflecting transom.
Lyford Stanley was a frugal man with a working fisherman’s eye to the bottom line, so he never got caught up in the quest for speed that grips some Maine boatbuilders. He designed his boats originally to run 12-15 mph (statute). Over the past decade, he and Jock widened and lengthened several of the larger hulls to carry more power and weight like generators and air conditioning units at higher speeds, and they still run nicely, but the 28 remains as Lyford originally carved her half-model. “She doesn’t want a lot of weight aft,” he said once, and he didn’t like to concentrate weight in the bow either.
Look at a Stanley 28 hull out of the water and you’ll note a modest rocker in the keel. If she’s balanced correctly, the fine, flared bow rises easily to a sea, to cleave waves apart without pounding. You’ll also note that the 28 hull, like the entire Stanley series, is “built-down”, with the bottom curving smoothly to the keel. The built-down configuration allows low placement of the engine, for both good stability and an efficient, nearly flat propeller shaft angle. The center third of the hull is fuller than the bow or the stern, the logical place to concentrate weight. The after third, which is slightly narrower than the center, is nearly flat, to offer a “semi-planing” surface that allows the hull to lift at speeds in the teens. The chines are rounded, with their radius tight enough to preserve lift, while a moderate deadrise in the center section gives the hull an easy motion when side-to in a seaway. A large, solid-fiberglass rudder set at the after end of the keel makes the 28 highly maneuverable, a prized trait in a working boat and much appreciated in a pleasure boat. It’s the proportions of these shapes and the way they work together that show off Lyford Stanley’s design genius.
Jock Williams believes in strong hulls. The 28 Bass Boat is solid fiberglass, laid up with 2415 unidirectional fiberglass fabric stitched to fiberglass mat. The skin coat of resin is vinylester, with the remainder polyester. Four fiberglass stringers run fore-and-aft from the transom to the single bulkhead that supports the after end of the bow deck and the helm. The cockpit sole is cored fiberglass, glassed into flanges laid up inside the topsides and transom and floating on fiberglass I-beams attached to the stringers. The sole’s support system isolates the engine under a heavily insulated box with an upholstered cushion on top. The forward bulkhead is also cored fiberglass, firmly tabbed into the hull, with the foredeck extending from it to the stemhead. The result is a solid structure built to deal with the competing forces of the engine and the seas. To add lift at semi-planing speeds and damp down spray, Jock adds full-length PVC rubrails just above the turn of the chines.
In a word, the Williams 28 Bass Boat is simple. The owner of Hull No. 1, built in 2007-8 and named Trumpa, wanted a day boat that would be safe and comfortable for his family, including grandchildren, in the notoriously choppy waters of Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, and surrounding open waters. He had previously owned 2 Stanley 36s set up for cruising, but now wanted an open boat for day-trips, picnics, and yes, fishing for striped bass. He chose solid-teak helm and companion chairs with cushions; passengers can sit on the cushioned engine box.
Remembering Lyford’s dictum of keeping the stern light, Trumpa’s owner has kept the cockpit wide open, unless he needs to place a fishbox/picnic cooler at the aft end of the engine box. There is a head in the cuddy under the foredeck, along with a couple of bunks for grandchild naps and storage. He has added a folding canvas top with side curtains to extend the New England boating season, and he sometimes sleeps aboard under it, stretching out on the engine box. He reports that the teak chairs are remarkably comfortable for long runs.
Trumpa’s numbers speak for themselves. She can run in the upper 20s when needed and when seas permit, but note her performance at 2700 (15.2 mph) and 3300 rpm (20.0 mph). The engine is running at moderate load at both speeds, and the Stanley 28 hull is showing enviable fuel efficiency. Jock Williams delivered Trumpa from Mount Desert to Buzzards Bay on her own bottom in one day. He ran at 3300 comfortably in 2-3’ seas most of the way, but in Cape Cod Bay, he encountered some 5- to 6-footers. “What did you do?” I asked him afterward. “Oh, I eased her back to 2700. At that speed, she rode them beautifully,” he answered. “After all, that was Lyford’s favorite speed, wasn’t it? I figure he was sitting on his cloud in Heaven, watching Trumpa and me and chuckling. She’s a thoroughbred, isn’t she?”
- LOA: 28’
- Beam: 9’ 6”
- Draft: 2’ 11”
- Displacement: 9,500 lbs.
- Fuel: 150 gals.
- Power: 260-hp Yanmar 6BY260 inline 6-cylinder, turbocharged, NMEA 2000 common-rail diesel inboard with 183 cid; 2.00:1 reduction gear; 18” x 17” cupped 4-bladed bronze propeller
- Base Price: $250,000
Builder: John Williams Boat Company, (207-244-7854) www.jwboatco.com
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