Another success story for Aldenm and its customers...
As we ease out of the harbor at Bend Boat Basin in Portsmouth, R.I., on an ideal August day, the owner of the new Alden 50 Pilothouse seems a tad unsure. The problem, it turns out, is the throttle controls to the twin Cat 3176 engines. ''You know," he says, "I'm a Morse kind of guy. I've been brought kicking and screaming into the electronic age."
The transition from cable to electronic controls isn't the only thing this new owner is contending with, though he admits after a few minutes that he is getting used to the latter. The owner is also getting used to the world of semi-custom yachts. His two previous boats - a Post 46 and a Viking 44 M/Y - gave him everything he needed. But, as he puts it, "When you boat for 40 years, you're in a position to get exactly what you want, this is what we wanted."
That's how he ended up at Dave MacFarlane's doorstep and wrote a check for the 50 Pilothouse. It's a different world, for sure, but one the owner seems thrilled with. The story of this boat, Siren, is also a good example of how today's boat owner, used to what production companies provide, can get something different in the semi custom world.
The 50 Pilothouse poses for the camera in front of a Newport, R.I., mansion.
Siren is the eighth model to come off this 50' hull from Alden. And while the hulls are the same on all eight versions, each is different, each suited to the needs and desires of its owner. (There is also a 56-footer the company builds, which is basically the 50 with a longer cockpit.)
Siren's owner wanted a unique boat that could do coastal cruising between the Bahamas and Florida and New England. He and his wife are the only ones who will be aboard at all times so he wanted something easy to operate but with a turn of speed and plenty of room. For example, the hull seemed ideal. "This is a little better hull for cruising in the threes to fives we get in Florida than a planing hull," he said. " It may not be as fast as a planing hull, but it doesn't pound as much."
He chose the pilothouse version because it gives him the best of both worlds: a perch on the flying bridge in tolerable conditions (hot and cold) and the pilothouse when heat or cool air is needed to keep the senses.
He chose Alden because he asked around and seemed content with what the company could do. "For my type of boat, from a quality point of view, this is the best boat I could find," the owner says. "They couldn't build a bad boat if they wanted to." Sounds a bit like an ad but it actually points to the real reason for the decision to go with Alden - compatibility. During our ride the owner and MacFarlane show how much they enjoy each other and how well the two work together. While there were some problems during construction, the owner seems thrilled with what he received and Alden's ability to make him feel comfortable.
The pilothouse version gives you the best of both worlds.
A good example is the interior finish. When the owner ordered the boat he asked for bleached ash. "I told him we hadn't really had much of a demand for that but sure," responded MacFarlane. According to MacFarlane, the owner of the boat, who spends half the year in Florida and the rest in Kentucky, responded: "You Yankees are always trying to get warm so you want these boats with dark colors. We want to feel cool. We want the boat to be nice and airy." So that's what the owner got and the result is different from anything.
Another good example is the placement of the engine access hatches. On previous versions of the 50, Alden placed engine access only in the cockpit. "We heard feedback on the other boats that people don't like to have access to the engine from the main living quarters," MacFarlane says. "People don't want a mechanic going back and forth."
But on this boat, the owner realized there would be days when the weather didn't cooperate and the last thing you'd want is to go outside to check the engineroom. Thus, you can get to the engineroom through the galley while the access in the cockpit puts you in the lazarette, from which you can easily crawl to the engineroom.
The two stateroom layout is ideal for what the owners have in mind. Both are forward. The master is beneath the pilothouse and has its own head. The guest accommodations are in the bow, along with its own head, which doubles as a day head.
The 50 Pilothouse has the same hull as its seven predecessors, but its layout is unique.
In the saloon, the galley is forward and even though the boat has full walkarounds the saloon feels plenty spacious, helped in part by the large windows and to a smaller degree the light wood.
The best part, in my view, is the pilothouse. Unlike some other builders, Alden recognizes that many hours are going to be spent there and makes plenty of room for everyone. We had five people at one time crowding around everything and it was anything but cramped.
The cockpit abaft the saloon is not large by any standards but enough for two people to sit and enjoy the sunset. Siren includes a swim platform along with a watertight utility closet built into the transom to house the hose, electrical hookup and more. (The davit above on the flying bridge not only is set up to take care of dinghy duty but is also set up to handle the loading of items in and out of the lazarette.)
Up on the bow is the anchor and windlass along with a harbor bench for those tours of the area. There's a nice amount of stowage under the bench. In Siren's case, it was used for a portable high-pressure washer.
The boat has a two-cabin layout. The master is below the pilothouse while the guest stateroom is in the bow. The pilothouse will surely be a popular gathering spot.
The flying bridge is accessible either from the cockpit or forward from the pilothouse and is ideally set up for what the owner has in mind - switching back and forth quickly between the two helm stations.
The owner has set up the electronics so each piece is independent of the other. He spent 15 years in the Air Force so has strong opinions about what he's buying and he believes in two of everything. "I like the gadgetry but I know they break." The only instrument not duplicated is the GPS and that's so he doesn 't have to reset the autopilot running off the GPS when switching stations.