Built with pride, rather than just production values, David Lockwood describes the US-built Back Cove 30 as "a cracking lobster boat"...
The Back Cove
30, the entry-level lobster boat on the Maine boat builder’s menu, punches well above its weight. After a heart transplant courtesy of fully electronic twin-turbo Yanmar V8 diesel engine, the trusty cruiser is snappier, quieter and more refined than its predecessors.
Leaving the former mechanical six-cylinder 315hp Yanmar 6LP in its wake, the new Yanmar is a balanced powerplant with a petrol-engine-like purr rather than a diesel-engine clatter. While the base model Back Cove 30 will be fitted with Yanmar’s 320hp 8LV, our test boat was a rocket with the upgraded 370hp variant.
Replacing the 29-footer, the first Back Cove in Australia tested by yours truly in late-2006, the 30 has gone on to become the equal best-selling Back Cove here. We first tested it (boat #2) in the spring of 2010. Now there are eight 30s in Queensland and NSW. The factory was up to #48 in February this year.
The new Yanmar repower of the Back Cove 30 will cement its position in the marketplace. The boat is a fetching cruiser with frugal single-engine economy, all-weather wheelhouse, intelligent seating layout, and convertible accommodation for overnighting.
Bow and (optional) stern thrusters make docking a breeze, while the engineering is first class according to our critical eye. Put it all together and the Back Cove 30 really is a smart boat for the current climate where many pleasure boaters seek nothing more than a Sunday fix.
NEAT, COMPLETE PACKAGE
Standard price with the Yanmar 8LV 320hp and bow thurster is $240,000. Our test boat weighed in at $299,000 “turn-key” right down to a full tank of fuel. Options included $20,350 for the engine upgrade, stern thruster, dark-blue hull colour, upgraded Sunbrella interior and cockpit cushions, and Ultra Leather wheelhouse upholstery.
There was also second drawer fridge in the wheelhouse or helm deck (as Back Cove calls it), optional cockpit table, freshwater wash down in the anchor locker, 1800W inverter with third house battery — we really don’t think you need to spend $22,000-plus for genset and air — and smart-looking mast on the wheelhouse hardtop. Incidentally, such is the size of the hardtop you could carry your sea kayak up top.
Local Back Cove dealer E Marine fitted a rear clear curtain so you can “lock-up” the wheelhouse and use it all year round — there is a factory option for a solid rear bulkhead if you want a permanent enclosure — and he had priced in a Raymarine C120W chartplotter with depth sonar. The boat was bundles with safety and docking gear, and so on.
Considering what you get for $300,000 in a new boat these days, the Back Cove 30 represents good, honest buying. But it’s more than justified when you consider the build quality, engineering, likely lifespan and enduring appeal of this modern rendition of a Maine lobster boat.
BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE
Besides sound foundations and a salty look, the Back Cove 30 embraces the Australian boater’s appreciation for utility. At the blunt end, the swim platform is big enough to unfurl a towel, there’s the requisite ladder and hot/cold shower, with a central outward-opening transom door. The pop-up cleats will be handy for tying your painter (the line attached to the tender).
But whereas early Back Coves like the 29, which this 30 supplants, had a fishing bent, the cockpit layout now leans towards cruising comfort and doing lunch on deck. The moulded surround cockpit seats, dapper with nautical blue-and-white upholstered cushions, can seat up to six. A small drinks table is provided, but you might add a bigger teak table and overhead awning for escaping the midday sun.
Moulded steps lead to the walkaround decks, where two-tone non-skid, a nice high bow rail built from thick tube, and moulded toe rails add to the security under foot. Of course, the boat has a windlass, but the deep anchor locker also includes a freshwater anchor wash not always a given. The stainless steel kit from engine vents to deck ware is first class and will last the distance.
Meanwhile, the wheelhouse looks purposeful with its mast, triple wipers with washers, and upright windows. Side and forward opening windows, plus a big hardtop hatch, ensure there’s great ventilation, while views extend in all directions from the plush lounges surrounding a small dinette.
The substantial seating inside the wheelhouse of the Back Cove 30 creates a second stage. The portside lounge converts with forward- or rear-facing backrest and, with infill cushions, to a daybed perfect for that après-lunch snooze. The Ultraleather upholstery adds to the luxe factor on bare skin, while the cockpit fridge is just a short reach away.
While destined as a day boat, the cabin contains a full-sized galley with single-burner electric/alcohol stove, fridge and microwave oven that operates autonomously from the optional 1800W inverter. The dinette in the bow converts into a double bed, with a transverse single above for a kid or, more likely, your clothes bags.
Timber panelling and batons on the headliner add to the nautical feel, while dovetailed joints on the drawers underscore the attention to detail. The digital readouts at the AC/DC control panel make it easy to keep check of battery loads, but with LED lighting that shouldn’t be a big issue.
The separate bathroom includes a sink and hot/cold shower, electric freshwater head, opening hatch and extractor fan. All opening deck hatches have Oceanair insect/shade screens.
We didn’t put our head on the pillow or have a tub, mind you, but we envisage a couple will sleep soundly aboard the Back Cove 30. That said, this is more your dignified dayboat with a good dose of seaworthiness to traverse whatever nature throws at you come Sunday afternoon.
SOUND FOUNDATIONS AND A SMOOTH HULL
All Back Coves are built with the same logic. That is, they are modern renditions of the traditional down-east lobster boat. Though built from fibreglass, they flaunt classic lines, with a spoon bow, sweeping sheer line, some tumblehome and sloped transom. The dark-blue hull colour adds to the tradition. You can’t help but look and feel good aboard.
Unlike most production fibreglass boats, however, the Back Coves boast a full resin-infused hull with Divinycell foam-core sandwich decks and stringer system. The mouldings just look nice and fair, with a very tidy approach to engineering and electrics.
Press a button and the cockpit sole rises for unfettered engine access. It’s here that boating buffs will also notice the engineering is a cut above your usual production boat, especially those rolling out of high-volume American and European yards. Remember, the Back Cove is hand built with impressive attention to detail.
Looking about the lazarette, we noted direct access to the fuel sender and shutoff, servicing room (not that you have to) around the low-maintenance batteries, hose-clip protectors, and clear labelling.
The theme continues back in the engine room, where servicing space surrounds the lone diesel V8, and the coolant, Racor fuel filters, and clear sea strainer are easy to reach. The Reverso oil-change system was a nice surprise and Back Cove provides galvanic isolators.
The hot-water systems operates off Shorepower and a heat exchanger and, with decent accumulator tank, you should get a warm shower after a run to your anchorage. The Xantrax 1800W inverter will power the microwave oven, kettle and a 240 outlet (not concurrently). We’d add a barbecue on the rail, roll-up dinghy and rod holders, too.
FIT FOR SEA, READY TO CRUISE, MUNCH LOBSTER AND KICK BACK
Think a mere extra 55hp, the difference between the upgraded new engine and the old one, doesn’t justify a revisit? Think again. It’s not that the former six-cylinder 315hp Yanmar 6LP hasn’t proven reliable, rather, it’s just that it’s a mechanical engine. The upgraded 370hp Yanmar 8LV is an electronic engine that breathes new life into this Maine lobster boat.
With twin turbos and common rail, plus a CAN-bus vessel control systems, the new 370hp Yanmar V8 is eager to please. It’s power-to-weight is impressive, with the engine tipping the scales to 450kg dry. This is some 2kg less than the old straight six creating 315hp.
Official supplied data with the 370hp engine reveals top speed improves from 26.7 knots to 28.8 knots at wide-open throttle of 3800rpm, while your cruising range remains pretty much the same in the higher rev ranges. But it’s there that running noise is reduced anywhere from 3-7 dBa. That’s noticeable to the ear, as is the smoothness of the V8 engine configuration.
This was evident before we even cast the lines. I was standing on the dock, alongside the 30’s engine vents, when Back Cove importer and expat Maine boater Jed Elderkin hit electronic ignition. I didn’t jump in fright, there was no truck-like diesel clatter, as the V8 announced its presence with a petrol-engine like purr. And no diesel smoke to send you green around the gills, either.
With the four-blade prop spinning in a half tunnel for optimum purchase, acceleration was swift. We hit a smooth cruise of 20 knots at 3000rpm, where the range is about 300 nautical miles. The boat brushed aside the spray and, like many Maine-built conveyances, the Back Cove 30 travels in a determined and dignified manner.
SOUND INVESTMENT IN BOATING LORE
The Back Cove 30 speaks a common language. That is to say, no matter your colour or creed, port or preferred waterways, the sea doesn’t discriminate. Here is good, honest, seaworthy, high quality boat, adorned with fittings that will last the distance, flaunting enough luxury and tradition to cross generations. Single diesel power makes boating sense, while bow and stern thrusters negate prop walk when negotiating the tightest berth.
The Maine factory is travelling very well, while the local importer is an enthusiast in his fifth year with the brand. Elderkin puts customer care foremost and is one of the industry’s nice guys. All of this point to a smart purchase if you like lobster-boat looks and sensible layouts rather than the latest fashion.
TEST BOAT SPEC CHECK
Draft: 0.56m max.
Weight: 5450kg laden
Engines: 1 x Yanmar 375hp 8LV twin-turbo diesel engine
Water: 225 litres
Fuel: 600 litres
Sleeping: 2 + 1 +1
Upgraded single Yanmar 375hp 8LV, bow and stern thrusters, dark-blue hull, upholstery upgrades, second drawer fridge, optional cockpit table, freshwater wash down in the anchor locker, 1800W inverter with third house battery, mast on the wheelhouse hardtop, Raymarine C120W chartplotter with depth sonar, rear clear curtain, safety and docking gear, and so on.