Boat Review: Back Cove 32

David Lockwood says it's hard to imagine a 32-footer that does more for less than this new Back Cove from Maine...
Pretty and purposeful, the Back Cove 32 is the latest model from the Maine-based boatbuilder. The new addition fills the niche between the 30 and the 34, but it’s more than just a stopgap. Pound for pound, this is the most refined Back Cove we’ve experienced. Along with single-engine economy and seaworthiness, plus bow and stern thrusters for dockability, comes roomy accommodation with an island berth and a split head with full shower for owners. This terrific liveability combines with a big cockpit and entertaining area to create a 32-footer that punches well above its weight.
Sydney-based Jed Elderkin is an ambassador for his hometown Maine in the New England region of the US. After 12 years in the rocky boating business in Australia, importing more than 50 Back Coves to our shores, Jed offers a little bit of himself with each new boat he delivers Down Under.
In a range starting with the 30 footer — originally it was a 26 that we tested 11 years ago — and topping out with the flagship 41, the Back Coves embrace a proven formula:
> Single common-rail diesel engine with shaft drive
> Bow and stern thrusters
> Enclosed helm deck for all-weather boating
> A decent cockpit of working boat proportions
> Safe walkaround sidedecks
> Classic Down East styling
Together, these attributes make for an especially easy boat to dock, decamp and drive. They also create a low-maintenance boat, one that still looks great a decade on, and as Jed has proven many times via his enthusiastic deliveries between the Gold Coast to Wollongong, these are seaworthy boats as at home in the Tasman or Pacific as the North Atlantic and Maine.
To demonstrate the user-friendliness of this new Back Cove, we grabbed Diane Bevington from Jed’s local E Marine Motor Yachts’ office to drive the new 32.
She crabbed the boat away from the dock and fuel wharf and drove upstream on Middle Harbour to grab a mooring in picturesque Sugarloaf Bay. The 32 is definitely a boat you can command with confidence one-up, at short notice, for those impromptu cruises that are too often relegated to the too-hard basket for owners of other more complex craft.
Slipping along Sydney Harbour, the 32 uses the latest evolutionary hull from Back Cove that underwent some modifications and tweaks. There’s a reworked tunnel to reduce slip, a refined single-level layout from helm deck to transom, and this collective sense of, well, plain good boating sense.
"It ticks all the boxes," Jed adds as we scoot around the Harbour, driving and chatting in the well-protected all-weather helm deck.
Evidently, we are not alone in are enthusiasm for the new Back Cove 32. The first one in Australia, as seen here, is hull #10, but #23 was due to arrive in late 2017.
Following the official launch party at the 50th Sydney International Boat Show with Back Cove staff from Maine, there may well be more 32s on the way.
Back Cove pretty much owns the niche Down East boat market in Australia. While other picnic boats and New England-inspired imitators have a crack, the Back Coves are the real deal with a great performing single-engine tunnel hull from respected naval architect Kevin Burns.
The joinery is all satin-finished handcrafted American cherrywood, with maple cupboards, dovetail drawers, and teak-and-holly flooring. Despite their American styling and ambiance, these are well-made production boats with global appeal.
The base Back Cove 32 is fitted with either a 370hp Volvo Penta D6 with shaft drive or, as we had in our test boat, the no-charge option of the robust 370hp Yanmar V8 common-rail engine, which is based on the 4.5L Toyota LandCruiser block.
For an extra $10k you can upgrade to the 435hp Volvo D6 or, as the next Back Cove 32 in Australia will boast, the 425hp Cummins QSB-6.7. The upshot is a 27-28 knot top speed in place of the modest 25 knots in our standard test boat.
While a generator and air-con are worthy options, the Back Cove 32 featured here was kept simple. There no gennie but the options included an 1800W inverter, drawer fridge, electric SureShade cockpit awning, and more.
From a base price of about $500k, the as-tested price of this 32 was a competitive $535k. You will still need a barbecue on an aft rail — this was coming we were told — a tender, some toys, a crab pot and fishing tackle, but you’re otherwise right to go for a weekend or longer in this well-priced 32 footer.
While it slots in between the 30 and 34, and adopts a proven formula, the latest Back Cove also boasts some new kit, enhanced design features, and that modified hull.
The bow is higher and drier, there’s more internal volume, the split head and shower, and no step in the deck from the transom right the way through to the helm station. Without an aft cabin bulkhead, the layout just flows from the swim platform to the indoors and back out again.
Even by Australian standards, the cockpit is spacious, with room to seat 4-6 people and stow a pile of gear. A central outward-opening transom door adds the swim platform to the outdoor space, while a SureShade electric sun awning extends well aft to chase away the midday sun.
The permanent moulded cockpit seating caters for the way buyers use their Back Coves today, although personally I’d prefer flip up seats that let you also enjoy an uncluttered open deck for fishing and water sports. A lot of US boatbuilders offer this flip-down seating these days. Yet I’m told my fishing bent puts me in the minority.
Certainly, the moulded cockpit seating wrapping around the transom corners looks inviting. With plush striped cushions, and that SureShade awning overhead, you do score a great lunch venue.
Along with seating, storage is a strongpoint. It exists under the cockpit sole and even on the sturdy moulded fibreglass hardtop for, say, your kayak and/or stand-up paddleboards. We’ve seen a few Back Coves getting around Sydney’s waterways just like this, with fishing rods under the hardtop, a crab pot or two on the swim platform, and paddle craft.
Meantime, moulded steps, grab rails on the hardtop and a high bow rail create a safe passage to the foredeck. You might add an intermediate wire to the bow rail, as I’ve proffered on these boats before, for added security if you have young kids and dogs aboard.
While there is the option of an enclosed rear bulkhead, you really don’t want that in a 32-footer in temperate Australia. The flow of this boat with the open helm deck is far superior. Rear clear drop curtains provide total weather protection — handy in heavy rain or when you moor the boat — and you could easily add a zip-in insect screen for those summer nights onboard on the hook.
As it was, we found this helm deck or saloon to be a real sanctuary in mid-winter, as indeed it will be in the height of summer. There’s excellent surrounding vision, abundant ventilation via opening side windows and a forward windscreen vent and roof hatches, and seating for four plus skipper.
With the galley up, where you want it, you can cook, cater, eat and entertaining in an airy environment. The small dinette can seat four and it converts to a daybed or summer sleep-out to boost accommodation by two. Kids will love it.
The comfortable accommodation will have you packing the bags and the provisions. There’s a sumptuous double bed in the yacht-like cabin lined with American cherrywood timber planking. The joinery extends to maple drawers with dovetail joints, and cupboards and hanging lockers with cedar lining.
You get 240V and 12V power sockets, warm and task lighting, and opening portlights for fresh air. Headroom exists throughout. The full-sized moulded shower stall to starboard, split from the separate head to port, means both spaces have more room. While you miss out on a second cabin, the generous owners’ accommodation and amenities are akin to what you might find on a 35-37 footer.
Put it all together and this is a perfect weekender for cruising couples anywhere from Moreton Bay and Pittwater to Melbourne and Perth.
A single-level boat, the 32 will be easy to wash and polish at the end of your boating outing. The deck gear is robust and our test boat didn’t have any timber trim or teak cockpit decking to worry about.
The boat looked smart with the subtle light-grey hull colour, which is in the gelcoat. The darker hull colours do oxidise in time and require buffing to look their best. So this is a smart option.
A day-inspection hatch leads to the engine room. But press a button and the whole floor lifts to reveal jump-down access for servicing. Owners and mechanics couldn’t ask for more room.
I noted the 1800W Xantrex inverter, separate engine and house battery banks, wet exhaust, PSS dripless shaft seal, Racor fuel filter, sea strainers with inspection ports, Marelon nylon seacocks, 2in shaft and oodles of r-o-o-m around the single Yanmar V8.
These are simple boats to own and operate. This new 32 will be easy to clean and maintain, which will encourage you to use the boat more often. They are also sturdy boats on the water.
The hull, deck and stringers are all resin-infused, using foam-core and balsa sandwich. The running surface has a prop pocket, with a new modified tunnel on this 32 to reduce slip in turns. We were keen to put this to the test.
Fitted with the base 370hp Yanmar V8 diesel engine, top speed was a modest 25 knots. But it’s more the go-anywhere-can-do attitude at cruise that will endear this robust boat to cruising couples and young families.
Our 32 had a smooth cruise of 19 knots at 3200rpm for a range of 260 nautical miles using about 46.5lt/hr. The official sea-trial data reveals a dba rating of 83 at the helm. Given the open rear bulkhead, that’s pretty good and we could hold conversation without undue shouting.
At the helm, the sight lines are clear and you gain an innate sense of control and command. In open water, the boat seems eager. It shoots up to planing speed and turns nice and flat without cavitation or much lean.
We didn’t confront any challenging seas, mind you, but we have done that in Back Coves before. We can see no reason to doubt the offshore ability of this 32.
The boat rides with its sharp spoon bow slicing the water, the extra freeboard and flare in this model will keep you dry, and there’s plenty of trim range using the tabs to punch headseas or run free and surf back home.
The high-backed helm seat and the co-pilot seat with flip backrest make cruising a pleasure. There are wipers with intermediate settings, an opening forward windscreen pane, and plenty of room for the 12in Garmin multifunction screen on the dash.
With bow and stern thrusters as part of the Back Cove ‘Easy Docking System’, anyone can put this single-screw, low-windage cruiser in just about any marina berth.
There’s a lot changing in the world today, but I don’t think there’s a lot you need to change about this sweet little 32 footer and the way it just slips though the water and motions to go places.
From the moment you cast eyes on the timeless lines, the boat supports your expectations every step of the way. There’s practicality, performance, purpose and poise, simple engineering and low maintenance.
With a big, deep and beamy hull, whose footprint overshadows other 32 footers, this new Back Cove is a perfect boat for cruising couples. It’s a Down Easter that’s ideal for down sizing and, pound-for-pound, the best model in the fleet.
LOA: 11.28m
Hull Length: 9.98m
Beam: 3.61m
Displacement: 7940kg
Air Draft: 3.66m
Fuel: 700lt
Water: 302lt
Black Water: 151lt
Sleeping: 2+2
Engine: 370hp Yanmar 8LV common-rail diesel V8
Inverter, drawer fridge, SureShade awning, and more.