The Back Cove 33 is born and bred in Maine, but the sensible and stylish single-screw cruiser with Downeast styling is right at home Down Under. David Lockwood takes a close look at this luxury day-cruising powerboat...
Bantry Bay in upper Middle Harbour is a long way from Maine in New England, but the Back Cove 33 brings the two worlds together. A single-engine boat with lobster-boat styling, she proves that smart design and utility know no bounds.
Although hailing from a boutique North American yard that trots out about 100 boats in a good year, the Back Cove is ideal for ex-sailors, dayboaters, weekending couples, and those with an appreciation for timeless nautical style and user-friendliness Down Under.
But there’s something else I like about the Back Coves. The boats - four models in a range from 26 to 37-footers - aren’t afraid to confront less-than-perfect weather. With an internal helm station, you can cruise for views and stay warm and dry. Crack the hatches and windows in summer and you get fresh air while avoiding the sun beating above. The boat pictured here also had an optional hardback enclosure or lock-up cabin for even more protection.
With a decent cockpit, the indoor/outdoor mix is just right. And with something old and plenty new, you get the best of tradition and technology. However, even though the boats leave the factory in standard guise with a long inventory and impressive engineering, the Back Cove 33 we drove was bundled with some additional comforts and extra-cool kit to make it even better suited to our waterways.
Instead of the standard Yanmar 6LY 380hp engine - all Back Coves are fitted with single engines and shaft drives - our boat had an upgraded Cummins QSB5.9 480hp engine, a fully electronic diesel donk with common rail injection, spinning a four-blade Nibral prop on a 1.5in shaft through a 2.5:1 ZF gearbox.
A press of a button and the cockpit sole lifts, revealing oodles of servicing room and plenty of scope to add extra gear. With everything labelled and the best in fittings, the engineering really is a cut above your average Yankee production-boat yard. The batteries are the AGM maintenance-free type, there are Racor fuel filters, with the water in the engineroom and fuel back aft.
To compensate for the single engine, a bowthruster comes standard. But our boat also had the optional sternthruster to take the prop-walking out of mooring. Additionally, an optional Onan 5kW generator and single Cruisair air-conditioning unit were fitted for total climate control and at-call AC power whether boating in the Top End or Tassie.
Interestingly, the 15 Back Coves sold to date in Australia have enjoyed widespread geographical appeal, finding homes from South Australia to Queensland. And there have been no warranty issues at all, we’re told.
Underscoring their cruising capability, the Back Cove 33 seen hereabouts had a full Raymarine package including E120, 4kW radar and autopilot. An 1800W inverter (that’s big enough to power a cappuccino machine) and upgraded Ultraleather upholstery below decks add to the at-anchor comfort.
With 300lt of water, I would have no hesitation in ranging up and down the coast to nearby ports of call for at least a long weekend before, inevitably, topping up the tanks. That said, there’s plenty of room to fit a watermaker and these things are becoming more affordable these days.
Upmarket build quality is a big selling point of Back Coves. The boats are now fully resin infused, with foam-cored decks for sound and weather insulation, and multiaxial E-glass in impact areas. The boot top was finished in black Awlgrip with gold trim, and the mouldings, fit and finish throughout impress. But it’s also the deck layout of the Back Cove 33 that will woo local boaters.
As touched on, the Back Coves have a decent cockpit for fishing, entertaining and just hanging out. The cockpit lounge on the 33 could seat three people and, with additional loose chairs, you can do lunch with six. An extended cockpit awning would be a boon in summer. Meanwhile, the swim platform is nice and deep for kicking back, there are handy pop-up cleats for tying the watertoys or inflatable tender, and a handy deck shower that, with the aforesaid generator, has hot water night and day.
The walkaround decks with grey diamond-pattern non-skid, stainless steel rails and sturdy fittings appeal just as much, allowing crew to easily tend mooring lines or trounce forward with drink in hand to toast the sunset. An intermediate wire would be welcome insurance with kiddies onboard. En route, you might notice the engine intakes are high and nicely inboard.
The boat had an electric windlass, sturdy composite bowsprit with stainless steel roller, and mast upgrade, plus trumpet horn and centre-opening windshield for delivering ventilation to the saloon and wheelhouse in the age-old time-proven way. Wherever you look, there are no tricks or traps, just a great use of space, solid fittings, and a real sense of purpose.
A great portion of the time spent aboard the Back Cove 33 will be with family and friends seated in the saloon. Headroom is abundant, as are the views through the surrounding deep picture windows. The builders have maximised storage space and created solid-cherrywood joinery with dovetailed drawers and an eye-catching burl-maple (a timber native to Maine) table up top.
The small dinette to port can seat four at a pinch, but is more likely to be the preserve of the couple who own this boat. For entertaining a crowd, the cockpit beckons (with a rail-mounted barbie and a cooler loaded with ice and drinks when in party mode). The galley opposite the dinette to starboard features a handy two-burner recessed hob, small microwave oven, big sink, solid counters and counter-height fridge with freezer tray. In the context of the long weekender, it’s all here.
The helm means business. There’s a comfy Stidd chair, two-person crew lounge opposite, timber ship’s wheel, and fold-down footrest. Trim tabs are supplied, but weren’t needed. The single electronic gearshift and throttle is friction-free, and opposite are the Sidepower bow and sternthruster sticks. Relaying fuel consumption and engine data is the VesselView display from Cummins. See what I mean about something old, something new.
Below decks, the Back Cove 33 has a toasty, salty, yacht-like ambience derived from the planked cherrywood joinery and trim, ash ceiling battens, teak and holly flooring, and the mood lighting at night. Headroom is a lofty 192cm and, without an island berth up front, there’s room to roam.
When not being used for breakfast or cards, the L-shaped lounge and second dinette, immediately as you step down below, convert to an impromptu berth. The vee-berth forward has twin adult-length bunks that convert to a double bed with infill, and you get an excellent upmarket fully-enclosed head with separate shower stall, plus cedar-lined hanging lockers, and more.
While you can sleep four aboard the Back Cove 33, it’s obviously more your husband-and-wife boat when the mood strikes, perhaps adding grandkids during school holidays. With a couple, you would doubtless have the forward double bed made-up permanently, leaving the L-shaped lounge for hanging out at night.
Thanks to the full liner with foam coring, sound levels aren’t imposing when cruising. With the prop spinning in a tunnel or pocket that reduces shaft angles, the deep-vee hull jumps out of the blocks and rides in fine fettle. It’s fast with the engine upgrade, nudging 30kts, and the purposeful bow cleaves the waves without being a wet boat. Water is displaced out rather than sucked back aboard.
At 2200rpm, I recorded a 15.5kts low-speed cruise for just 34lt/h, while 2500 to 2600rpm gave about 20 to 21kts, which is a nice speed range for travelling at sea using just 46 to 50lt/h. The Cummins engine sounded smoother still at 2800rpm and 22.7kts for 56lt/h - its sweet spot - but even at 3000rpm and 25kts you are only burning 65lt/h. So the Back Cove 33 won’t burn a hole in your pocket, leaving plenty of room to buy a few lobsters and live it up the Maine way.
TEST BOAT SPEC CHECK
Material: Vacuum-bagged, fully infused hull and deck w/ foam core and E-glass around through-hull fittings
Type: Hard-chine monohull w/ tunnel
Length overall: 9.50m (inc. boarding platform)
Draft: Approx 0.94m
Displacement: 6350kg (fully loaded, plus extra weight from engine upgrade)
Berths: 2 + 2
Holding tank: 150lt
Make/model: Cummins Marine Diesel QSB 5.9
Type: Six-cylinder electronic turbo-diesel
Rated HP: 380 at 3400rpm (max.)
Weight: Approx 612kg
Gearboxes (Make/ratio): ZF 2.5:1
Props: Four-blade bronze
Engine upgrade, generator, air-con, sternthruster, inverter, windlass, Raymarine electronics package, hardback enclosure, interior upgrade, and more