Boat Review: Back Cove 41

Bigger is better with this new flagship designed to cosset two couples and appease a boating family. David Lockwood gets onboard the latest Back Cove...
Sydney is a long way from Maine, but the Back Cove boats built there, on the other side of the world, cater surprisingly well to our way of boating. This new Back Cove 41 is the biggest model in the fleet that starts at a 30, includes 34 and 37 footers, and tops out with this single-engine twin-cabin/twin bathroom beauty.
Since we tested the first Back Cove to arrive here in 2007, some 48 of the Maine-built boats have been sold in Australia. At the owner’s event at the 2015 Sydney International Boat Show, more than 50 Back Cove converts clinked glasses and toasted the arrival of this new 41 flagship.
The 41 has been a strong seller and here we test hull #18 following the new-model launch in February 2014 at Miami boat show. Locally, after eight years, Back Coves have proven to be wonderfully enduring and absolutely relevant in Australia.
Spend time on the water as we do and you will spot Back Coves cruising the coast, our big bays, harbours and rivers, their spoon bows carving a nice line through the water, as the hulls slip along with single diesel engine efficiency. These sound attributes underscore the fact that good boat design knows no bounds.
But this new Back Cove 41 is by far the biggest boat built with the yard’s time-proven formula. We were wondering if this flagship would push the boundaries of all that great boating sense beyond good reason. But, hey, we needn’t have worried. More is better with this new Back Cove.
You can get a 41 from a high-volume European brand for less money, but it won’t be built to the same standards or adhere to the same principles that underpin a Back Cove. Rather than bend to fashion, the boats embrace the time-proven, while including the latest boating conveniences and comforts.
The base price for the Back Cove 41 is $895,000 with the 600hp Cummins QSC-8.3 engine. Our test boat had custom leather upholstery, a beautiful aftermarket cockpit awning (not yet fitted during our photoshoot) and some cutting-edge kit to bring the price up to about $945,000.
Notable options included upgraded Sidepower bow and stern thrusters with proportional-speed control, extended run time and a "hold" function so you could lean the boat up against the dock while tending lines.
There was a Lectrotab auto trim system with inbuilt GPS that levels the boat on its own and adapts to sea conditions, cross winds and waves. Navigation duties were take care of by twin Simrad NSS16 chartplotter/multifunction displays and there was radar for night and fog travel.
Looking at the Back Coves getting around today, they certainly seem to have stood the test of time. You’re investment is in a very well-built boat that will go the distance and won’t date. Long-term value for money and the second-hand market shows values hold up very well.
The Back Cove 41 is a founded on a high-volume hull, but one that remains in proportion. The increased accommodation doesn’t compromise the hull form and seaworthiness.
The big cockpit endears the 41 to outdoor pursuits, the aft galley is great for entertaining, while the two cabin and two bathroom arrangement is ideal for extended families and escaping with another couple.
You get a decent swim platform to add to the waterfront real state, on which you could mount a small tender on snap davits, and upon which the importer was adding a U-bar with a barbecue as well.
The boat comes with the requisite swim ladder, deck shower, raw-water wash down, and plenty of handy cleats for mooring and tying tenders and toys.
A centre transom door leads into the cockpit, where there are twin L-shaped lounges moulded in the aft corners. A factory optional infill creates one big surrounding cockpit seating area. We’d tick that box.
Add a decent outdoor table for doing lunch and a few more folding chairs and you have a destination for a long lunch. The Back Cove factory-supplied tables tend to be on the small side.
There’s a two-person aft facing lounge near the bulkhead that would be a nice spot with a drink in hand or brekkie on your lap. Walkaround decks lead to the flat foredeck, another casual seating area, and from bow to stern this is an all over accessible boat.
We’d add an intermediate wire to the bow rail to help contain the kiddies, dogs and our toys, stashed up the sides between anchorage runs. This can be added locally. No kids, dogs or toys, no worries then.
The hardtop has plenty of space and strength to carry kayaks and/or SUPs on longer runs at holiday time, as we often see these boats doing around the Hawkesbury, while the mast with aerials and the radar dome adds to the purposeful lines.
The anchoring arrangement with moulded bowsprit, twin chain/rope lockers and self-stow UltraAnchor, plus a spare bow roller for secondary rope anchor, came with the 41. The grey diamond-pattern non-skid boosts the boat’s utility and ease of maintenance, while saving on the bottom (teak deck option) line.
A side-opening helm door grants immediate access from the wheel to the sidedeck, which s handy when mooring and anchoring. It’s a different kind of door, a split design known as a Dutch door, which is a bit of tradition.
The door also adds to the class-leading ventilation offered by the opening saloon doors, electric aft saloon window, centre windscreen pane, sunroofs, and side windows. Open it up all up and let the air blow through.
Upholstered panels and good use of cherrywood joinery soften the extensive moulded GRP liners in the Back Coves. It’s bright and cheery, especially with the saloon doors open, whereupon the aft galley melds with the cockpit.
The aft galley enhances the 41’s al fresco entertaining amenity, especially with the aftermarket awning over the cockpit seating area (see photo). It’s a very social layout with the inbuilt seating, but not so good for fishing.
The size of the Back Cove 41’s saloon reigns in the range. You get a decent galley, a dinette opposite that converts to a bigger eating and seating area and even a double berth, plus OceanAir blinds and privacy curtains for when you want to shut things up back at the marina. With the dinette converting two ways, into a bigger full-width table or an impromptu berth, this boat can sleep and eat 4+2 comfortably.
Galleying gourmands will appreciate the two-burner cooktop with pot holders preventing dangerous spills, microwave oven that works off a supplied inverter, drawer-style fridge/freezers, a small separate freezer or icemaker under the helm seat, along with the generous solid-stone counters.
Storage is such a highlight, with soft-close drawers with dovetailed joints and overhead cupboards at the galley, and a cavernous subfloor walk-in hold near the helm (see video). You have to make certain the flip-down helm footrests are locked in the “up” position to open the hatch to the hold. It’s a bit fiddly. But with one engine, there’s certainly oodles of underfloor space.
The two cabins and two big heads make this a great boat for getting away with another couple. The master stateroom is forward with an island bed, strip-planked cabin sides for a salty feel, mood lighting and plenty of storage via soft-close drawers, cedar-lined hanging lockers, underbunk areas, shelves, various nooks and more proper cabinetry.
The companionway, floor space and headroom are American-sized throughout the stateroom and there’s a 20in TV/DVD, while the en suite is just huge with a terrific separate shower stall, porcelain sink, solid vanity counter and opening portlights. Each cabin has a Lewmar hatch with OceanAir fly and shade screen, too.
The second cabin back aft has a transverse double bed kicking back under the companionway steps, where it is possible to add a washer-dryer option. There’s headroom at the cabin entrance, more storage in a chest of drawers, and access to the communal head/second en suite, which has a handheld shower. The deck shower will be more popular.
"Maine people are practical people and they see beauty in simple things," Elderkin says of the interior, which isn’t so much fussy as functional and, like the hull lines, enduring.
Construction is simple GRP with Nida-Core foam-insulated decks. We’re told Back Cove went to a lot of effort to reduce running and operating noise with this 41. At rest, the 9kW Onan generator was just a murmur thanks to its location back in the lazarette (it can be removed if needs be) and the underwater exhaust splitter.
There is a day inspection hatch to the engine room but also push-button full floor access that raises the entire saloon floor. With just the one Cummins, there’s room to spare when you leap in. Clear sea strainers, Racor fuel filters and the dipstick are all easy to spot.
Fuel and water are carried in polyethylene wing tanks, with a fuel transfer pump for balancing the tanks after lots of generator use. The Cummins VesselView electronic display relays fluid levels at the helm, after you’ve performed your own visual pre-passage checks.
With tropical-strength air con, there’s full climate control on the Back Cove 41. The AC/DC panel is simple, with mainly 24V systems, but also handy 12V DC plugs and USB ports throughout the boat, plus a retractable shorepower lead. It’s all pretty low maintenance and owner-friendly.
The hull is resin-infused, with a seaworthy profile and plenty of freeboard, while maintaining excellent vision at the enclosed helm. It's designed by Kevin Burns and achieves that blend of old and new.
The low 2.25in shaft angle, via a four-blade Nibral prop pocket, gives the boat a nice level ride using the single engine, with just 3-4 per cent bow lift, we’re told. A touch of tab is all you need and the boat zooms up to planing speed and turns nicely off its timber wheel linked to hydraulic steering of course.
The twin high-backed Stiff helm seats make this a comfortable cruising boat for couples, with additional crew riding opposite on a rather small L-shaped lounge.
Vision from the helm is superb and, when docking at low speed, you can stick your head out the top section of the side-opening door and see back down to the transom.
The Simrad NSS16s, timber wheel and throttles fall to eye and hand, though I did find the flip-down adjustable footrests and step to the door a bit clunky.
One of the challenges of building a boat like this, with the engine in its traditional spot under the saloon floor, is keeping running noise to an acceptable level.
We’re pleased to report that the boat cruises at 20-21 knots at 2600rpm for a range of about 325nm, according to the official data, whereupon running noise levels were around 78-82dba. You can hold a conversation without any problem at all.
With the common-rail 600hp Cummins QSC-8.3 shaft drive on test, top speed was nudging 27 knots. The upgraded 715hp Cummins QSM-11 gives 28.7 knots, and the 725hp Volvo Penta D11 cracks 29.5 knots, the data says.
The D11 gives a range of 345nm at 24 knots and 329nm at 26.1 knots with the lowest dba readings of the lot. This official sea-trial data does suggest the D11 is the best engine pairing.
Regardless, the signature feature of all Back Coves is the single-engine efficiency, as evidenced by the Cummins' consumption of 87-94lt/hr at 21-22 knots and 2600-2700rpm A twin-screw 41 footer would be using about 120lt/hr at these kinds of speeds.
Meanwhile, the enclosed helm deck made winter cruising thoroughly enjoyable, with the warm sun beating down inside, and views stretching as far as the eye could see. Ours was a dalliance, but it would have been so easy to scoot 20nm north from Sydney Heads to Palm Beach or do the 80-miler to Port Stephens.
Bow and stern thrusters come standard so you can slot this boat back into the berth without much fuss. The upgraded proportional DC thrusters have that “hold” function, too. All told, it’s a very intuitive boat to drive.
It’s hard not to admire the timeless Down East styling of the Back Coves, their practicality and utility, and the warm atmosphere aboard.  It’s this modern take on a classic design that endears these boats to savvy boaters all round the world and, indeed, Down Under.
The Maine-built heritage certainly means these Back Coves aren’t afraid of some weather. Inside, at the helm deck, you remain well protected from the elements and our mid-winter test in biting westerly winds proved that point.
The new 41 also offers a simple solution for yachties tired of pulling strings, who still want the possibility of serious cruising, even as far as The Whitsundays. The standard 600 litres of water is up there with 48ft cruising yachts, although we'd add a watermaker, and it’s a classic-looking craft with low maintenance just perfect for retirees.
At rest, the big boat is ready to serve, entertain, lounge and play. You get abundant views from the seating, an aft galley, and convertible dinette, loads of natural ventilation, four-zone air conditioning, cavernous storage, and two cabins with big en suites.
With the dinette converted into an impromptu berth there's that holiday sleeping for 4+2. Then there is the wonderful ambience from cheery satin cherrywood joinery that plays on the Maine timber-boat heritage.
The whole Back Cove 41package embraces good boating lore and offers something seasoned boaters won’t tire of. A great new flagship.
LOA: 14.10m
Beam: 4.27m
Draft: 1.20m
Displacement: 12.1t
Fuel: 1514lt
Water: 600lt
Holding tank: 206lt
Max headroom throughout: 1.98m
Design category: ABYC, NMMA, USCG, CE Category “B”
Engine: Cummins QSC-8.3
Type: Six-cylinder turbo-diesel
Displacement: 8.3 litres
Rated HP: 600
Max. RPM: 3080
Gearbox (Make/ratio): ZF/ 2.39:1 reduction
Propeller: four-blade Nibral
Generator: 9kW Onan
single 600hp Cummins QC-8.3, upgraded Sidepower bow and stern thrusters with proportional-speed control, Lectrotab auto trim system, twin Simrad NSS16 chartplotter/multifunction displays, aftermarket cockpit awning, leather upholster upgrade and more.