A fast and classy commuter boat

It took a moment for it all to register. We had quietly slipped our lines and were headed down the St. George River in a light predawn fog. From the helm the engines were a low hum, despite the fact that the tachometer was showing 2,000 rpm. I glanced overboard and suddenly realized just how fast the maze of orange and green pot buoys were flying astern and disappearing in our wake.

Lyman-Morse general manager, J.B. Turner, had invited me for a ride to Woods Hole, Mass., on this most unusual yacht. Comet is a classically styled 43-foot express commuter launch designed by Marblehead, Mass., naval architect Dieter Empacher. Jack Winninghoff (Winninghoff Boats Inc., of Rowley, Mass.), an aluminum workboat builder, fabricated the hull and also installed the power train — twin 375-hp Yanmar turbo diesels driving a pair of Hamilton 292 waterjets. (The owner had approached Winninghoff with an unusual request: He wanted a ’30s-style commuter boat with a modern aluminum hull with a powerplant that could allow the boat to outrun his brother’s jet-drive Picnic boat.) The hull was trucked to Thomaston, Maine, where Lyman-Morse finished the boat.

As we made our way toward the mouth of the St. George River that morning, visibility began to improve. My Lyman-Morse crewmates were Justin, skipper of the 60-foot Windwalker II, and Joe, one of the yard’s most talented mechanics and the man responsible for a great deal of the systems engineering on the boat. Both had made this delivery before and jumped at the opportunity to do it again. They assured me that we’d be in Woods Hole by midafternoon and back in Thomaston that evening, a time frame inconceivable for a cruising sailor — inconceivable, I’m sure, even to those gentlemen in the 1930s who commuted between Long Island’s North Shore and downtown Manhattan in their overmuscled launches.

Because there was no autopilot, we all took turns at the helm. The miles simply flew by. Looking down at the radar, the target of our wake appeared to be a flame on the display — our waterjet afterburners.

We must have been an impressive sight as the sleek black boat broke out of the light fog at the east end of the Cape Cod Canal, rocketing along at 30-odd knots like a shrieking demon from the smoking gates of Hades.

After fueling up in Sandwich, we slid through the Canal in what seemed no time at all and were tied to the owner’s dock by 2:30 p.m. — an amazing trip through the Gulf of Maine, past the New Hampshire coast, Cape Ann and Cape Cod Bay. We had made good some 200 miles in less than eight hours of engine time. I could have had a business lunch with a colleague or two, spun the boat around, and been back in Maine in time for a cocktail and a late dinner.

But once a hose was found and the brightwork rinsed and chamoised, we all piled in the boatyard Suburban that had been sent to haul us back to Maine. We reached the yard in Thomaston at 9 p.m., just as the sky was losing its last light from the sun.

By Ocean Navigator