Boat Review: Pettegrow 68

A Graceful Blend of Tradition and Innovation

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I recently told a friend about a really nice, new wooden boat I had just fished that was built by Mac Pettegrow in Maine. My friend asked, "Why in heaven's name would anyone want a wooden boat today when they could build one with fiberglass and advanced composites?" The answer is that wood, when combined with modern resins and strip-plank construction techniques, affords an extraordinarily strong, lightweight hull. Just ask Rybovich, which still builds all its boats using this technique.
Pettegrow's newest hull is a 68-foot enclosed-bridge convertible named Boomer. Its cold-molded hull consists of a white cedar base layer and African mahogany diagonal stripping. Dry weight ends up an impressive 90,000 pounds.
Boomer's lines blend futuristic with traditional better than most such combinations. You'll find plenty of radius turns as well as quite a bit of camber and tumble home in the transom, the latter of which makes backing down very smooth and fast.

Performance
Today's power plants never cease to amaze me. Growing up on large boats where 20 knots bordered on lightning-quick, it took several days to get a 60-footer up on plane. Boomer gets up and runs at a comfortable 36-knot top speed and cruises at 30 all day long. Like so many boats this size, turning comes in two modes - dodge and full-circle. Small course changes to dodge the millions of lobster buoys in Boomer's home-port channel are positively cat-like. A 180-degree turn at speed scribes a fairly large turning radius.
Backing down at 8 knots barely wets the deck around the tuna door. Pretty much the only way you'll get water in this cockpit in reverse is if a wave breaks over the cap rail. At a 7-knot trolling speed, there's very little turbulence in the wake, and when drifting in a 3-foot beam sea, Boomer pitched and yawed in lazy, gentle circles.

Flybridge
As you'd expect on a 68-footer, Boomer has a large flybridge with space for a complete electronics suite plus duplicates. The only access to the bridge is from the cockpit balcony up a curved stairway.
Comfortable Stidd helm chairs provide raised seating for the skipper and a guest while others can relax on straight settees to port and starboard. As with Boomer's interior, the primary flavor on the bridge is mahogany.
Two particularly nice flybridge features are a wood-fronted drawer under the port settee that hides a stainless drink refrigerator and large overhead hatches for fresh air circulation. An aft control station aids in fighting fish.

Fishability
New Englanders, like their West Coast counterparts, like to cast live baits to marlin off the bow. Boomer's huge side walkway, with excellent handholds and non-skid surface, assure angler safety up on the bow.
The cockpit is clean to bordering on stark. Even the cleats are hidden in compartments. An Eskimo icemaker in one fish box produces tuna-saving frozen brine.
Boomer has a ton of room to move, easy access to bait- and tackle-prep stations and plenty of space for observers without anyone accidentally wandering into the fray. Quadruple-headers pose no problem.

Interior
The Pettegrow 68 sleeps eight in four cabins. A full-width master stateroom in the bow with a private head and shower separates the owner from the rest of the boat. Each of the other staterooms also has a private head and shower as well as independent entertainment systems for stereo and satellite TV.
In the salon, an entertainment center on the starboard aft bulkhead and TV built into the cabinet to starboard prevents everyone walking down the dock from stopping to watch television along with you. Boomer also provides its owner with full office capability.
In addition to the magnificent joiner work throughout, I really like the salon windows. They're the largest I've seen on any comparable boat and make the boat open and airy.
Interestingly, the sleek, raked lines of the exterior belie the traditional look of the interior's mahogany trim, paneling and sole.

Engine Room
Boomer's engine room provides over 6 feet of standing headroom once you're in the compartment. Unfortunately, the owner put a Gaggenau grill right where the overhead part of the engine room hatch should be. Consequently, you must get on your hands and knees to crawl into the engine room rather than simply climbing down a ladder.
Everything that makes noise stays aft of the valve compartment at the forward end of the engine room. This buffer compartment contains monitors and circuit boards for AC and plumbing. In addition, every valve, hose and wire is individually run and labeled.
Surprisingly, even the mammoth DDEC 16V92s (set in a V-drive configuration) leave enough room to work around comfortably.

Cockpit
The ultra-clean cockpit sports unusual latches on the in-deck hatches. Each uses a winch handle to activate the positive-locking mechanism that dogs the hatch down for an absolutely watertight seal. The watertight seals also keep the generators dry. They sit fore and aft under the centerline cockpit hatch and make for a much quieter time at anchor. I also like the big, front-opening bait freezer.
Like the antebellum homes in Savannah, twin stairways lead from the cockpit up to the salon balcony. On this level you can pick one of three doors. To port is a day head. Though I think a day head outside the salon is excellent so you needn't track anything from the cockpit through the cabin to use a head, I'd prefer to see a drain in there so you can simply hose it down. The starboard doorway - with a rod locker to accommodate 20- and 30-pound rigs just inside the door - provides access to the flybridge. The salon entrance stands between the two on centerline.
Mac Pettegrow represents a lost art in boat-building. He's a down-east builder capable of creating extraordinary works of form and function. I've never seen a better blend of the future and the past in one hull.