Ritchie Howell has built noteworthy boats for almost 15 years. The Wanchese, North Carolina, builder has been busy turning out tournament-winning boats and making slight adjustments and improvements to each successive hull. We ran the new 61-footer Tokatomist, built for owner Tom Howd and family out of South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, on a beautiful fall day.
Taking the 60-foot Steve Mathews hull design, Howell lengthened the boat 12 inches and widened it 4 inches to add interior volume without drastically changing the bottom ride. With a new, more relaxed and gentle shear line, bridge and window profile compared to earlier boats, the 61 has a more updated, rakish look that matches its speed and performance. The new house profile has evened out proportions stem to stern, giving her a great look. It also makes her interior feel larger.
The bridge on the 61 features generous wrap-around, L-shaped seating with storage under the seats forward of the console and to port. A long bench seat with storage underneath sits along the starboard side. The console comes off the port bridge side with large wrap-around panels that fit three 19-inch screens, a digital compass, digital data readout, engine interface readouts, the stereo and an indicator light panel. All equipment switches are under a lift-up glove box lid, keeping them out of the weather and protected.
The centerline helm features a finely finished teak pod. The overhead radio box contains another multifunction GPS/plotter unit, a VHF, an autopilot interface and the ACR searchlight control. The two Release Marine helm chairs behind the console sport fabric that matches the forward bridge seating.
The cockpit looks clean and well laid out, with a mezzanine to port that has large tackle storage under the seat, a fridge and freezer under the step, a large lift-up seat entrance with a Lenco electric ram to do the lifting for the engine room access, as well as big storage bins under the step and landing leading into the salon. Along the starboard side, there’s a cabinet with a built-in grill and storage underneath, with an insulated drink box in the mezzanine landing. A screen mounted in the cockpit overhead lets you see what is happening on the echo sounder and plotter.
Wing storage lies outboard under the gunwale just aft of the mezzanine, with raw and fresh water outlets under the starboard gunwale. Under the clean teak deck, a large stainless fish box along the centerline has an access hatch just forward of the fighting chair/rocket launcher stanchion. There is also a large Carolina transom fish box/livewell. I liked the lazarette access, something many Carolina builders do not do today. The argument is that with no lazarette hatch, it stays dry, but if you have a problem with steering, bilge pumps or any other gear, you have to crawl back into the lazarette the distance of the cockpit or send a crewman. Ritchie Howell uses a watertight hatch to give access to the important gear in the lazarette, keeping things dry but offering direct access if a bad situation arises.
Tokatomist’s 1,150 hp C-18 Caterpillar engines were nicely housed in the large engine room. With plenty of room all around the engines, I found good access to raw water pumps, the oil change system and filters. The 21 kW Caterpillar generator came mounted on the centerline at the forward bulkhead with easy access to belts, the water pump and everything else. A Sea Recovery watermaker and all pumps are mounted with serviceability and access in mind, making quick work of impeller changes and replacements. The 61 also has a Seakeeper mounted in the center of the engine room just forward of the engines; it also has plenty of room for service.
The boat’s warm and stylish interior features teak veneer and stone countertops. The salon has an L-shaped settee with storage below to port and two bar stools forward at the galley counter. To starboard, there’s a bench seat with storage beneath and forward of that is a dinette. The galley is fully forward to port with two SubZero refrigerator drawers and two freezer drawers. A cooktop sits under the counter while the microwave is over the counter in the forward cabinets.
Heading below, a roomy guest stateroom to port has twin side-by-side bunks, plus drawers and a hanging locker. Forward of the guest stateroom, a large tackle locker provides rod storage as well as terminal tackle storage in six drawers and an overhead cabinet. This space could also house a washer and dryer, but I like the tackle storage much better since there’s a laundromat in every town.
The forward master stateroom has a queen island berth athwartship to port with storage underneath. There are two upright over-counter columns on the night stands at each bedside. Drawer storage with two hanging lockers on either end are along the starboard hullside. The large head with shower is fully forward with vanity, stone countertop and lots of storage.
Aft of the master to starboard is a crew stateroom with over/under bunks, a nightstand, storage under and a hanging locker. Aft of the crew quarters is a full head with large shower, over-counter mirrors and cabinet, as well as under-counter cabinet storage. The entire interior is trimmed with warm satin-finished teak for a classy yacht feel.
We ran Tokatomist in Massachusetts’ Buzzards Bay and found that the boat was quick to plane, handled and steered with ease and showed no sign of strain when asked to perform. She clipped along at 27.2 knots at 1,750 rpm burning 78 gph. Pushing her up to 1,850 rpm, she hit 29.2 knots at an 82 gph burn, and at 1,950 rpm, she made 31.2 knots burning 88 gph. She was very comfortable at all ranges. She slow trolled with a clean and whisper-quiet wake, and when pushing her up for a quick troll, she still had a clean wake. She will make a great trolling boat.
Backing down, her rudders let her steer around side to side; she spun in her own axis with one engine in gear and one in reverse and was very responsive to what she was asked to do. Her rudders are large enough to make maneuvering easy at dockside.
The Howd family will surely enjoy this great example of Ritchie Howell’s latest evolution. From New England to Stuart, Florida, to the Bahamas, they are in for many great times and good fishing aboard this well thought-out, well-executed and sharp-looking 61-footer. There is no question the group of builders from the Carolinas are raising the bar in every category, and Ritchie Howell is right there in the middle of it.
LOA: 61’8″ BEAM: 18′ DRAFT: 4’8″ DISPLACEMENT: 65,000 pounds FUEL: 1,250 gallons WATER: 250 gallons POWER: 1,150 hp C-18 Caterpillar engines
**Ritchie Howell **252-202-6651 www.ritchiehowell.com****