LOA 42 ft., 6 in.
Beam 13 ft., 3 in.
Draft 3 ft., 7 in.
Displacement (full) 22,100 lbs.
Fuel 316 gals.
Water 120 gals.
Engines Yanmar 6CX diesel, 530 hp
Base Price (as tested) $517,223
Standard Equipment
Cummins QSB6.7 480 hp diesel, Kohler 6 kw genset, LED lights, trim tabs, bow thruster, cockpit awning system, Fusion stereo system, two-zone air conditioning and much more.
Optional Equipment
Yanmar 6CX 530 hp diesel, teak on swim platform, Lenco Auto Glide, inverter, Espar heater, freezer in second lazarette, ultra-suede or ultra-leather on captain’s chair and settees, raw-water washdown fore and aft, and much more.
Back Cove Yachts, Rockland, Maine;
(207) 594-8844; backcoveyachts.com
West Coast Dealer
JK3 Yachts, San Diego, (619) 224-6200;
Newport Beach, (949) 675-8053;
Alameda, Calif., (510) 227-2100;

Bellingham Yachts, Bellingham, Wash.;
(360) 671-0990; bellinghamyachts.com

Van Isle Marina, Sidney, B.C.;
(250) 656-1138; vanislemarina.com

Back Cove Downeast 37

Posted: April 1, 2014  |  Boat Type: Express Cruiser

Room to entertain 20, feed six, sleep two. That’s about right.

By: Mike Werling

Jeff Brown and I could have shared our ride on San Diego Bay with 18 or so of our closest friends, but that’s a lot of people to round up on a workday morning. Besides, I was there to put the Back Cove Downeast 37 through its paces, and Brown — the owner of JK3 Yachts — was there to make sure the boat presented well. This was business. I did enjoy myself, however. I mean, I was on a boat.

You may think you’ve seen the Back Cove 37 before, and you might be right. There’s a good chance you saw the 37 version 1.0. This, however, is version 2.0, the Downeast 37, and if you prefer your dayboats with a bigger cockpit and a more open feel, this is the version you want to check out. Whereas v1.0 has a fully enclosed salon/helm, the sides and top of which extend very far aft, leaving a cockpit with just enough room for C-shaped seating, v2.0 eschews the solid aft bulkhead and shortens the sides and top to create a cockpit with enough room for fishing, diving, dancing and — probably its top use — socializing. The other big difference, perhaps the one that will determine whether buyers are v1.0 or v2.0 types, is the Downeast 37 has one stateroom instead of two. That will be a deciding factor for many, but if you’re of the belief that entertaining 20, feeding six (comfortably) and sleeping two is the Golden Ratio, giving up that second stateroom is pure … well … gold.

Owners Will Love

If you’re a boater who loves to entertain but wants to limit overnight guests to a nice round (or elliptical) number, you’ll like the single-stateroom layout. The dinette converts to a berth, but that fact isn’t obvious and doesn’t have to be divulged — a tidbit that provided my working name for the boat: Plausible Deniability.

For those times when there’s a full boat, one of the features owners will be happy to have is the Lenco Auto Glide system controlling the trim tabs. When everyone in the cockpit moves to port to watch the dolphins, the auto-trim system will compensate. The boat’s running efficiency is maximized at all times.

All those people are going to need places to sit and cold drinks, and the Downeast 37 delivers. The access door is in the center of the transom, and identical L-shaped lounges flank it, with room for about 10 people who really like each other (or four family members). Those lounges also qualify in the “Smart Ideas” category, because they fold against the transom to create space, or they can be completely removed to convert to fishing or diving mode. Even with the benches deployed, there is room for a deck chair or two — maybe even two chaises. Forward of all this, in the salon/fore cockpit, are two more settees, one each to port and starboard, and it’s in the base of these that the cold-drink problem is addressed. Built into the port base is a second refrigerator, and to starboard is an ice-maker.

Smart Ideas

Shortening the roof to create more cockpit left a significant amount of outdoor space uncovered, which is great for lots of people, but apparently there are plenty of pasty-skinned folks like me in the Northeast where Back Coves are built, so designers came up with an automated awning that extends from the roofline to the transom, or anywhere in between.

One smart idea that may seem mundane but that longtime boaters will appreciate is the use of Imtra LED lights throughout the boat. Their low power draw makes them a natural on boats.

In the stateroom — a queen berth surrounded by storage niches in the bow and cordoned off from the galley by a curtain — are two more smart ideas (probably more). Over the foot of the bed is a hatch to let in light and air, but there is another smaller hatch at the head of the berth, which I liked if for no other reason than it creates the illusion of openness. The DC outlets belowdecks are accompanied by a companion outlet, with USB charging slots, for all manner of personal electronics.

Hidden Treasures

A 38-foot boat (42 feet from bowsprit to swim platform) probably shouldn’t have as many hidden gems on it as the Back Cove does, but it does. A boarding ladder pulls out from under the swim platform, so getting aboard after diving or watersports is easy.

Storage is always in short supply on a boat, but the 37 does more than most to address it. The aft lazarette has room for the Kohler generator, the batteries — in honest-to-goodness battery boxes no less — and a lot of equipment, gear and supplies. While a lazarette might be expected, it’s the second lazarette/pantry that will catch folks by surprise. Located under the companion seat to port of the helm — lift the molded fiberglass base of the seat, which can be configured to face fore or aft, to reveal it — the second lazarette stretches across the beam and is about 4 feet wide, yielding storage space for weeks worth of food, drinks and supplies. There’s even room for another freezer down there, which is an option. It’s really a great use of space.

The last hidden gem I’ll mention will have more impact on boaters in “buggy” parts of the West. Under the fiberglass sliding door that closes off and secures the belowdecks accommodations is a screen door, which can be deployed without the fiberglass door, keeping out mosquitoes and other bothersome bugs but letting in the night air.

Performance Time

After a short trip from San Diego Yacht Club’s docks to the bay, we got to crank up the 530 hp Yanmar diesel, which has its own spacious home under a hatch in the cockpit, just forward of the first lazarette. There’s room for normal-sized humans to get all around the Yanmar and access its maintenance points. Thanks to modern technology, both on the sound-dampening side and the engine itself, my decibel meter registered just 76 at the helm at a 20-knot cruise speed, which is slightly higher than normal conversation, so you don’t have to yell to hear each other.

We tested the Downeast 37 on a San Diego Bay turned choppy by an approaching winter storm front, so the boat had to perform. From the camel-colored Stidd captain’s chair, which matches the under-roof settees, I could see everything I needed to on the fully-interfaced Garmin 7212 multifunction touch-screen and the Yanmar engine display. A Fusion stereo module shares the dash. What we experienced all the way up the speed curve was fuel efficiency. With full water tanks and half a fuel load (316 gallons is max), we hit 26 knots at wide-open throttle (28 has been achieved), at which speed the Yanmar was burning 25 gallons per hour, getting just over 1 mpg. At a 19.8-knot cruise speed, about a 75 percent load, the engine was burning 15.6 gph. Down at 16 knots, it was 11.3 gph, which yields a 403-mile range (given a 10 percent reserve). Take it real slow, 8 knots, and range increases to 650 miles.

Pushing the throttles all the way forward from a dead stop pushed us to 20 knots in 10.2 seconds with a slight bowrise when the turbo kicked in, but it was quickly leveled off by the Lenco auto tab system. Cranking the ship’s wheel hard over at 26 knots didn’t appear to tax the Downeast 37 at all. It leaned inward slightly, the back didn’t skid and the engine never screamed or strained. Pulling it back in the other direction yielded the same results.

Best Uses

The Back Cove Downeast 37 is a lobster-like boat — it’s blue and built in New England, Brown helpfully pointed out — but it doesn’t perform like a lobster boat, thanks to its deep-V hull and powerful Yanmar diesel. Its layout makes it a great dayboat, or docktail vessel, for crowds of up to 20. It could spend all day in Newport Harbor or San Diego Bay and be happy, but the fact it can handle open water means it can be a solid platform for getting to Catalina Island or the San Juans. The large, easy-to-wash-down cockpit (transom shower is optional) means fishing is on the activity list, if that’s your preference.

Given the capable galley, the head with a separate shower compartment, and the abundance of storage in the second lazarette, the Downeast 37 can be a couples cruising boat, too, giving owners the ability to go for weeks without restocking.

Since better is in the eye of the beholder, I’ll refrain from calling v2.0 an improvement over v1.0; rather, it’s an evolution aimed at couples who want a dayboat that easily converts to a capable, comfortable cruiser with a built-in excuse for passagemaking à deux.

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