A stylish navy blue-hulled boat approaches the fuel dock at Fort Lauderdale Marina. At the helm is Denison Yachts broker, and former large yacht captain, David Johnson. Johnson, who co-founded and sold a successful international business, decided to try his hand at selling boats. But not just any boat. When he came across the new Austin Parker line, he was impressed and wanted to help introduce them to US boaters.
The Austin Parker shipyard belongs to a wealthy and experienced boatbuilding family who also owns high-end restaurants. In 2008, the shipyard owners took over an established name and reached out to friend and designer Fulvio di Simoni to produce the next generation of Austin Parkers. Without overplaying it, they have a bit of a retro style with distant echoes of Maine fishing boats. The new line of boats (36 to 72 feet currently) retains a dash of Down East style but has its own family look.
The 42-foot Sans Souci, on display at the Palm Beach International Boat Show, garnered a lot of attention and it’s easy to see why. I watch as the boat approaches. It boasts a high bow, simple profile and white hardtop topped by discreet Raymarine radar.
Johnson, who grew up in a boating family, has experience maneuvering much bigger boats. Yet, the way he “parallel parks”, slipping past a much larger yacht and holding the boat in place despite the wake caused by boat traffic around the fuel dock, is impressive. I conclude, wrongly as it turns out, that this boat is equipped with pod drives. While the 42 indeed was designed for use with pods, this particular hull is simply equipped with traditional shafts and twin 480 hp Cummins diesel engines.
David says he is not against pod drives but is of the opinion everyone should learn how to operate traditional shafts before moving on to a joystick-controlled boat. “It takes a little bit of practice, but with a bow thruster and shaft drives, you can do anything,” he says. This AP42 is equipped with a bow thruster and features direct drive and hydraulic steering. In addition to maneuverability, the 42 “Sport” (as Austin Park calls its hardtop model) has a lot to offer from storage space, style and amenities to a very competitive price point.
Down below, a bright owner’s cabin with double berth, a day head with shower and a salon area with a settee that converts into an additional bed, feature real wood veneer and leather and solid construction. The main deck is laid with teak and varnished mahogany-capped rails accentuate the boat’s slightly retro feel.
On deck, under a hardtop with opening windows, amenities include a large banquette with a table that adjusts in height and size, a galley with three hot plates and a sink (all hidden under a sleek countertop), a refrigerator, microwave and stylish built-in lounge chairs that easily fold onto themselves. Storage capacity is more than sufficient for anything from diving equipment to beach chairs, umbrellas and towels. The emergency rafts are hidden from view in an easily opened compartment underneath the banquette. The wiring is neatly done and clearly labeled, and all electrical panels and the engine compartment at centerline are easy to access. The tender garage, the transom door and passerelle, are all hydraulically operated. The cleats and hinges are made of quality stainless steel.
The boat, built in composite (using vacuum-infusion technology) with a deep-V hull (15 degree deadrise at transom), feels sturdy and sure-footed in turns. Visibility is very good from the adjustable helm seat. The compact helm has everything you need: easily labeled switches for light, anchor and wiper blades, etc., fuel and water gages, a GPS, chart plotter, bow thruster control, a place to for your smart phone, and an easy-grip steering wheel.
Regretfully, the day that David picks me from the fuel dock, the weather is close to perfect, with nary a breeze. Why regretfully? This boat comes with great credentials and is reputed to handle rough seas quite well. But on that day, even the Port Everglades inlet–a challenge most days–looks as slick as oil. So, as far as the boat’s ability to handle rough seas, I have to rely on David’s account of an earlier experience.
“When I took the boat to the Palm Beach show, the waves were six to seven feet but I cruised at 26 knots. Nobody went on the outside, except for the big boats. I decided I really wanted to see what this boat was all about, so I headed out of the Hillsboro inlet. With these waves and quartering sea on my bow, it was comfortable,” he says. During our trip, we reach 32.6 knots (close to the stated top speed of 33 knots with the twin Cummins) and cruise effortlessly at 27/28 knots. The windows forward and to the sides help ventilate the whole deck, and it is a completely joyful ride.
Many of the people who looked at the boat so far are shopping for a primary boat. This is a great boat for a family outing, but David also likes the idea of marketing the Austin Parker as an auxiliary boat for superyachts. Built with more of an open platform, it would be an ideal dive boat, for example. Austin Parker currently has a 36-footer under development, which could prove to be an even better candidate as a stylish tender to a large yacht.
Austin Parker offers many options: in addition to selecting various wood types and finishes for the interior, as well as different layouts, you can decide to fully enclose the main deck with glass doors or order the 42 as a fully open boat. Indeed, the first AP 42 introduced, at the Cannes boat show in 2009, was the AP42 Open. Various engine options are available with varied speeds. The IPS with smaller Volvo Penta engine version has a top speed of about 38 knots.
You want cup holders, a forward-facing settee or a diving platform? No problem. “They’ll customize anything,” David says of family-owned Austin Parker. The shipyard’s business model is not to build a huge amount of boats, but to deliver a few finely crafted boats that are just right for the people who own them.