By Jack Hornor
Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012
If you are looking for a boat that is as unique and sturdy as it is handsome you need look no further than the Duffy 35. Although hundreds of Duffy 35s have been built to date, no two are exactly alike. Each is a product of a collaborative effort between the builder and original owner. Customers range from commercial fishermen to liveaboard cruisers and most boats have been built to meet the buyer's specific requirements.
Downeast-style boats have evolved over the last 150 years to meet the rigorous demands of Maine fishermen and lobstermen. However, in recent years, they have become increasingly popular among pleasure boaters more for their style and salty appearance. Designed by Spencer Lincoln, one of the best known and most prolific Downeast naval architects, the Duffy 35 is currently built by Atlantic Boat Company of Brooklin, ME, although she owes her name to the firm Duffy and Duffy Custom Yachts who first built the model in 1982.
Since its introduction, nearly 350 Duffy 35 hulls have been produced. Both companies have built completely finished boats as well as boats to any stage of completion the customer would like ranging from bare hulls to nearly complete construction.
The Duffy 35 has a very attractive profile with a pronounced sheer which is three feet above the water at the stern, dips slightly lower along the cockpit and then rises to more than five feet above the water at the bow. The beam is noticeably narrower at the transom than amidships and the slight tumblehome (sides that turn in at the deck rather than flare out) at the transom of the Duffy 35 is typical of the graceful, traditional Downeast workboat style.
Photo by Capt. Pete Fisher
Below the waterline the hull has a "built down" integral, full-length keel and sharply angled entry forward. The after sections are nearly flat with a radius of about 18 inches where the hull sides and bottom meet. This semi-displacement hull form is well suited to fishermen and lobstermen who must get their nets and pots onboard without hanging up on the hard chine of planing hulls.
Typical Duffy construction consists of a hand-laid solid fiberglass hull, fiberglass composite decks and cabin house with end grain balsa wood core and cockpit decks of marine grade plywood covered in fiberglass. However, the builder has and continues to offer custom construction to buyers& specifications, and has built composite hulls with either balsa or foam core. No matter what the method of construction, the Duffy 35 hulls are well built and an excellent example of the long-standing tradition of Maine boatbuilders. The quality of interior finishes and joiner work are finished to yacht quality.
As noted earlier, no two Duffy 35 models are exactly alike although they do share many similarities in appearance and layout. In order to maximize cockpit space, the cabin trunk is pushed quite far forward resulting in a small working foredeck. Although the foredeck is only five feet long from the bow to the forward end of the cabin trunk, there is room for storage of ground tackle and handling dock lines, if not sun bathing. The side decks along the truck cabin, cabin house and cockpit are at least 12 inches at any point allowing for very sure footing.
Cockpit sizes vary with cabin configurations but all are a minimum of 25" deep and no less than seven and a half feet wide between the side decks. The cockpit of the express model is more than 12 feet long from the bridgedeck to the transom deck and has more than 100 square feet of open space for entertaining or fishing, or it can seat a dozen people comfortably around the side and stern decks for a harbor cruise.
Photo by Capt. Pete Fisher
The bridgedeck and saloon is forward, raised several inches from the cockpit deck to accommodate the engine below and has the hydraulically-controlled helm to starboard. The rest of the arrangement is left up to the original buyer. A flybridge with a second set of controls and additional seating has been a popular option on many models.
The lower helm is directly over the engine compartment, and while noise level may not be an important consideration for a Maine lobsterman, it can be a considerable annoyance to pleasure boaters trying to carry on a normal conversation while underway. This is a condition that can be improved considerably with the addition of good sound insulation under the deck and in the engine compartment.
In addition to the semi-custom built boats offered by Duffy and Atlantic Boat Company, a number of kit boats have been sold and subsequently finished by owners or other boatbuilders, further complicating an accurate description of interior arrangements. The arrangements can be as simple as a head and V-berth forward or as elaborate as a fully finished liveaboard cruiser with a complete galley and fully enclosed main saloon.
I don't have any prejudice against fast boats, but I do have a problem with trying to make a boat designed for moderate speed "fast" by increasing horsepower. To me it makes no sense to try and push a boat beyond its practical speed range. That speed, for the Duffy 35, is a 12- to 18-knot cruising range with a top speed of 15 to 20 knots. If you want to go faster you should not be looking at this hull form.
Over the years, Duffy 35s have been built with as little as 200 hp and as much as 735 hp. One of the most popular engines has been the Caterpillar model 3208 with horsepower ranging from 210 to 435 depending on how they are configured and whether they are turbocharged and after-cooled.
The Duffy 35 is indeed a stable, steady performer in nearly all conditions, but the ride, even in moderately choppy sea conditions, can be a wet one. The builder installed spray rails at the bow and stern to help deflect spray but they are too small to be very effective.
Due to their reputation of quality New England craftsmanship, Duffy 35s tend to be priced at the higher end of the market for boats of this size; but these are great looking boats that offer owners lasting value and lots of versatility.
Naval architect Jack Hornor was the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He was on the boards of the American Boat and Yacht Council, the National Association of Marine Surveyors, and the Society of Boat and Yacht Designers. He and his wife sailed their Catalina 42, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.