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Jimmy Buffett: A Pirate Looks At 71

'Gulf-and-western' musician, singer, songwriter, and author, Jimmy Buffet, has a new sailboat. Here's a look inside the Ted Fontaine-designed Drifter.

A seafoam-colored sailboat underway with the word Drifter on the side

Photo: Onne Van der Wal

For boaters of a certain age, there's a good chance they'll have a few Jimmy Buffett songs on their playlists. And while you may know him for his songs about his laid-back lifestyle, this celebrity "Son of Son of a Sailor" has long been a "real boater."

An experienced sailor, Buffett was seeking out his next boat when he ended up at the door of designer Ted Fontaine. The result of their meeting is the Surfari 50, a stylish yet understated, high-tech vessel, constructed by Pacific Seacraft in North Carolina.

Surfari 48

Unlike cruising boats of old where the widest part of the boat was somewhere around the midpoint, the widest part of Drifter, as Buffett has named the vessel, is almost all the way aft. With the beam farther back toward the transom, the cockpit has the space of a much larger boat and is a perfect spot for entertaining. The unique single-level, open-cockpit layout features a fully functional galley equipped with a gas grill, two-burner cook top, two-drawer refrigerator, and an under-counter freezer. An oversized sink, a pullout trash can, and icemaker complete the exterior galley-up concept. A fold-down transom is an ideal place to jump off the boat for a swim or to launch water toys.

Down below you'll find room for four bunks, some stowage, and a generous head. But this is a semicustom boat, so future versions are likely to feature different layouts, and the designer notes that "almost anything" is possible within the overall confines of the hull.

The boat looks stylish and is likely to prove fast both under sail and power. The hull is constructed of infused epoxy resin and carbon fiber, both light and durable. The mast and boom are also suitably high-tech; sail controls lead into the forward end of the cockpit where electric winches allow the helmsman to make adjustments at the touch of a button without leaving the comfort of the centerline helm chair. With such a wide beam — almost 15 feet — twin rudders are a must. The use of twin rudders also means that they don't need to be as deep as a single blade. This feature coupled to the retractable bulb keel make the boat perfect for the skinny waters of the Bahamas, one of Buffett's favorite cruising grounds. Somewhat unusual for a boat of this size is a pair of engines — 80-hp Yanmar saildrive units, equipped with folding props, which give the boat a respectable cruise speed of 10 knots under power.

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Mark Corke

Contributing Editor, BoatUS Magazine

A marine surveyor and holder of RYA Yachtmaster Ocean certification, BoatUS Magazine contributing editor Mark Corke is one of our DIY gurus, creating easy-to-follow how-to articles and videos. Mark has built five boats himself (both power and sail), has been an experienced editor at several top boating magazines (including former associate editor of BoatUS Magazine), worked for the BBC, written four DIY books, skippered two round-the-world yachts, and holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest there-and-back crossing of the English Channel — in a kayak! He and his wife have a Grand Banks 32.