By Steve Knauth
Back Cove 29: Used Boat Review
A couple finds this 29 foot Down East cruiser to be the perfect boat for their working lifestyle.
What do you do after you’ve done the Great Loop in a 39- foot trawler? In 2008, Scott and Mary Coles had just completed that dream cruise. Five years of planning and execution, it was a 6,700-nautical mile voyage in their Mainship 390 trawler along North America’s great inland waterways — the Hudson River, the St. Lawrence, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi, the Intracoastal Waterway and others.
Once back home in Ipswich, Mass., however, they had a decision to make. “We returned to the work force and saw we needed a smaller boat so that we could still stay attached to the boating life,” says Scott Coles, 53, a building materials salesman.
Enter the Back Cove 29, a single-engine, Down East cruising boat built with modern materials along traditional lines. “We had seen this boat at shows and always liked the styling,” Coles says.
The couple came across a 2006 model at DiMillo’s Yacht Sales in Portland, Maine. “We had our trawler listed with them and had been looking at Back Coves for sale on the Internet.”
Then the brokerage called with an offer on the Mainship. “As usual, the offer was too low for a straight-up sale, but with a little negotiation we were able to sell our boat and buy the Back Cove,” Coles says.
The boat was in like-new condition, with 125 hours on the engine, and the price was $150,000. They took possession of Mascot in spring 2009. “We liked the look of the boat, as well as its amenities,” Coles says. “We were used to a certain level of comfort with the Mainship and didn’t want to give up too much. I knew the boats were built in Maine by the same folks who build Sabre yachts. You can’t go too far wrong with that pedigree.”
The key to the Back Cove was its speed, compared to the trawler, Coles says. “We now needed a boat that would be able to get us somewhere in a relatively short time,” he says.
The larger boat was great for a long, protracted voyage, but the couple were ready for a different kind of boating, one that called for speed so they could “get to the good spots, even if just for a weekend,” as Coles put it. To that end, their Back Cove 29’s power comes from a 315-hp Yanmar 6-cylinder diesel. Cruising speed is 16 knots at 2,500 rpm, 20 knots at 3,000 rpm. Top end is near 30 knots.
“Traveling at trawler speeds is great if you have the time. For working people, free time is very precious,” Coles says. “So my idea was to trade down in size and increase speed yet maintain the same economy as I got with the Mainship.”
On the Great Loop, the trawler averaged 3 gph traveling at around 7 knots, about 2.3 mpg. “The Back Cove proved to give me about the same [fuel] economy cruising at about twice the speed.”
The 29-footer, with its deep-vee bottom, handles well, too, especially in a following sea. “The Back Cove’s higher speed allows her to ride over the waves, and she tracks straight as an arrow,” Coles says. “We’ve been out in conditions that would have turned us back to port before.”
Mary Coles likes the look of the Back Cove and appreciates the safe access around the boat. “The deck is clean and easy to get about on, with good handrails,” she says.
The aft deck is open and comfortable, and the cabin below has all of the needed amenities. “We have a couple of chairs and a folding table to set up when at anchor or in a marina,” she says. “The interior is perfect for weekend escapes, but it’s a bit challenging for longer cruises.”
They’ve enhanced the layout with additional storage and a convertible sleeping area that turns into an inviting spot for reading or an afternoon nap. The enclosed head compartment has a marine head, a sink and a “wet” shower. “The entire compartment becomes the shower, and it can be messy to clean up,” Scott Coles says. Using the hot-and-cold cockpit shower solves this problem, at least when on the hook. “And staying at a marina once in a while keeps the crew happy,” he adds.
The best thing about the Back Cove 29 is its versatility, and that’s why Mascot never sits at the dock too long, Mary Coles says. “Our goal over this past summer was to use the boat every weekend in some capacity,” she says. “Sometimes, we would head directly to the boat after work on Friday and cruise to an anchorage or mooring field for the night.”
More distant Massachusetts destinations included Gloucester, Newburyport, Salem and Boston. There also was a nine-day cruise to Rockland, Maine, where they took in the annual Sabre/Back Cove Rendezvous.
The Back Cove 29 fits the couple’s vision for an easy-to-use, stylish, swift and seaworthy coastal cruiser just about perfectly, Scott Coles says. “Mary says she really likes this boat,” he says. “And I do, too.”
The Back Cove 29’s traditional Down East look belies its high-tech construction, which features vacuum-bagged Divinycell with multiaxial E-glass reinforcement to create a modern deep-vee hull with a prop recess. A 260-hp Yanmar 6-cylinder diesel is standard, delivering a 15- to 20-knot cruising speed. An optional 315-hp power plant will push the boat close to 30 mph.
On deck, the adjustable helm seat (with companion) sits on a raised bridge for good sightlines, with a molded fiberglass instrument pod and a destroyer-style stainless wheel. A tall, aluminum-frame windshield wraps around the helm for weather protection. The large cockpit has room for an L-shaped settee and an accompanying ice chest, as well as optional fishing gear. Engine access is through the cockpit.
Below, the cabin features cherry and varnished ash, with a teak-and-holly cabin sole. The galley, at the foot of the companionway, has a standard alcohol/electric cooktop, a microwave oven and an under-counter refrigerator. The main cabin has a centerline drop-leaf table with bench seating on both sides, convertible to bunks. A large overhead hatch and opening ports provide light and ventilation. The V-berth forward is nearly 7 feet long. The head compartment is to starboard, across from the galley, with a marine head (with macerator), sink and wand-style shower.
Steve Knauth is a contributing writer for Soundings Magazine. This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue.