Tucked into a sunny corner of the docks at Strictly Sail Pacific & Power Expo, I found a boat I'd been waiting to see ever since the word on the street emerged that Island Packet Yachts had a new model in the works. Never mind the impending, ongoing economic downturn; any builder with a new boat would surely get some attention when it splashed in the spring. If it offered something different, maybe the ATTENTION would arrive with all capital letters.
So, is IPY's Estero different? At first blush, it's the same color as its sisters, same full-keel underbody, trademark sturdy look, traditional cabin ports, in-mast mainsail furling and self-tacking foresail on a Hoyt jib boom. But closer inspection reveals a more vertical stem and transom, giving it a bit of a Herreshoff aesthetic, and the jib-boom is for the jib, not the staysail, as it is on other recent IPY models.
Belowdecks comes the real surprise...a no-apologies one-couple layout that can do a bit of everything. The back half of the boat offers room to cook, navigate, privacy for the owners, and a spacious quarter berth that'll be a great sea berth from which the skipper can keep an eye on his nav instruments and make any fast trip on deck as needed.
But when you first descend into the cabin, it's the front half of the boat that startles you. There's the mast and, forward of it, spacious, easy-access settees on either side of a folding table.
For a 36-footer, there's a remarkable amount of room for lunch or dinner, and if the grandkids are aboard, this can be converted into a large sleeping area. Oh yeah, there's also a big head to starboard, amidships, shower and all.
IPY's president, Bob Johnson, has designed the Estero with offshore capability, starting with a Category A hull laminate, yet has matched the interior to the way many people sail, which is a few hours at a time. This is the company's first new model under 40 feet since 1997, and while it includes many of the yacht-style features that sailors have come to expect from Island Packet, such as double, independently controlled refrigeration boxes and a solid wood table, the boat was priced "aggressively" at the show, at $298,950 (converts to about €260,000, landed in Northern Europe; slightly more to the Mediterranean.).
I asked about the other obvious point of difference with this model, a name with no number attached. Bill Bolin, VP of Sales and Marketing, let me in on a secret, which is that the company always names models they're developing after islands and never uses lengths, so they don't inadvertently tip their hand when talking about what's coming up. Estero (eh-STAIR-oh) is the island on which Fort Myers Beach sits, on the west coast of Florida. When it came time to take the boat to market, they'd come to like Estero too much to give it up. Now they're hoping the first buyers to order these boats will feel the same way.