In a world of bulb keels, spade rudders, and light displacement racer/cruisers, where could anyone fit a cutaway full-keel boat with a clipper bow that displaces in excess of 30 tons? Leave it to Cabo Rico to build a boat that, in its day, was a contradiction to contemporary designs in almost every way—including performance, manageability, and sheer style.

Cabo RIco 56 boats we love

You might think that a full keel, sweeping lines, and a clipper bow add up to slow, but in the case of the Cabo Rico 56, you'd be wrong.

When Fraser and Edi Smith, owners of Cabo Rico in Costa Rica, decided to pursue a new yacht design, they commissioned Chuck Paine, who had designed several earlier Cabo models. The result was an inspired 60 foot LOA vessel that was downright regal.

The Cabo Rico 56 hull is a one-piece construction with an underbody design that provides good tracking characteristics and balance, allowing the boat to practically sail herself on most points of sail. Much has been made of the clipper bow, and some may dismiss it as an affectation compared to today’s designs. However, the clipper bow functions as it did 150 years ago when clipper ships were setting speed records. It parts the waves rather than pounding down onto them, and the reserve buoyancy keeps the boat driving through the water while minimizing spray. The extended bowsprit provides an excellent area to stow two large anchors.

Cabo Rico made just a few of these hulls before they succumbed to financial troubles, but each was a bit of art.

Cabo Rico 56 hull number one, Madrina, was built for Dick and Dianne Simon, formerly of Dick Simon Marine. I met Dick and Dianne on Madrina’s sea trial and came away loving both the boat and its owners, who have since become good friends.

The navigation station on the Cabo Rico 56.

The Cabo Rico 56 has a beautiful and expansive navigation station set off to starboard. Note the beautiful, trademark Cabo Rico joinery work.

When they first bought her, they took me sailing. Both Dick and Dianne had been around boats but neither knew how to sail. Dick, an ex-Indy 500 driver, took to sailing quickly. As we headed out of Dana Point Harbor in Southern California on a calm, sunny day, Dianne pointed to a bunch of Sabots, the small sailboats that Southern California kids learned to sail. “Maybe we should try one of those first.” And I thought, “If these two go cruising, they’re gonna die.” But they did go, and they didn’t die. In fact, they loaded up and headed to Mexico on a 1,500-mile shakedown cruise to the Sea of Cortez.

And after sailing onboard, I think I know why. Imagine it, at almost 60,000 pounds, the boat moved as smoothly as a Rolls Royce in only 10 knots of breeze. We didn’t get a chance to test the Cabo Rico 56 in rough seas or gale-force winds, but it is precisely those conditions for which she was built. Dianne shared with me that she picked the Spanish word Madrina because it means “patroness and/or Godmother,” and that’s how she and Dick felt the boat would treat and protect them while cruising.

Before departing, Dick showed me the built-in dive tank holder and air compressor, both of which took up only a portion of the enormous port lazarette. All I could think was, “That does it. I’m dying of jealousy.”


A photo of the Cabo Rico 56 main saloon and galley.

Talk about big and cozy at the same time: The main saloon and galley on the Cabo Rico 56.

Up forward, side-by-side Muir windlasses make anchoring easy. The double-spreader rig and three roller-furling headsails allow for multiple sail combinations.  Madrina has a fully battened main and in-boom furling system. The forward-most sail is a Code 0, a lightweight gennaker, which is also on a furling system.Her lines are all led aft and she has seven electric winches, so sail changes are easy even when short or single-handed.

Below, Madrina’s accommodations are sumptuous. The master stateroom is situated forward with a centerline queen bed and a head with separate stall shower. The main saloon is enormous, and the large galley provides ample counter space. A 120-horsepower Yanmar diesel is situated under the sink, and it is accessible from all sides. Situated to starboard is a forward-facing navigation station, along with a second stateroom. A truly enviable area is the workroom/shop located all the way aft and to port, which has tools, spares, and a generator. It is the kind of space where you could fix anything.

No discussion of a Cabo Rico interior would be complete without a nod to the amazing joinery work and beauty of the honey-colored, hand-rubbed teak that makes the cabins glow. Even the louvered lockers were finished inside and out.

After their Mexico cruise, Dick was forced to sell Madrina. Knowing how much I loved her, he dropped the asking price from his original $1.2 million to $750,000. I desperately wanted the boat, but short of winning the lottery, it was not to be. Instead she went to the East Coast.

I admit, I sill search YachtWorld to try and catch a glimpse of her. Maybe someday I’ll find her again.

Written by: Zuzana Prochazka
Zuzana Prochazka is a writer and photographer who freelances for a dozen boating magazines and websites. A USCG 100 Ton Master, Zuzana has cruised, chartered and skippered flotillas in many parts of the world and serves as a presenter on charter destinations and topics. She is the Chair of the New Product Awards committee, judging innovative boats and gear at NMMA and NMEA shows, and currently serves as immediate past president of Boating Writers International. She contributes to and, and also blogs regularly on her boat review site,