When is a 43-foot sport-fish boat not just another 43-foot sport-fish boat? When it’s the latest creation from Jarrett Bay Boatworks — the builder of the intensely customized and equipped hardtop with a full tower built for Greg Barber of Newport, Rhode Island, aptly named Gregarious.
The boat started life as a bare 43-foot hull, and over the next 20 months, morphed into one of the more-beautiful and surprisingly well-equipped boats I’ve tested, regardless of size. The real feat involved getting everything the owner wanted into such a diminutive space, while keeping the space organized and accessible for functionality and ease of service. The team at Jarrett Bay, working with Capt. Peter Nickerson, accomplished the task with flying colors, managing to transform a day boat into a two-stateroom overnighter with all the amenities you’d expect in a 60-plus-foot convertible. To pull it off, twin Cummins QSC8 diesels with Zeus pods became the obvious choice because they mount farther aft than traditional inboards, leaving more room for creature comforts.
My initial look at Gregarious took place while it was up on supports before launching, which provided the opportunity for a close inspection. An Aristo blue boot stripe tastefully sets off the Kingston gray hull. They painted the house cloud white, with the undersides of both tops on the tower are matching gray, as is the upper pipework. A teak toe rail leads to the bow, where a work of art in teak and stainless steel takes on the shape of a pulpit that supports a stainless-steel anchor and chain. Attention to detail is found everywhere, including the line chocks and anchor-locking mechanism on the pulpit. The chocks keep the dock lines from rubbing against the toe rails when tied up. The house appears a bit tall, but when you consider the owner stands 6 feet 2 inches tall, the need for headroom becomes understandable. Walking around to the stern, two things immediately caught my eye; the beautiful teak transom adorned with the boat’s legend, and the Zeus pods, each with twin counterrotating props.
“Greg Barber likes wood,” says his -captain, and the cockpit area marks your first step into Barber’s world. The covering boards, cockpit sole and mezzanine deck are all made from teak. Blue-and-white upholstered split couches sit on either side of the centered door to the cabin. The transom sports a dual-purpose livewell/fish box with ice on demand from the Eskimo Ice system that also feeds a cooler under the port mezzanine deck. This is a New England boat, so there had to be cockpit controls somewhere, right? There are, cleverly hidden under a deck hatch alongside the cooler. Lift it up, and there’s an auxiliary joystick and engine controls, plus a USB port for an iPad linked to the Furuno helm electronics. You will also find a freezer and tackle-storage compartments in the mezzanine deck, and doors located on either side under the gunwales that provide access to washdowns, receptacles for electric reels and a Glendinning shore power cable reel.
While most boats this size feature an open-express configuration, this one comes with a completely enclosed, air-conditioned house and an electrically operated door to the cockpit. The entire helm and salon space is done in ropy cherry with painstakingly matched grains that recall the atmosphere of a Victorian library, except the cabinetry is probably better done here. The floors throughout are exotic African sapele set off by light maple border strips. There’s a dark blue settee to port with a cozy reading chair to starboard next to a large, built-in flat-screen TV. The helm area features a pair of custom Stidd captain’s chairs, and the navigation center is done in dark gray upholstery. There are drawers and cupboards for storage, two VHF radios, three Furuno LCD screens for sonar and navigational electronics, engine controls, and three electrical control -panels built into the cabinets with breakers -segregated among them by function.
To port of the centered helm, a set of stairs leads belowdecks. Since Barber has grandchildren who will be aboard, there is a slide-out child gate concealed in a pocket at the top of the stairs to prevent falls. At the foot of the stairs, a well-equipped galley with overhead space opens to the cabin above. Dark granite countertops and cherry woodwork dominate the galley, head, and staterooms. A pair of Sub-Zero refrigerated drawers holds ample food, and a drop-in freezer is set into the countertop for the owner’s ice cream. The cabinetry is intricately designed with each drawer or door revealing purpose-built interior spaces. There is even a garbage disposal built into the sink. A cleverly hidden hatch in the galley deck opens to reveal a large storage area, and a day couch located on the starboard side of the galley space has a cutout so you can stretch out your legs should you decide to lie down for a quick nap.
The forward VIP stateroom features a pedestal double bed with two -hanging closets, and storage everywhere you look. Recessed lights and controls for the stereo, lighting and room temperature are concealed under the headboard. The bed lifts to access a large storage area beneath. The aft stateroom features twin beds with a large dresser-type cabinet separating them. Raising the starboard bed provides access to the hot-water system, accumulator tank and more, while the port bed offers a deep storage area below. Storage cabinets abound here too, along with controls and 110-volt power receptacles for charging cellphones and other electronics while you sleep.
Tower — Upper Station
The Palm Beach tower is beautifully crafted, and features a platform over the hardtop for the radar and FLIR units, and a recessed cradle for a six-man Zodiac life raft. Making the climb to the top of the tower reveals a -complete upper control station where the captain can run all the systems. Engine controls include both traditional levers and a joystick with transfer unit and digital readout, along with controls for the ACR spotlight in a lift-open compartment starboard of the wheel. Navigational and fishing electronics are monitored through a small Furuno LCD and an R33 unit in a matching compartment on the port side. Teasers can be adjusted from the station via a remote-control system for the Miya Epoch US9 reels, and there’s a VHF and hailer for -communications in the console face.
Accessed through a hatch aft of the cabin door, the engine room contains an amazing array of equipment and systems laid out to provide access to everything that requires servicing. In addition to the Cummins diesels and the pods farther aft, you will find a water maker, 12.5 kW Onan genset, two 55-gallon freshwater tanks, six batteries and a charging system, an Iso-Boost unit to control shore power, an ice maker, a 12-volt inverter, Racor filters, AC compressors, a descaling system, black and gray water tanks, a sea chest, pumps for the livewell, and more. If greater access is needed, the cockpit sole rises on rams to raise the overhead.
The Jarrett Bay 43 performs well with the Cummins/Zeus propulsion system, which offers an interesting alternative to traditional inboard power. Throttle up on the QSC8 engines, and the dual counter-rotating props push the boat on plane like oversize outboards. The bow rises momentarily, then settles quickly into a level running angle. The boat responds aggressively to input from the helm for the simple reason that with pods, you are steering the boat with the props rather than a rudder. The boat backs down well, although the engine computer needed tweaking to raise the rpm limiter in reverse, and it spins around like a dervish for chasing hooked fish. The trim tabs integrated into the pods can be operated manually or on automatic, which lets the computer level the boat and determine the angle of attack. The high-revving diesels are redlined at 3,080 rpm by a governor, and can push the 37,000-pound boat to 36 knots with a fuel burn of 63 gph fully loaded. This boat likes to cruise at 2,600 rpm, making 28 knots at 43.6 gph. The engines are unusually quiet and smooth.
Gregarious is a mind-blowing engineering achievement with a level of sophisticated luxury beautifully executed by Jarrett Bay’s staff of talented craftsmen that has to be seen to be believed.