Besides designing a boat to go a certain speed, sleep a set number of guests, and displace a specific amount of water, most manufacturers want a hull that pops from a single mold. Vertical transoms and straight or slightly flared topsides fulfill this parameter nicely. That's why so many cruisers look alike. Yes, these simple shapes have real benefits, but they owe their existence as much to bean counting as to seaworthiness.
Now look at the Cobalt Yachts 46. The fluted aft topsides are as eye-pleasing as the turn of a cover girl's waist. The tumblehome is delightful. Note the sloping transom and the way in which it integrates the slickest hydraulic lift platform you're likely to see. It takes split molds, three in all, to shape such a curvaceous boat. Design is not subordinate to cost aboard the 46.
The 46's function, elegance, and top engineering-a Cummins MerCruiser's Zeus propulsion system, for instance-are linked. Each element isn't just the result of the others but, in fact, allows the others to flourish. There may be reasons to pass on this boat, money being a main culprit, but few cruisers will make you as hungry to take a test ride as the 46.
The quest for maximum headroom also makes many cruisers look like kissing cousins. A hull needs stringers for support, and for a boat to be strong, they need to run all the way to the bow. This imposes the minimum height of the cabin sole. A quick route to avoiding "stooping headroom" is to balloon the foredeck, but that makes for a too-tall cabin trunk and a perilous slope for walking forward to handle lines. Ballooned cabin trunks rarely look good, and they provoke derisive comments. Legendary designer N.G. Herreshoff once said: "If I want more headroom, I'll go on deck." To avoid a boat that looks like a bleach bottle, some builders taper down the forward stringers to nothing, but that seriously compromises the boat's structural integrity.
Wanting a boat that looks sleek but uses full height, full-length stringers, Cobalt loosened the purse strings and engineered a new stringer system. By spreading the stringers outboard and running them under furniture, they could remain full height. The hull, therefore, is still robustly supported and the resulting headroom is 7'. Except for some attractive, functional camber, the foredeck is flat, too. It works. This is one handsome boat.
Question: How many caulk lines are acceptable aboard a luxury cruiser? These goopy furrows, necessary to hide the gap between two mating but separate parts, look okay when brand new. But once the boat is in service, they turn tea-stained, highlighting rather than hiding the gaps they were intended to conceal. Hardtops and arches are glaring examples. But look at the 46's hardtop and you won't see a single seam. Cobalt again used a split mold, this one six parts, to make a seamless, one-part structure.