Boating is ultimately about experiences. Slipping through a harbor without the noise and, more noticeably, without vibration from idling diesels is certainly a unique experience aboard powerboats. But electric handling is just a small part of what makes the Huckins Hybrid Sportsman 38 a couple’s cruiser for the 21st century.
Interior and Accessories
Let’s start where cruisers spend their time. The helm deck is enclosed on three sides by a large windshield and side windows, while stout stainless-steel stanchions—styled from a prewar vintage Huckins Sportsman—support the cabin top’s aft corners. The result feels like an open bridge but also keeps crew dry. Farther aft, cockpit seating wraps around the stowable mahogany folding-leaf table, where an electric retractable awning provides shade.
Huckins opens up belowdecks accommodations too—literally. The entire dash opposite the helm opens 5 feet wide, adjoining the helm deck to the galley below. When cruising doublehanded, that makes summoning extra hands or eyes a snap. Open-concept accommodations below amplify usable space and also serve triple duty. By pressing a switch, the island queen bed splits into a traditional V-berth. Press it again to raise a table from the sole, creating an ample dinette—one space for multiple uses.
While other boats offer a bow-to-stern open layout, none currently include 33 kilowatt-hours of stored lithium energy. Hybrid propulsion and AC generation aren’t just “green” and eco-friendly; they elevate cruising experiences overall.
Twist two keys and throw two switches to alternate between either Cummins diesels or Elco electric propulsion. Both utilize the same Glendinning shift and throttle levers and docking joystick. All-electric docking is whisper-quiet in gear and silent in neutral, and also enhances control. Idling at 600 rpm, diesel engines turn propellers 333 rpm. At that same dead-idle shift-lever position, electric motors turn those same propellers just 200 rpm—in short, electric propulsion adds one-third more precision to close-quarters maneuvering. With electric motors cranked to their maximum, propellers provide the same oomph as diesels turning 840 rpm. In my trials, electric propulsion brought the bow into a steady 20-knot breeze just fine. At-the-ready diesel docking provides more power.
Focusing on electric propulsion misses other hybrid-unique experiences. For example, sear fresh-caught ahi on the cockpit grill while sipping perfectly chilled sauvignon blanc, watching the sunset, and listening to wavelets lap the hull rather than a genset’s steady drone. Propulsion batteries fuel an 8 kW inverter that handles household-current systems for well more than 24 hours—including that electric grill, adjacent wine chiller, and even overnight air conditioning. Batteries about two-thirds depleted by two hours running at 6 mph, or five hours drawing from the inverter at 50 percent load, recharge in about three hours while running at displacement speed on diesels, or the same three hours from dockside power or the generator.
Idling along on electric propulsion admittedly doesn’t save much fuel aboard fast powerboats, but engine-maintenance savings are calculable. Utilizing just one hour of electric propulsion during each five-hour day underway cuts hours accumulated on diesels and defers required maintenance by 20 percent, adding convenience and longevity.
While inspired by the Huckins 36-foot Sportsman built more than 80 years ago, stepping aboard this new Sportsman 38 reveals a fully modern implementation. For instance, the cockpit and helm deck feature clean lines in a stark white, unadorned save-the-mahogany bulkhead, a pelin-burl helm console, and subtle mahogany trim around overhead hatches. Art deco embellishments, from the polished stainless-steel bow breastplate through the banjo-style steering wheel, Huckins-emblazoned transom gate, and even the mahogany open-shelf galley cabinetry, add a retro vibe without seeming old-fashioned.
In profile, sweeping curves and a subtly broken sheer evoke the vintage Sportsman, but the trunk cabin draws from post-war boats. Frameless windows, the all-stainless bow rail, and the hullside flush engine air intakes are decidedly modern. Bright mahogany cabin sides seem vintage, except they’re actually vinyl veneer laminated atop lightweight composite panels and topped with eight coats of clear urethane—and those panels come off the boat for eventual refinishing.
After adding nearly a ton of weight from propulsion batteries, electric motors, an inverter and the backup 8 kW generator (which many boaters may find unnecessary), Huckins utilizes foam-cored Kevlar and carbon-fiber composites, vacuum-infused with urethane acrylate resins, to keep displacement to 22,000 pounds. That’s on par with similar lightweight diesel express cruisers, and it keeps the Sportsman nimble and quick running just two 380 hp diesels. The ride proved smooth and dry at cruising speed on a windy test, but Huckins’ Quadraconic hull rides on plane at 17 mph, which further smooths particularly bumpy days.
Hybrid cruisers might seem like a novelty for now, but with this Sportsman 38, Huckins shows how electric propulsion enhances onboard experiences—whether for day trips or weekslong adventures—in ways combustion-only powerboats don’t.
How We Tested
- Engines: Twin 380 hp Cummins QSB 6.7 380 hp/Twin Elco EP-20 20 hp electric motors
- Drive/Props: Inboard/22″ x 28″ 4-blade bronze
- Gear Ratio: 1.80:1 Electric Drive Belt Ratio 3.00:1
- Fuel Load: 160 gal. Water on Board: 72 gal. Waste on Board: 23 gal. Crew Weight: 400 lb.
- With redundant propulsion, you can dock with twin-propeller joystick control, and even run one propeller on diesel and one on electric nearly endlessly.
- Slow down and coast between 2 and 7 mph on electric versus 6 mph while idling with diesels.
- Trunk cabin provides interior room but also allows ample side decks. The cabin-top handrails further enhance safety when headed forward.
- Helm-deck convertible double bed suffices for a few nights in a breathtaking anchorage, but guests may prefer a hotel room once back at a marina. (But is that really a bad thing?)
- Diesels only charge lithium batteries while propellers are turning, although the generator recharges batteries while at anchor if needed.
Pricing and Specs
|Price:||$1,298,000 (with test power)|
|Displacement (approx.):||22,000 lb.|
|Transom Deadrise:||7 degrees|
|Max Cabin Headroom:||6’6″|
|Fuel Capacity:||285 gal.|
|Available Power:||Twin Cummins QSB 6.7 380, 420 or 500 hp diesels with or without twin Elco EP-20 20 hp electric motors; twin or triple outboards to 1,050 hp total|
Speed, Efficiency, Operation
Huckins Yacht – Jacksonville, Florida; 904-389-1125; huckinsyacht.com