Jeanneau NC11

The NC11 offers a plethora of excellent design and performance features.

It would take a bold new design to make a boat one could call a “New Concept,” and there are few enough today to qualify for the term new. Little is new in boating — hull design experts will tell you most of what can be done has been done. So when Jeanneau initiated the design for what it ultimately called the NC (for New Concept) 11, it had a tall order.

We tested the first one in America from this French boatbuilder and can attest that it is not one large hull design that qualifies it for this ambitious handle but many new design concepts that bring the entire boat together in a new, comfortable way. Perhaps that is what NC should mean.

First, the main salon is both fully enclosed for inclement weather and utterly convertible to bring what most boaters want from their craft — a new perspective on the outdoors. Or, close the boat all up and turn on the standard air-conditioner. That can be powered by shore power or a factory-installed genset ($14,855). The four-panel aft salon door can slide fully to port or to starboard, completely opening the salon to the spacious cockpit.

Flip and slide the salon’s dinette couch aft, and it suddenly and easily transforms into luxury cockpit seating facing aft. Flip it back and slide out two hassocks stowed beneath the starboard coaming pad under the dinette, and even more seating is available around the table. Slide the table down to convert the unit into a double berth.

If you want more outside in, open the sunroof, open the port and starboard sliding doors, and even open the large captain’s door next to the helm. No other boat has offered such convertibility, in my experience. Even the transom lounge slides fore and aft on rails, allowing a larger cockpit or larger swim platform, depending on the moment’s whim.

If dual engines and joystick maneuvering aren’t first on your priority list, then Back Cove’s 34 ($422,000) comes to the water with a comparable deck plan, albeit sans the convertible salon and sliding glass wall. It sports more traditional lines and has its helm on the starboard side, as is more common in the United States. But the Back Cove lacks the easy-exit captain’s door on the portside helm that eases locking operations, should that be a factor in your cruising.

As we made way in our test, I found the forward lounge of the dinette transforms into a forward-facing passenger seat. The system raises it, giving passengers equal standing and view with the captain on the port side.

The NC 11 has a shallow draft (2 feet 9 inches) and a moderate V-bottom. It can cruise seemingly forever at a hull speed of about 10 mph, or you can drop the hammers and run up to about 34 mph as we did in our test. In rough seas, 15 to 17 mph was a good speed, letting the boat roll with the seas instead of bash over and through waves.

Docking the boat is a snap, whether you are a throttle-and-shift guy or love the Volvo Penta joystick stern-drives. With both, the NC 11 behaved nicely, holding to the line we selected even with a breeze and an oncoming marina current. Open the port and starboard transom boarding doors for a view of the swim platform’s corners.

Once these snappy little diesel engines get you to your destination, there is plenty more to enjoy on board — like two staterooms. The master stateroom sports a V-berth, a clothing locker and plenty of storage for a journey. I could stand up fully to my 6 feet and have headroom to spare. It was the same in the full head with separate shower; so many boats in the class have cramped little showers or worse, a shower head in the same compartment with the head and sink.

The aft berth was surprisingly large, sporting dual single berths and its own clothing locker.

All the furnishings were of durable laminate, carefully cut to fit, using CNC technology. This system of design and fabrication means all cabin and galley components are consistent from boat to boat. Even the teak sole of the cockpit was carefully fabricated, piece by piece, then laid in the cockpit as a single, durable, handsome sole surface.

For the self-taught mechanic, there was plenty of tool space on board to keep things shipshape, and all electrical systems were accessible. Even the dual engines were easily accessible, but only after the transom lounge was slid full aft and both of the sole hatches were lifted.

The NC 11 makes a great home away from home for an adventuring family, with diesel economy and sporty performance.

Comparable model: Back Cove 34