Island Packet, like many builders these days, realize that the market for large cruising boats with large price tags may not be as robust as it has been in the past, and they are working to provide new models that are smaller and more affordable. So the company that made a name for itself with a full keel cruising model in the 30-foot range is returning to its roots. But the 36-foot Estero also represents an evolution of the full keel cruiser, (and the company) starting with the model name. Instead of naming each new model with its length (as they have for 30 years), the esoteric Estero is named for an island off Florida’s west coast (a nod to Island Packet’s west coast Florida location). Like all Island Packets, the Estero has an ivory hull, full keel, and Hoyt jib boom, but the accommodations plan takes a page out of Gozzard Yachts (Thanks Robin Van Auken) playbook.
Instead of the tried-and true V-berth forward (where two people often jockey for foot position at the pointy end of the bunk), Island Packet founder and designer Bob Johnson situated the main saloon there. You’ll have to check out the attached illustration to wrap your mind around this concept. The result is a comfortable living area forward of the mast, that has room for a wrap-around “couch” as well as a table and copious stowage. As a result, the middle of the boat is dedicated to a large galley, head and a proper forward facing nav station, while the aft third has room for a large master suite and more humble guest quarters. You don’t see radical changes to “the way things have always been done” in new production boat design too often, so it’s obvious that at least Island Packet understands that when the going gets tough—the tough shakes things up. I’m going to get on one as soon as I can to see how this new approach works. Stay tuned