Power & Motoryacht by Herb McCormick
November 20, 2022.
Meet Android founder Rich Miner and his low-profile, high-tech masterpiece, the striking Hood 35 LM.
It’s the swooping, arcing, very considered trailing edge—a graceful, subtle curve that defines the aft border of the coach roof pillar on the arresting Hood 35 LM Express Cruiser. The initials represent the renowned Maine boatyard, Lyman-Morse, whose builders transferred a design by the naval architects at C.W. Hood Yachts from computer-screen renderings to buoyant reality. It’s an artful curve that establishes this sedan’s no-nonsense profile, and sets the tone for the craft’s entire, remarkable aesthetic.
And make no mistake, aesthetics played a central role in this vessel’s very creation. In fact, the story of precisely how that coach roof’s wavy teak accent came to be launches a grander tale of the collaboration between the 35-foot cruiser’s designers and builders, a very particular owner with a specific set of wants and needs who conspired with this posse of craftsmen to successfully address them all.
In other words, when assessing owner Rich Miner’s Hood 35LM, Shadow, it helps to begin with the elemental matters to understand the big picture.
During the pandemic, Rich Miner mocked up his own interior designs for Shadow and shared them with his engineering team via private channel YouTube videos. The understated yet stunning results speak for themselves.
The first element of course, is the pillar curve. When asked about it, Chris Hood, who teamed up with design partner Dave Robison on Shadow, had a good chuckle. “[We’ve had] a lot of conversations about that,” he said. “I wouldn’t say contentious, but certainly a lot of thought went into it. Every boatbuilder in the world wants to get that right when they do an elegant Down East boat.”
Hood called it “the Hinckley swoop,” so named for the feature as fashioned by that longtime Maine builder’s popular line of Picnic Boats. But the very last thing anyone wanted, including Miner, was a precise reprisal. Custom designs, after all, require custom solutions. So, that swoop was drawn, then redrawn, then drawn again, some more rake here, a slightly flattened radius there. As with almost every tiny detail on the boat, back and forth it went, each iteration receiving a critical owner’s appraisal.
“At the end of the day, Dave and I acquiesced a bit,” said Hood. “It’s probably a little different than what we wanted, but it’s exactly what Rich wanted. He loves it. And that’s what’s important.”
She’s designed to inconspicuously tie up alongside commercial Maine lobster boats but Shadow is anything but an everyday work—or pleasure—boat.
When one considers the trio of Miner, Lyman-Morse and C.W. Hood, it’s hard to imagine a more synergistic group of mariners. It was Chris Hood’s uncle Ted—a legendary sailmaker, America’s Cup winner and naval architect—who designed Lyman-Morse founder Cabot Lyman’s round-the-world cruising sailboat Chewink. That beautiful Seguin 49 was but one of many shared Ted Hood/LM alliances. And C.W. Hood had recently forged their own serious relationship with Lyman-Morse with the launch of the Hood 57 LM, a cold-molded, fully found, flybridge performance cruiser.
The co-founder of Android, Inc., (yes, that Android) Miner had established his own ties with C.W. Hood after purchasing a jet-drive version of their sweet little Katama 30. That relationship strengthened when Miner decided to convert the coupe into a hard-top cruiser. Tellingly, once that project was successfully completed, Miner told Hood, “You know, and some point I’m going to want a bigger boat.”
Jet-driven propulsion was a priority from the beginning. Miner owns a pair of homes in Maine, one in the coastal town of Phippsburg and another a few hours away on an island in Eggemoggin Reach. The former lies along shallow flats where seafloor contact is always a possibility, the latter is accessed through waters peppered with lobster pots—both hazards that jets can address with aplomb. Miner greatly admires jet-equipped Hinckley Picnic Boats and, naturally, had a serious look at their 34 S model.
Shadow blends venerable wood construction with ultra-modern epoxies and carbon fiber. Propelled by HamiltonJet Waterjets, her rigid hull will comfortably pound along all day at 40 knots.
But, well, back to the pesky aesthetics. “Phippsburg is a working waterfront and my slip sits between a couple of lobster boats,” he said. “So I wanted something that fit in and wasn’t too shiny and glossy. Something that, from a distance, looked like one of those other boats along the dock. Until maybe you get a little closer.”
“He definitely wanted to blend in with the backdrop a little bit,” added Hood.
Impressed by Lyman-Morse’s craftmanship on the 57-footer, and prodded by C.W. Hood’s regular, gentle updates with sketches and ideas for a cool boat in the mid-30-foot range, Miner decided to pull the trigger a couple years ago. Yes, at the very outset of the dreaded pandemic. It was Drew Lyman, Cabot’s son who now runs the business, who got the go-ahead call from the tech mogul. “Rich said, ‘I want to support the marine industry, and you and your team, through this pandemic,’” Lyman recalled. “‘Let’s get this boat going.’ It was a very welcome commitment at the time.”
With that, the work commenced.
Shadowmen Rich Miner and Drew Lyman
Hood knew from the outset that the 35 LM would be fashioned utilizing the builder’s specialty: cold-molded construction with a blend of Douglas fir and western red cedar. “Building a robust hull with epoxy and wood stringers, bulkheads and so forth gave us a super-rigid, super-strong, super-quiet hull,” he said. “We knew we were going to have a 40-knot boat. So, we wanted it to feel good and solid, with none of the creaks or rattles you hear on a lot of boats. Then we took the extra step to save some weight by doing the deck, engine boxes and hard top in carbon fiber. We put the weight where it counts, in the hull, and lightened everything else up.”
Meanwhile, Miner was putting his own personal touches into the design, starting with the large coach-roof windows that could be raised inward and fastened beneath the ceiling, a feature he’d enjoyed and incorporated into the refit hard top on his Katama 30. “When you have the ability to seal things up, and then open everything to feel the outdoors, which was a real goal, it just makes the boat so much more versatile,” he said.
After the collective doctorate-level dissertation on coach-roof pillar swoosh design, Miner next turned his attention to the sleeping arrangements, specifically converting the cockpit settees into comfy berths for his two teenage daughters, and the cabin’s below-deck V-berth into a full-size queen. In both instances, he mocked up miniature solutions at home and then recorded them on private YouTube videos that he forwarded to the team, including LM’s in-house project manager, Mike Silverstein, who tied everything together. One of the great triumphs of the design is how it maximizes every inch of space on the 35-foot platform.
The utilitarian helm of Shadow belies the purpose-built and cutting-edge technology beneath her jet and joystick-driven propulsion, navigation, monitoring and autonomous drive systems. Why would a tech mogul have it any other way?
Next, given Miner’s Android background (he sold the company to Google in 2005, but continues to consult with them), it’s no surprise that his boat is techy to the max, starting with the flash twin HamiltonJet HJX29 Waterjets powered by a pair of Yanmar 480 diesels. Continuing the hands-on theme, Miner reached out directly to HamiltonJet’s managing director, Ben Reed, inquiring about the company’s new jets which were powered by their AVX control system. These HJX29’s had been employed exclusively in military and commercial applications. “Ben said, ‘Let me get your engineers and my team together,’” said Miner. “We had the specs nine months in advance of their official announcement, and were the first recreational boat to launch with them.”
Finally, Miner contacted Gregoire Outters, the general manager of Raymarine. “All of their MFD’s run Android as their core OS, and Google has been getting more into tablets and large screens, so I was able to help a little bit, and get some access,” said Miner. That accessibility was responsible for the advance procurement of Raymarine’s proprietary YachtSense digital switching system and their new Cyclone radar unit, as well as their 19-inch Axiom multifunction displays and a color-capable infrared camera from their FLIR division. Lastly, Shadow is the first powerboat to be equipped for autonomous operation with a Sea Machines Robotics setup that was being tested and brought online last summer.
Shadow is most certainly a unique, advanced, engineering marvel. But, as Hood explained, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Construction of the second Hood 35 LM is underway, but in a very different configuration—with a flybridge and Volvo Penta sterndrive propulsion—which Hood says was always a priority with the design. (Just for the record, Hood says you could also go with outboards or even Volvo Penta IPS pod drives; we’re talking equal-opportunity get-go.)
Miner considers his options.
“The flybridge gives you another living space,” he said. “With all the equipment aft, you have room for a sun pad for the kids and a whole bunch more room under the deck for generators, tankage, Seakeepers, all that stuff. It’s a simple system with regard to maintenance, and you can still tilt the motors up and get into shallow water. So, it just makes it all more versatile.”
However, that’s a different boat and another story. For this one, on a trip to Lyman-Morse’s waterfront yard in Camden last summer (the company has another facility in nearby Rockland, where the 35 LM was built), I got the chance to see what Shadow—so named for the Miner family’s eldest Golden Retriever—was made of.
She’s a handsome boat with a purposeful countenance. She’s clearly meant to go places, even in the foul stuff. And she, of course, has that Down East mien. The dark hull contrasts beautifully with the white coach roof. Unlike the Hood 57 LM, which is a showcase of brightwork and varnish, other than the teak handholds and the trim borders on the coach roof and in the cap rail atop the sheer line, there’s very little topside wood. The toned-down, sandblasted stainless steel, however, was a feature borrowed from the 57-footer. Taken as a whole, she’s a lovely craft. As an exclamation point, both the radar and antenna array are painted black, a slick touch indeed. I suspect it will all turn a few heads, favorably, on the local lobster boats.
With a few twists of the wrist on the jet’s control stylus, Drew Lyman extricated us from our tight slip with a nonchalance that bordered on showing off. Fog was descending on downtown Camden as we wound our way through the busy mooring field and into open water, where the vapors closed in to something like three boat-lengths of surrounding visibility. No doubt we were in Maine.
It’s All in the Curve. Indeed.
I kept an eye on the engine controls as Lyman slowly leaned on the throttles, having already switched the steering from stylus to wheel. The seaway was lumpy, but Shadow almost effortlessly muscled through the chop: 20 knots at 2550 rpm and, seemingly moments later, 41 knots at 3350 rpm. He didn’t seem at all bothered that we couldn’t see a bloody thing.
Then came the question to me that, given the foggy circumstances, I was both highly anticipating and secretly dreading: “Wanna drive?”
I’ve spent a bit of time operating jet-drive joysticks before but the mouse-like stylus, shaped like a hull, was another, super-trippy matter altogether. I spent a minute or two just futzing around with it, spinning the boat in its own circle, zipping sideways, and so on. Pure fun, and remarkable dialed-in control.
Then I switched helms and opened ‘er up. Much has been written about the variations in the ride and attitude of wood boats versus glass ones. I won’t pretend to know the difference, but I will say I was pretty stunned by the pure bite and acceleration of the jets, especially given the chop. The bow rose precipitously, then leveled down, and we were off and away. I’m not sure what impressed me more, that initial burst of speed or the quiet that followed it—and we were trucking. At 34 knots, given the blank, gray vista, I was not going to push my luck further. Still, all my performance questions had been answered, in a purely positive light.
At the end of our spin, rolling back into Camden as the weather started to lift, I got the same sort of feeling I believe Rich Miner will experience countless times on Shadow heading in at the close of a good day.
I wanted to turn around and head back out.