Great Lakes 33 1984Simplicity without sacrificing Performance
By Mike Milne
The Great Lakes 33 says Nick Aitken, was the product of “a bunch of sailors who wanted to try out power boats.” The converted sailors carried a heavy weight of hopes and frustrations, but a weight that is borne well by the boat they inspired.
Aitken had owned, raced and cruised a variety of sailboats, but grew tired of the tedium of preparation for short jaunts under sail and sailboat’s poor handling under power on longer voyages. He and his friends wanted a boat that looked and behaved seaman like fashion, but offered the convenience of power, without complicated mechanical accoutrements.
“If a powerboat is going to be any fun at all,” notes Aitken, an Oakville, Ontario, graphic designer and entrepreneur, “it’s got to be easy and it’s got to be fun to use.” The Great Lakes 33, which Aitken designed with the help of a friend, fits the bill. Appropriately, the boat is built by Ontario Yachts of Oakville, a firm better known for its line of sailboats.
The yacht’s lines are classic, its hull reminiscent of east- coast workboats and its superstructure and working mast and broom offering a hint of the west- coast trawler. The sturdy, molded-in rubbing strake on the hull looks as though it means business. With a minimum of bright wood work, the great lakes 33’s exterior has a simple, workmanlike look. Little cruising time will perish there at the end of a paint brush. Inside too, the minimal brightwork, contrasted against the whit headliner cabin side, seems optimal, just enough to really stand out.
Clearly, the less is best theme prevails, although there’s been no skimping in construction. The hull and deck molds are fibreglass, cored with three quarter-inch balsa, with alternating mat and roving lay-up. Further weight is saved with a minimal flying bridge. In the engine room of the test boat, the concern for displacement is expressed by a single, turbo-charged, six cylinder Volvo TMD 40A diesel. With a hydraulic Borg-Warner transmission, the engine produces 177 hp at the prop; a mechanical Volvo transmission produces 124 hp out of the same engine.
Great Lakes 33 1984 Internal Living space An optional turbo-charged, four cylinder Volvo TMD 30 Diesel with a mechanical transmission churns out 110 hp. The test boat cruised at eight to 10 knots in the 2,400 to 3,000 rpm range. There is little to choose between the various engine configurations in the fuel consumption. The four cylinder engine burns 0.42 pounds per horsepower hour at 3,200 rpm, while the six cylinder engine under the same conditions consumes 0.44 pounds per horsepower hour. Translated into more accessible statistics, the Great Lakes 33 requires just over two gallons per hour at nine knots if "fairly well loaded," according to Nick Aitken.
If you can tolerate more fuel con­sumption, the boat offers more speed­up to 13 knots at 3,600 rpm. The beauty of the boat, however, is that it begins to plane when it reaches about seven knots. The hull has a fine entry and deep keel, but the bottom is broad and flat aft of the prop, where the keel ends. The stem configuration provides the necessary buoyancy for planning, while the keel and the large sailboat-type rudder keep the boat on track.
Aitken owns one of the first three Great Lakes 33s built (there are now a dozen on the water). Soon after his boat was completed in the fall of 1981, he and his wife headed south for a 10- month cruise through the Intracoastal Waterway to Florida and the Bahamas. On a trip like that, a simple, easy-to­maintain boat pays off, but Aitken also found he gave up nothing in perform­ance. On one Gulf Stream crossing, the boat found its sea legs.
"We came back from Cay Sel, in the Bahamas, in heavy weather with more than 30 knots of wind," he says. "We were surfing a lot, but not once did the nose dig in, nor, with the big rudder, did we start to broach."

Lake Ontario was relatively subdued when I tested the boat, arranged through John Bum Yachts. With a moderate swell providing some distraction, the boat didn't waver. The 24-inch, three-bladed prop brought firm response when power was applied. The boat handled waves with only the slightest pitch and roll.
The Great Lakes 33 exhibited neither the skittishness of a planning hull nor the quirky handling of most sail­boats under power at low speeds, in both reverse and forward gears. At low speeds, it reverses slowly straight as a die; in forward gear, the boat will pivot in its own length with the rudder over hard.
The boat also features that other key element of close quarters manoeuvrability visibility. The flybridge provides an unobstructed view; the view from the inside helm station is also good.
The inside helm station features a spoked wooden wheel, plainly visible in­struments, easy-to-reach Morse controls and a comfortable bench seat. One of the Great Lakes 33's unique features is the flybridge above, a light, sturdy framework of stainless steel tubing incorporating a smoked Plexiglas venturi windscreen. A canvas dodger laced to the tubing attaches to a teak toe rail with snap fasteners. The stainless steel wheel and Morse controls are on a pedestal. Seating is provided by a bench- z locker with fold-back teak backrest.

Great lakes 33 1984 External Back Simplicity on the flybridge extends to instrumentation there isn't any. A small, well-placed Plexiglas window in the deck ingeniously provides a view of the instruments below.
The bridge deck extends aft; a hatch and stainless steel ladder amidships provide access from below. Lifelines extending aft from the flybridge framing make the upper deck safe for sunbathing. The mast and boom are mounted here; the rig is big enough for a meaningful stabilizing sail and sturdy enough to haul a dinghy to the upper level.
The boat's decks are non-skid fibers glass. High, teak-capped bulwarks protect the aft deck, with large gutters and scuppers keeping it and the side decks dry. Along the roomy side walkways, a step-up amidships leads to the foredeck. Lifelines then continue to the bow pulpit and anchor bowsprit, complete with two rollers. A brass mooring bit is close at hand, behind the capped deck pipe leading to the chain locker.
On the fore cabin top, which is equipped with handrails, two dorade­box vents and a Plexiglas-and-aluminum hatch provide air and light for the cabin below. Protected from sun and rain, the spacious aft deck is a great outdoor living area. A wide, molded-in bench that wraps around the transom provides two large built-in lockers and houses the manual bilge pump.
Life on a yacht, however, is hardly limited to the deck. Because deck space has not been compromised for cabin room, the available cabin area is care­fully organized, more utilitarian than luxurious.
"It's a couple's boat," says Aitken. "It's not built for four people on a long­term basis."
The forward cabin, which serves as the owner's stateroom, has two wide V berths. Overhead are wooden shelves, complete with fancy fiddles, and for­ward, a small cupboard. With two opening ports and the overhead hatch, the cabin is both airy and well-lit. The white fibreglass headliner and dear-fin­ished pine along the hull interior above the berths add to the light look.
Storage space can be found in drawers under the berths, in a large hanging locker to starboard and be­neath a small bureau. There is also enough floor space in which to move around and dress.
The head, to port in the forward cabin area, has standing room, a Rari­tan manual head, a hand-held shower, a stainless steel sink and hot and cold run­ning water. It would delight any sailor accustomed to performing contortions.
The saloon, available in three layouts, also has a bright, airy atmo­sphere, with windows all around. The forward side windows slide open for ventilation. With white cabin sides and ceilings, the saloon seems roomier than it really is. On the test boat, the layout featured a comfortable dinette (convertible to a double bed) to starboard, and a galley (with plenty of drop­latched drawers, fiddled counter space, a spacious ice box and a propane stove) to port. Forward of the galley and opposite the helmsman's seat is a small side­facing two-seater bench. Fluorescent lights, operated off a 12-volt battery or shore power, keep the saloon well-lit after dark.
The Great Lakes 33's fuel and water tanks and engine room are easily accessible. Almost the entire teak-and-holly plywood sole lifts free to allow access to the engine and drive assembly. The stainless steel fuel tanks and the two 156-gallon-capacity water tanks are rel­atively easy to reach. A hatch on the aft deck reveals the steering gear, the water tanks and the water heater. An emergency tiller can be installed here.
This boat has the kind of accessibility that brings smiles to converted sailors' faces full of the knowledge that Houdini's art need no longer be practiced.


Mike Miline is an experienced boater whose articles frequently appear in the pages of Canadian Yachting.


Photo Captions: The boat features a key element of close quarters manoeuvrability visibility. Storage space in the forward cabin can be found in drawers under the two wide V berths, in a large hanging locker to starboard and beneath a small bureau. The seat of the Helmsman’s chair at the lower station adjusts fore and aft to allow the skipper room to steer while standing.


Originally published in Canadian Yachting’s May 1984 issue.


Specifications:
Power
LOA......................32ft 6in
Waterline...............30ft
Beam....................11ft 6in
Displacment...........11,000lbs
Draft.......................3ft 2in 
Engine Options........4-cylinder Volvo
                        TMD 30 Diesel; 6-cylinder
                         Volvo TMD 40A Diesel
Test Boat Price.........$96,875
Base Price................$77,700

 

 

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