A Chat With Doug Zurn

For those us of who spend our time in, on, and around the water, the name Doug Zurn rings familiar. And if it doesn’t, it should. The man behind some of the most gorgeous powerboats afloat—he penned the lines for the iconic Shelter Island Runabout line, the popular MJM series of boats, and Billy Joel’s stunning Vendetta, just to name a few—Zurn has been designing boats since the early 1990s.

“I knew Mark Lindsay, he was a boatbuilder up in Gloucester and he and Scott [Smith] were partners,” Zurn told us. “I went up and introduced myself to Mark and showed him sailboat designs I’d done, and he thought they were beautiful, said he’d like to build the boat, and asked if I had a client. I said ‘no’ and he said, ‘stop wasting my time.’ So, I applied for a job as a purchasing manager at Boston Boatworks, and that’s how I started working with the team. That was in 1997.”

Doug has always known the one undeniable truth of boat building—looks aren’t everything, but they sure are a lot. “A boat has to be drop dead gorgeous,” Zurn says. “Anyone can make a boat run the way my boats run, but they don’t look like them. At the end of the day, we’re appealing to people that have a certain taste of what a boat should look like. And that’s the thing I’ve been doing since I was a kid in grade school—drawing pictures of pretty boats.”

Over the years, Zurn has honed his eye for what is beautiful, and along the way has gained the experience to know what makes them functional as well. “Timeless design and modern performance—that’s the ‘Zurn trademark’ if you will. But I can’t say for sure what that means. I look at all my designs and I think they’re all different, and people look at them and say ‘no, I recognize that, that’s a Doug Zurn boat.’ So, it’s a combination of things—we don’t do gimmicks, we’re not highly stylized. We design boats that look like they have purpose.” 

One thing that sets Zurn apart from some of the more ‘conceptual’ designers, if you will, is his decades of hands-on experience. One spends enough time crawling around engine rooms, changing filters while underway, and banging their head and hands on just about every surface imaginable, and you start to learn how you’d like to see things. Another inch of two of space between the engine block and the hull; a filter you can access without resembling a contortionist from Cirque du Soleil. These are the small details that set a Zurn boat apart from the crowd, and the details that are appreciated by owner-operators.  

The Boston Boatworks 52 Offshore Express Cruiser is a culmination of years of experience—experience behind the drafting table, cruising offshore, and working with the team at Boston Boatworks. And the result is nothing short of stunning. “When people get off the BB52, and they’re in the launch riding away from the boat, they won’t be looking ahead at the harbor and the other boats,” Zurn said. “They’ll be looking back at the BB52 and thinking, ‘That boat is beautiful, I don’t want to look at any other boats, that’s the one.’ This boat is exciting.”

But she’s not just another pretty face. The BB52 is a true offshore capable cruiser, built to the rigorous standards and commitment to excellence that has guided Boston Boatworks since our inception. “The BB52 incorporates a high-efficiency hull beneath the waterline to amplify offshore safety and comfort—a moderate deadrise angle of 19 degrees paired with a narrow waterline beam makes this a dry, safe, and comfortable ride,” Zurn said. “Also, the hull incorporates a quiet chine, which helps dissipate wave slap in displacement mode. Topsides, we tried something new by incorporating a reverse sheer into the design. This increases the available interior volume and provides owners with a dry ride offshore. I’m really excited by how this turned out.”

And while Zurn and Boston Boatworks have a long working relationship, this is just the tip of the iceberg for the BB line of boats. “The collaboration between Zurn Yacht Design, Winch Design, and Boston Boatworks is going to bring something new to the US market that’s never really been done before,” Zurn said. “There’s more on the horizon, with additional designs underway. The line of boats we’re developing here is something else, and I think their reception in the market will be proof of concept.”