When boaters first see Rossiter’s 17-foot runabout, its classic lines and styling likely conjure up nostalgic memories of boating with parents or grandparents decades ago. But this runabout is anything but a relic.
Cutting-edge design and engineering went in to creating Rossiter’s groundbreaking runabout, which performs and feels like a boat much larger than its 17 feet. On one hand, Rossiter — a company known for making some of the world’s finest rowboats — might seem like an unlikely source for such a powerboat. On another hand, it makes perfect sense.
For decades, Rossiter built its reputation on building sleek, streamlined rowboats and skiffs that became the epitome of style and function. Then, in the 1990s, Rossiter’s designers decided to tackle a new challenge: To see how their sleek, stylish, functional approach to rowboats might translate to powerboats.
Scott Hanson, Rossiter’s current owner and designer, says their aim was to build a small boat with a seaworthy fit and finish, that could handle harsh conditions while having a nice, classic look to it. They started by giving the vessel a deep V hull, reduced drag, lowered the vessel’s horsepower requirement and gave it a nice top end. The result was the Rossiter 14, a boat considered by many to be the softest riding vessel in its class, and a boat that has received accolades in many different boating locations and conditions — from the Great Lakes to New England to Florida.
But the folks at Rossiter weren’t done. Their next challenge was to create a more versatile recreational boat with more capacity and more horsepower. A boat that could handle all the requirements its New England home might throw at it — cruising coastlines, lakes or rivers, and being capable whether on fishing trips or tubing with the kids.
Rossiter worked with the design team from Fast Forward Design in Kennebunk, Maine, to create a 17-footer that would give its owners big-boat confidence and performance. They used the latest in computer-aided design and 3D modeling to make sure the hull performance and engineering delivered the same stability and characteristics found in Rossiter’s other boats. They built hand-laid, solid hulls with a molded, foam-filled stringer grid, and used structural closed-cell foam cores to provide the necessary panel stiffness in liners, deck and transom. They gave it a vinyl ester barrier coat to reduce the chance of osmotic blistering. The only wood on the boat is teak accents in the interior cockpit area. And they bonded the liners to the stringer grid, topsides and transom, independent of the deck assembly.
The resulting 17-foot runabout, which they debuted in 2011, is a vessel that feels solid and has tremendous efficiency and speed. With a 90-horsepower engine, Hanson says, boaters are often surprised with how the vessel jumps out of the water with little to no bow rise, and how it can deliver 100 miles of range on just 27 gallons of fuel. It has plenty of room for passengers, and it has Rossiter’s sleek, classic look that harkens back to decades ago. “This is a classy boat,” says Hanson. “It’s not just another piece of Tupperware.”
Hanson is proud of how the Rossiter 17-foot runabout represents a step forward in the evolution of the small boat. It’s no surprise that evolution is occurring in New England, where the variety of boating locations and conditions requires a versatile boat. And with the rising costs of fuel and storage, the industry seems ripe for small boat development. Now, with Rossiter’s 17-foot runabout, boaters don’t have to sacrifice handling, performance or comfort.
“What blows most people away is when they get behind the wheel,” says Hanson. “There’s a ‘wow’ factor for dealers and customers alike. They think they’re in a much bigger boat.”