Nautical Development 56 Review: Old Fashioned Success

Nautical 56 PDF Brochure (Click to Download)

Nautical 56’s seem to be following me lately. I went with another broker to preview a local one for sale in town. Then, I happened to be on sea trial in Longboat Key and ran into a Nautical 56 at the tiny Bradenton Beach Marina. The happy owner was living aboard in that hidden harbor. Finally, I came back to our Fort Lauderdale office, good ol’ Royale Palm, and a Nautical 56 soon was docked in a slip at the far end. For a boat with not too many made seeing 3 in a couple months seemed unnatural. Kevin, another broker argued, “But considering the size, they made quite a few of them.” And Nautical 56’s seem to hang around south Florida. They are high freeboard, dry ships, well built and powerful bluewater cruisers. Stephen Seaton the designer told me this about the origins of his highly successful Nautical 56 design.

She is a “copy” of a boat I designed in 1969. The company who built the Nautical’s used about 90% of my design and changed (or omitted) several things. The deck house is a bit different than I wanted but close. The hull and rig is from my design but not the same as the first and most successful build. This first boat (Limmershin) had a much taller rig and a very high aspect ratio centerboard that let the boat go to windward very well. I even raced her in the SORC back in the early 70’s. She would point as high as some of the best race boats out there.

Nautical Development Corp. was located in Key Largo, FL from the late 1970’s to early 1980’s. After modifying Seaton’s Limmershin design, they starting production of the 56 Nautical in approximately 1979.

Limmershin, Seaton's original Nautical design
Limmershin, Seaton's original Nautical design

First Impressions
Most striking is the freeboard of the 56. Stephen Seaton, the designer, pulled off the freeboard as well as you can even though he did not plan on it. Stephen says, “One of the main design things that has always made me very upset is the lack of ballast in most (but not all Nauticals) which gave the boat about 4-6 inches higher freeboard than I designed.” As he mentions not all Nauticals have the extreme freeboard. A few have more ballast than others. But all of them have a powerful, shippish look. Onboard you can image sitting high up in comfort and safety and sailing the seven seas.

Beyond the freeboard, the bald clipper bow is prominent to me. The combination of the sharpness and flair gives her that look. I picture almost duel hawser holes in the bow front like you see on megayachts these days. It is a definitively look that gets to the core the Nautical’s charm. The molded rub rail that runs from 1/4 aft of the bow almost to the stern is another identifying trait. Nautical 56’s are all ketch rigged, centercockpit hulls. The deckhouse on most Nauticals has high combings and overall a fatty, sluggish look that contrasts with the hull and is unattractive to me. The stern has a slight overhang and clipperish touch.

First of the true Nautical's
First of the true Nautical's

Nautical Development has a good reputation in the brokerage world. The 56 had a beefy rig, hardware, solid fiberglass hull layup, and thick foam cored deck. Teak and holly floors throughout down below. The actually design of the different Nauticals varies. As Seaton noted, some have less ballast than others which really grates at Stephen’s nerves. They are encapsulated ballast. I’m not sure the mixture but common in the Tampa Bay area were lead slurries. As well, others have different deckhouses. The first Nautical 56 (the blue one to port) was built for the owner of Nautical. She had a flush deck layout with a flybridge. The really toyed around with Seaton design. While keeping around 90% accurate, they continued to make minor modifications. Another change you will note on the blue hulled Nautical is the squarish portholes like on Seaton’s original Limmershin. They later dropped these portholes as seen on the nice, while hulled one at the top of this review. Most Nauticals look like the while hulled one.

Nautical 56 Interior

What To Look For
As Stephen Seaton notes, the best 56’s have considerably more ballast. This sinks the hull to a more understandable freeboard. When looking at a Nautical, try to compare her to others and get an idea of how the better ballasted boats ride. But, ones with the correct ballast are rare and as seen by the success of the Nautical, underballasting is not a condemnation. Just know what you are buying. The 56’s I have seen have varied in condition. Of course, one reason is that after 30 years most have been owned by a budget boater or two. When you go to 50 feet and above, boats need more maintenance, or they deteriorate quickly. A less obvious reason is the charter trade. With their great accommodations, Nauticals have been logical boats for charter.

Nautical 56 Layout
Nautical 56 Layout

On Deck and Down Below
The Nauticals have beefy rigs and oversized hardware. The ketch mizzenmast is aft the cockpit taking space there. The cabintrunk runs most the length of the deck with the high combings takes up quite a bit of room on deck. You would think on a 56′ boat there would be more. The cockpit is dry, large, and comfortable seating 10 or so. Down below, the 56 has great accommodations. Forward most are 2 heads port and starboard. Just aft are 2 matching staterooms each with double bunk beds. This layout would be fun for kids and great for visitors. Amidships is the saloon with 2 “L” shaped settees. Aft of the saloon is a nav station and work area starboardside which gives engine access. Portside is a walkthrough galley. Aftmost is the master stateroom. I have seen athwartship kings and centerline queen layouts. There is a little office starboardside and a private head/shower.

A Nice Nautical 56's
A Nice Nautical 56's

Engine and Underway
Looking through old brokerage Nauticals, most seem to have 120HP Ford Lehmans. When a boat displaces 51,000 pounds you better have a serious engine. Now 30 years later, look for the condition of these and hours. The engine room access is from the starboardside workroom aft of the companionway. It’s a great room with freedom to work and everything up on your eye level. To repower you would cut away the cockpit sole and pull out or drop in what you need. If correctly ballasted, Seaton says these boats can sail. Although he notes they are under canvased as his racing Limmershin had a taller rig. The goal is not to race but to cruise in comfort. And with their roomy accommodations you can guarentee that. A full keeled, under canvased, under ballasted, 51000 displacement boat is not going to get anywhere the fastest.

In general, the Nautical 56 is not fast but a high freeboard, dry ship with large accommodations for a family. It is a perfect boat for a couple with 2-4 kids which wants to travel the Caribbean and beyond. After the 56, Nautical Development made 60′ and 62′ Nauticals before going out of business in the early 1980’s. Stephen Seaton also designed the 62′ Nautical. Seaton writes, “All in all this class of boats has been a success with their owners so I should not complain. No one has ever told me they were bad boats, just old fashioned.”

15 Replies to “Nautical Development 56 Review: Old Fashioned Success”

  1. Thank you! Great info here… This is the type of yacht I am looking for. Did you end up buying one?

  2. I almost purchased one that was asking $50,000 years ago. She was not in good condition, and the dream was that we could fix her up and at least break even financially. I wish we had went through with it. No, I never have owned a Nautical 56.

  3. I lived on a Nautical for three years. We bought her in Spain sailed out of the Med. around the Canary islands for six months then across the Atlantic to Barbados. From Barbados we did most of the Caribbean up to Ft. Lauderdale.
    To see her at anchor, under the moon from a palm fronded beach, looking like a regal swan was magic.
    These boats are great. In heavy seas when companion boats were getting every other wave running over them the Nautical was just casting them aside.

  4. Hey, the boat at Royal Palm in Lauderdale is mine ! I have had her almost 20 years and can’t even count the sea miles. Too many !!!

  5. I am considring a purchase of a Nautical 60. Is the 60 basically the same boat as the 56 with a bowsprit? The cabin top I know is different but is the hull longer with a longer water line on the 60 or is the additional lentgh just in the bowsprit?
    How are these boats for speed? Any other comments welcomed.
    Sincerely yours, Ed

  6. I worked for Nautical Development in the early 80s as Mill Supervisor. The last one I worked on was used as a buoy boat for the “83” Americas Cup race off New Jersey. 18,000 man/hours, it looked great then!

  7. Hi Nat. Were thinking about buying a Nautical 56 ust wanted to know if you would mind taking a call so I could get the benefit of your experience witht the boat. Were going to have it surveyed soon, just wanted to know what we should ask the surveyor to look out for. Anyone you know who still owns a N56 would be great to have their details for same reason. Regards Mark C. UK

  8. My  father, Charlie Conlan, commissioned the first Limmershin from Steve Seaton.  We moved aboard as a family before my 7th birthday. Charlie  and my mother, Dale Conlan, lived aboard for close to 20 years. We plied the waters of the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and the Eastern Seaboard ( ceaselessly.) She was an amazing vessel: solid ocean cruiser and comfortable home. I am glad to report, she sails still.

  9. Ed,

    I worked at Nautical for Roger Warren. The 60 is the same hull as the 56, with a raised deck aft and bowsprit.  Regards, cm

  10. Wow! The power of Google. I crewed on the Linmershin’s shake down cruise in the summer of 70 for the Conlan’s. Picked up in Ft Lauderdale and sailed up the inland waterway to Gibson Island. Mr Conlan originally intended an ocean course but the first night a terrible storm almost caught us. I woke him at 4am with a litany of things that had gone wrong since he ” gone to sleep:. Forward head was flooding, auto pilot broken, and you better take a look at the horizon, it’s black and there are nasty swells. He did. Took one look and turned course for shore . At day break we moored to a wharf. About an hour later I was woken by a line slapping against the mast and was getting the energy to go tighten it when I heard someone on deck. It was Mr Conlan. He was lashing Limmershin to the wharf with every spare line he could find. There was no slack in the slapping line, the wind was so strong it snapped the line against the mast which was taut as could be. We later heard on the radio that gusts hit 90mph. Glad we weren’t caught on the open ocean. Often wondered over the decades what happened to Limmershin. Glad she’s still sailing. RW Fisher

  11. R. W. Fisher, You’re right, the power of Google. I don’t know if you will ever see this. During the summer of 1970, I was 18 years old and did joinery work on the Limmershin at the boatyard in Tampa, Florida. I was only 18, but had been doing woodworking from a very young age. I got the job by bringing in to Featherstone Marine a guitar that I had crafted when I was 16 or 17. To make a long story shorter, Mr. Conlan met me and saw my work and asked me to sail on it before all the joinery work was done because he wanted to get it up north. I was there for the christening and when it was lowered into the water it started taking on water which was not known to the dignitaries.

    I prepared all the materials that I would need and the tools that I needed and met them at a dock in St. Petersburg. His wife and daughter were there along with his daughter’s girlfriend. There was another couple who crewed with the Conlans. I remember that the man looked like a sailor.

    I worked below deck during the day and slept in a crew’s quarter in the bow of the boat. The Conlans were very nice to me. We went through the Florida keys, stopping there; I remember that they were having trouble with the dorsal engine. We did have to get towed in by the coast guard, probably in Ft. Lauderdale. I was below deck during the terrible storm. I remember seeing that the lifeboat had broken one of its lines holding it to the stern of the boat and they were struggling to save it which they did. We made it through, but it was scary. We also stopped in Jacksonville which happened to be where my sister lived and she came to see the yacht.

    I had to jump ship in Morehead City, North Carolina because I had to get back to Tampa and quickly leave for N.C. State to start college. I have thought about that adventure often. Mr. Fisher, obviously we met during the voyage. Maybe your memory is better than mine. I was 18 and now I am 71.

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