The V bottom Designs of William Hand

Between the years 1900 and 1920 William Hand developed V-bottomed runabouts designed to make the best use of the motors available at the time. The hull shape was developed to contend with the short steep seas and stiff breezes of Buzzard’s Bay, Hand’s home waters.  Hand’s successful work has been taken, and blended with modern power technology to create a new design while always keeping the following principles in mind:

    1. The boat must be seaworthy
    2. It should be highly efficient in its use of fuel
    3. It should be unusually quiet
    4. It must be good looking.


Hand’s V-bottomed craft had a high easy entry for meeting the waves and moderate beam flowing to a narrow transom sitting at the water’s surface. Moderate beam and a narrow transom give efficiency at low and medium speeds. These features have been abandoned by the modern outboard runabout which drags its wide or deep-V transom at the slow speeds dictated by crowded conditions or rough water. The presumed safety of fast planing boats comes from an assumption that one can reach shelter quickly when the weather deteriorates. In truth, their high speed can’t be maintained when the going gets rough. The hulls that Hand developed do not skip along on the surface of the water like fully planing hulls.

They will, however, knife through the water at well over displacement speeds. As the V-bottom concept evolved and more powerful motors became available, other designers introduced wider, faster (but less seakindly) boats. In these new developments, the soft, sweet, loping ride of the early Hand designed boats was left behind. We believe these new launches capture what was lost.

Power and Efficiency:
It is our opinion that 68 horsepower (which is the average used by the North American boater) is excessive for recreational needs. Power is needed for speed, but speed has a largely negative effect on recreation as it contributes to increased danger and noise both for the occupants of the boat and other people within its sphere of influence. Expense of operation (both in purchase price and fuel cost) increases with speed. Modest horsepower is enough for moderate speed yet small enough to be efficient. In the HB 21, 25 horsepower 4 cycle engines have been used. In the HB 26, 50 horsepower 4 cycle engines have been used. Four cycle technology tends to be superior to two cycle in fuel use, in reducing pollutants, and sound levels, although at this writing (fall 2005) two cycle technology is improving. Modest powering limits noise as well.

Quiet Operation:
Motor boats have always carried with them the burden of noise. There are some people who consider noise a fine thing and create exhaust systems that maximize sound, presumably to impress others. These launches has been created for those who think otherwise. Noise is stress, both for the occupants of the boat and those within hearing range of its operation. While four cycle engines are inherently quieter than two cycle, we have gone beyond this by placing the engine within the hull and adding a barrier of acoustic insulation. The result is probably the quietest outboard boat on the market. The benefit is easy conversation, greater awareness of surroundings, and far less intrusion on others.

Good Looks:
A priority for all of our boats is a commitment to traditional good looks. Aesthetic quality is built into any good design. It is not a veneer to be applied after the basic structure is complete. Even though they may not hear you coming, we think that those who notice will agree.


handy billy 21

This quick little boat was designed by Harry Bryan using lines from the popular and efficient designs of William Hand in the early 1900’s. He calls the boat the “Handy Billy”. The boats are handsome, speedy and efficient.

Powered by a 25 horsepower four stroke outboard motor, the Southport Handy Billy cruises at 14 knots cruising and 16 knots top. The installation of a quiet for stroke engine in a sound-insulated compartment inside the transom creates a power plant emitting very little sound. In addition, these four stroke engines are remarkably efficient, clean and dependable.

This elegant and able boat is perfect for all kinds of outings.  It's remarkable qualities are:


  • It's Quiet!!  Having it's 30 horsepower 4 stroke outboard in an enclosed box makes this a very quiet boat.  You need to experience it to believe it.

  • With this modest power plant, it is very fuel efficient.

  • The Handy Billy 21 has built in seating for 8 adults.

  •  It looks great!


  Other attributes are that the boat has lots of storage space, a built in welded aluminum fuel tank (20 gallons), custom made seat cushions, standard dodger and cockpit cover, trailer, optional bimini cover, optional electronics packages (stereo systems too), and available custom custom features such as wood trim packages and decking packages (teak or Flexiteak).


The Handy Billy Story:

Ever since reading about Harry Bryans’ Handy Billy designs in Wooden Boat Magazine in the late 1990’s we have thought that these boats looked so good and made such good sense that we wanted to build one. In 2001, after owning the boatyard for a year, we purchased a set of plans for the 21 foot Handy Billy.

At that time, we were anticipating a slow period in the business, and thought we might build one of these boats on speculation. It was at that time that we got the idea to build the boats in Fiberglass. We were ready to embark on this project that summer (2001) but paying work interrupted the plans (it got busy).

The plans languished, hanging on the wall of our offices until 2005 when a local man who wanted a Handy Billy built for him walked into our office. We discussed his needs, and we both got very excited about beginning to build these boats in fiberglass – he liked the reduced maintenance that this implied.  And so it began.


 Length Overall                     21 foot

 Beam                                    5 foot 10 inches

 Draft                                     13 inches 

 Displacement                      +/- 1200 lbs 

 Cruising Speed                    14 knots 

 Fuel Capacity                       20 gallons 

 Range on 90% of fuel          90 miles

Handy Billy 21 Particulars

Website designed and created by Burnt Piece Design through the power of Wix