After spending eight years crafting the boat that is his home, Terry Cyphers can't quite come up with a name that fits his unique and totally customized 55-foot Kingscraft that showcases his talents as a self-employed remodeling contractor.
Its working name, River Maiden, just doesn't quite capture the innovation and painstaking attention to detail that is found everywhere throughout the boat.
Long before he began actual construction, he saw in his mind's eye what he wanted in a liveaboard, then created detailed drawings of what it would look like. He did this while living aboard a 38-foot Seagoing houseboat, which he did for 20 years.
As a professional remodeler of both homes and boats, he had done significant work on that one, named Iron Maiden due to its steel construction. But he wanted something bigger and made to his exact requirements. He knew from experience that, “If I can draw it, I can build it.”
Instead of searching for the right type of boat, he focused on looking for just the right kind of aluminum hull that could become the foundation for his concept. He struck gold when he found a 1972, 55-foot Kingscraft sitting on the hard whose owner had gutted the interior, then lost interest. In order to transport it to his Pittsburgh, Pa., area location, he had it stripped for salvage, removed the flybridge and superstructure and reduced its trailering width to 12 feet by taking off the catwalks. Then the boat was trucked back to a yard where it went on the hard again. It stayed there for two and a half years while he dried it and got it water ready.
He had kept the running gear in place after he bought it but to improve access to the engines, he moved a bulkhead forward. To create even more room, he mounted the generator in the bow. Then he replaced the old engines with 454 cubic inch models.
To improve the boat's handling, he mounted two hydraulic thrusters in the keel toward the bow and two others on the transom.
His goal was to create maximum livability so the walls were pushed out to the far edges of the reinstalled catwalks. The first interior he designed had traditional hallways and walls, but
Cyphers scrapped that for the totally open layout he now has where the salon flows into the floating island and galley.
The aft galley wall shares plumbing and runs with the bathroom that has a full size, tub/shower combination. That area was also penciled in to have a washer/dryer, but he realized he had enough headroom in the hull under a raised bed to create a laundry room there. It is accessed by lifting a lid on a 'sea chest' at the foot of the bed and opening a door that looks like one end of the 'chest' to reveal steps to below.
Again, because it was a liveaboard, attention to insulating and sealing cracks was vital. For comfort control, has a two-and-a-half-ton heat pump, but also laid 20 loops of tubing under the floor that will supplement the heating with hydronic floor heat. He drew a detailed grid to show the location of the tubing to prevent accidental punctures in the future.
To increase the HVAC efficiency, he paid particular attention to creating an efficient return air system. To provide for continuous air circulation, a duct system collects air through louvers in the ceiling just inside the front doors, along the salon walls and others integrated into the top of the galley cabinets. Air circulation in the master suite is through four wall registers.
Because his front doors limit the size of material that can be carried through them, another practical innovation was installing double French doors leading to the aft deck. Then Cyphers built a removable panel that is connected to the door leading into the master suite. That gives him a 36-inch opening for moving furniture and other large items.
Unique By Design
Everywhere you look both inside and outside, there are details not found on normal production boats. There are almost no nail or screw heads showing anywhere except a couple of places in the bathroom trim. The rest are all covered with plugs. He even made drilling jigs so the placement of fasteners for each window would have a symmetrical pattern.
The fixed cabin windows were glazed in place in normal fashion so standard window treatments would fit, but then he created 30-degree angled valances for a distinctive look.
He used a variety of birch, pine and luaun on the interior, but craftily stained and finished the wood so they all blend into a pleasing, uniform look. It is almost impossible to pinpoint where one wood starts and the other stops.
The galley cabinets are poplar, which was donated waste material, and the center panels are actually quarter-inch clear Plexiglas, also left over from another job, that he sprayed with black paint.
The pilot house Cyphers added serves a couple of purposes. It creates more room and layout flexibility in the salon by eliminating the helm station there. It also becomes part of the upper entertainment area and offers a sheltered area with great views. Its unusual ceiling is actually commercial grade aluminum exterior ceiling paneling.
Between the pilot house and party deck, Cyphers installed the plumbing for a second head. The pipes are connected to a manifold under the galley sink where valves will allow him to quickly and easily drain down the upper head for the winter.
As he was building the pilot house and party deck hardtop, he calculated the hard top would not fit the TraveLift that would launch the boat. So he hinged the forward end of the top so it would drop down to fit. By the time launch day arrived, however, a new, larger TraveLift made that unnecessary.
But his design strategies included building the aft hardtop supports strong enough to provide 'ladders' to access the equipment mounted on top. Both the main cabin roof and the second level have rain gutters. The upper level drains down through what look like support columns for the aft overhang. The lower gutters are fabricated from PVC cove molding. The rear deck leads to an extremely unusual circular, tiered swim platform that Cyphers says is popular with his female guests.
The guttering is part of the maintenance-free material used everywhere on the exterior. The vertical siding is premium grade material and all the trim is a quality PVC product.
Work In Progress
He launched the boat in 2006, then kept working on it a little at a time in its slip at the Oakmont Yacht Club on the Allegheny River, 12 miles above The Point in Pittsburgh. Part of the lengthy process was due to the fact he says, “I made almost every part of the interior except for the doors.”
Those pocket doors are a store-bought exception, but even those had to be re-sized to fit his openings.
Cyphers was driven by a desire to end up with a first-class product. He knew he probably couldn't afford to buy a boat built to the level of quality and comfort he wanted so he decided to go slowly, do that level of work himself, and only use high-quality materials.
Part of his plan included purchasing and stockpiling parts over the years from the annual Dania Beach Flea Market in Florida. Since this is billed as the largest event of its type in the world, Cyphers and a group of his friends attended regularly to stock up on reasonably-priced parts.
As it turns out, Cyphers says almost everything marine in the boat came from there. The list includes the Westerbeke generator, pilot house wheel, upper helm gauges, 12-volt lights, electric head, strainers, battery charger and more.
Besides utilizing good deals from the flea market, Cyphers is quick to credit a long list of friends and associates who helped him with the project. He says he can easily come up with a couple dozen names of people who donated time or material or befriended him in some way.
Mindful that a lot of people on the upper deck could create a stability problem, he had raked the cabin walls in 6 inches then set the upper rails back in another 12 inches. He figured that would keep the boat stable even with a crowd along the edges.
But as the boat became less of a construction site and he began having more guests aboard, he realized it had a tendency to be a bit tippy. He knew he had added significant weight to the top and it only had 11 feet of beam at the waterline, so he designed aluminum sponsons that could be attached to each side of the hull. By carefully measuring and creating templates, he found he could add 28 inches of width to each side with units 35 feet long that would be welded on from the transom forward.
They are constructed of a 3/16-inch aluminum skin attached to a series of gussets. In the spring of 2012, the boat was pulled so they could be installed. Once finish paint was applied, they blended right in and now provide plenty of stability. The extra lift has raised the stern about two and a half inches so Cyphers is considering adding water ballast to the sponsons through the inspection hatches he installed in each one above the water line.
Cyphers says that it's no big deal because he views the whole boat as a work in progress. Although careful consideration was given to each step, he already sees some things he might have done differently.
Given his abilities and personality, if Cyphers does decide to make some changes sometime, they will be done as close to perfection as he can get. He is that way with his own work and also with the work he does for others because that’s just the way he is.
Maybe he could name the boat My Way, Done Right or even Miss Perfect, Perfect Maiden or Magnificent Maiden.