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Hacker/ Robinson Marine 57 ft Twin Screw Commuter Yacht 1935/2015



Hacker/ Robinson Marine 57 ft Twin Screw Commuter Yacht 1935/2015

Designer John L Hacker (attributed)
Builder Robinson Marine, Benton Hbr, Michigan
Date 1935
Length overall 57 ft 0 in / 17.37 m
Length deck 57 ft 0 in / 17.37 m
Length waterline 56 ft 0 in / 17.07 m
Beam 13 ft 0 in / 3.96 m
Draft 4 ft 6 in / 1.37 m
Displacement 38 Tonnes
Construction Iroko and mahogany planking on oak
Engine 2 x Caterpillar C12 ACERT diesels, 715 hp each
Location United Kingdom
Price GBP 1,250,000
Vat VAT Not Paid

These details are provisional and may be amended




Restored with passion, skill, and not inconsiderable funds, the Long Island Sound Commuter Yacht JUDITH R is a remarkable exemplar in the history of the motor boat - both technically and in popular culture - and in her attributed designer John L. Hacker's place beside lifelong friend and client Henry Ford in the story of the successful application of the internal combustion engine. Moreover, typically of all classic yachts, JUDITH R remains a beautiful, tastefully upgraded piece of living, liveable, usable history. One imagines halcyon days spent aboard, cruising fast or slow, in the footsteps of not just first owner, Paramount Pictures president Barney Balaban - who used her to speedily and elegantly commute from Connecticut home to Manhattan office and named her after his daughter, Judith Rose - but also, one imagines, an impressive roster of stellar guests.



JUDITH R was built for movie mogul Barney Balaban, whose fortune was initially made with his family's chain of innovative cinemas; perhaps the first to be air conditioned. During his first year of ownership, Balaban became President of Paramount Pictures and inherited a stable including, just to name a few, Gary Cooper, Bing Crosby, Marlene Dietrich, W.C. Fields, Cary Grant, William Holden, the Marx Brothers, William Powell, and Mae West, and in cartoons, Betty Boop and Popeye the Sailor.

But his New York Times obituary noted: "Balaban preferred the business side of the operation, based in New York, to the more glamorous circles of Hollywood", and JUDITH R was Balaban's luxury commuter yacht for travel between his north shore Long Island home and Manhattan office.

Nevertheless, one imagines many famous names on board over the years. For example, moored off Balaban's shoreside Byram, Connecticut home, JUDITH R has a cameo in scenes from the 1954 Billy Wilder movie Sabrina, sharing the screen with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.

Perhaps it was because she was named after his daughter Judith 'Judy' Rose Balaban (who has combined the Hollywood lifestyle with philanthropic social activism, and was a bridesmaid at her friend Grace Kelly's wedding to Rainier III, Prince of Monaco) that Balaban kept JUDITH R long after the commuter boat fad had been well and truly eclipsed by the automobile - in fact for the rest of his life. The family finally parted with JUDITH R three years after Barney Balaban's death at Greenwich, Connecticut, aged 83 in 1971.

Her next, Chesapeake Bay-based owner, retired New York City subway engineer Edward Imbroll, kept JUDITH R for a further almost 30 years, and by the time she was purchased in 2004 by her present custodians they also became her saviours: all there and still afloat, but very tired and in need of a huge refit which inevitably became the rebuild by Woottens of Cookham Dean on the River Thames described elsewhere here.

Commuter yachts were built mainly in the 1920s, before the Great Depression, but some continued to be built up to World War Two. Although commuters were used in several American coastal cities, the greatest numbers carried their high-powered owners in their high-octane boats from their Long Island estates into New York City, mostly to purpose-made landings on the East River, Manhattan. There was a kind of arms race among owners and many of the earlier commuter boats were powered by 12 cylinder aircraft engines.

Detroit-born motor boating pioneer John L. Hacker designed his fair share, and is credited with JUDITH R's efficient semi-displacement hull design and striking styling. It makes sense: in 1934 he'd branched out on his own as a naval architect after losing control of his own Hacker Boat Company during the Great Depression, and he subsequently had many designs built by Robinson Marine Construction at Benton Harbor, Michigan, JUDITH R's builders. Robinson were one of the great builders of commuter yachts - perhaps second only to Consolidated of New York City - and JUDITH R was the biggest and most expensive they built, costing over $60,000.

Her practical layout offered all the comforts of an early morning commute: a place to catch up on sleep, a shower room, a galley where breakfast would be prepared by the crew accessed from their forward cabin, and a beautiful saloon in which to eat it and prepare for the day's business. In common with many commuters, JUDITH R has a forward cockpit just behind the foredeck, presumably to ensure that her passengers were fully awake by the time they got to Manhattan!

Many of her late period Art Deco features survived to be re-used in the rebuild, including the tear-drop shaped navigation lights, sun visor over the narrow windshield, and internal and deck fittings.

The original engines were gasoline. One school of thought is that they were V8 "Chrysler Crusaders" giving her an expected top speed of 30-35 miles per hour, but perhaps this was a later set, and more probably the originals were 385 cu in/ 6.3 Litre 150 hp Chrysler Flat Head Straight 8s. With the arrival of efficient diesel engines, the potentially dangerous petrol engines could be removed, and the present Caterpillars are her 3rd pair of diesels.

Not many commuter yachts survived, even fewer in this condition, and JUDITH R's glittering provenance is unique.

[Some content adapted from an article previously published on the Woottens Boatyard website]



- Major keel-up structural and interior rebuild

The restoration process was to disassemble the original and then assemble with new wood where necessary. So for example, each second ship's timber (rib) was taken out and replaced with a new one. Then the remaining timbers were replaced giving new timbers exactly the shape and structure of the original boat. Each plank was removed one at a time and then replaced with new wood where it was needed; one at a time, so each plank is a direct replacement for the old one and fastened with copper nails and roves (peened over by hand), and bolts where appropriate: around 7,000 copper nails and 1,500 bolts per side. Most original mahogany planks were replaced in iroko. The side decks have a marine plywood substructure to ensure waterproofing over time and the cabin roofs have a very thin fiberglass sheet for the same purpose. It should be noted that the decks are properly laid with a king plank picked up along the length of the boat and covering boards - no modern short cuts.

Windows and windscreen made by a craftsman (the only one in England) who specialises in replacement windscreen surrounds for the nation's AC Cobras and similar historic vehicles - it had to be in bronze. All metalwork was polished and re-chromed in the main, and some reproduced, all by Davey & Co., who were given permission to duplicate and sell some items in their catalogue so they now carry cowl vents, cleats and cast handrail ends from Judith R. All are Art Deco and very rare (eg Herreshoff pattern cleats). The big exception is the handrail stays where the tops and bottoms are original but the metal rods are new since they are a safety item. The air horn system is new since the old one had rusted up completely, but manufactured to precisely the same dimensions by the original American manufacturer. External door handles are period accurate modern replacements from Toplicht, Germany. The windscreen wipers are Italian but they are the closest to what would have been the original equipment that could be obtained.

The interior was reproduced from the furniture that had to be stripped out, and the interior murals were recreated on the replacement for rotten wood from life-sized photographic prints. The waterproof bulkheads were produced replicating the originals with cross-riveted double planks sandwiching a linseed oil treated canvas membrane. The interior cabin soles were also made out of mahogany rather than plywood and linoleum (advanced materials in 1935) with the exception of the galley. Burr maple was also used in furniture tops rather than simple Maple like the original - although burr maple was very widely used in 1935.

- Much door furniture is original
- Internal Lights and internal fittings originals, plus some by Davey & Co
- Original compass restored by a USA specialist in only that type

The machinery was upgraded, such as the engines (fourth set of engines since launch and third set of diesel engines) so that they comply with modern emissions and noise regulations. Underwater gear is new and matched to the engines. When the propellers were replaced, the final adjustment completed was to reduce the maximum revolutions (by 60) as directed by Caterpillar. The exhaust systems were matched to the engines and are the same system (and the same engines) used by the UK Royal National Lifeboat Institution. All fuel tanks are new stainless steel tanks designed to fit into the hull spaces - the original single tank for Gasoline was replaced by the Generator silent housing. Air conditioning, navigation electronics and a separate generator were added which were not available in 1935.

The toilet and water system complies with modern regulations so fresh, grey and black water are all stored separately in modern stainless steel tanks. She can thus cruise in the Mediterranean OK. She carries modern fire control systems. She has a Quooker tap in the galley so you don't need a kettle or gas to cook on. All modern equipment is hidden away as far as possible so the interiors look original to 1935. All lighting is LED but the fixtures are replacements of what was there and corroded or are period pieces (for example, the cabin lights are from a 1930s ocean liner, some of the main saloon lights are from a 1930s fire engine) and we rebuilt the interior so that the engines can be removed from the hull if needed and all built-in furniture unscrewed if access is required, something that the original builders did not do, necessitating a lot of breakage in the dismantling process to access the hull. Navigation lights are new modern LED lights since they are a safety item but the original lights still work (the new ones are very small so aesthetically things look right). The generator provides copious amounts of power so all heating, cooling and hot water is electric - no need to use the main engines to have a shower. The boat runs on a 24 volt system and, despite being an American boat, has power sockets for 220 volts (European). Satellite TV uses the European system.

The chain drive power steering system was replaced with a hydraulic system linked to the autopilot - the bronze rudders are those that came with the boat, fitted since 1935 as she originally only had one rudder.

As a general note, there are over 7,000 photos of the restoration and every aspect of the boat was photographed as it was done. The photographs show the incredible standards of workmanship even in the hidden parts of the boat.



- Fred and Sheila Bourne Trophy: Best Overall Boat
- Osland Trophy: Best Structural Restoration
- Bill Gardham: Best Restoration and Presentation in a Motor Cruiser
- Dean Marine Trophy: Best Engine Installation



- Iroko (95% and mahogany (5%) planking on oak backbone and timbers
- Copper roove and naval bronze bolt fastened
- Engine beds vastly stronger than original based on hindsight
- Teak laid decks on plywood substrate
- Mahogany superstructure and deck features
- Fibreglassed roof to wheelhouse and aft trunk cabin
- Mahogany, maple and cedar interiors
- 2 x Cast bronze rudders
- Spruce rubbing strake



- Air conditioning in all cabins
- Mahogany sole throughout except in galley

- Doors port and starboard
- Varnished mahogany finish
- Varnished cedar lining deckhead
- c50% of roof is demountable for engines removal or as sunroof.
- Hatch in deckhead
- Helm position centreline
- Dashboard chart table to port
- Chart drawer
- Ships electrical isolator panel in under dash locker
- Tank gauges; engine start
- Steering compass in chromed and glass binnacle
- Disabled vintage 'Columbian' engine controls/ gauges in dummy panel
- Panel lifts off to reveal modern controls:
- Quick Shift (Twin Disc) engine throttle controls
- Engines instrumentation and gauges
- Windlass control
- Wiper control
- Raymarine Hybridtouch GPS plotter/ radar screen
- Raymarine VHF
- Traditional ship's wheel
- Hinged footrest
- Over windscreen Raymarine repeaters
- Long athwartships bench settee aft with cushions
- Access under to engine cooling water strainers and shut-offs
- 6 x Deckhead lights
- Flush cabin sole doors access to engine space

- Mahogany carpentry with maple Art Deco details
- White painted cedar lining deckhead; varnished beams
- L-shaped settees to port
- Lockers under
- Sideboard starboard aft
- Lockers under
- Settee to starboard
- Lockers under
- Writing desk port forward
- Marquetry style motifs on bulkheads: Great Lakes and Constellations
- Wempe chromed clock, barometer, hygrometer
- 2 x Opening windows port and starboard
- 2 x Chromed opening ports port and starboard
- 8 x Deckhead lights
- 4 x Art Deco bulkhead lights


- Linoleum on plywood sole
- Brushed stainless steel surfaces
- Lockers under. And over (aft)
- Schott Ceran ceramic 2 x ring induction hob
- Chopping board top
- Built-under electric Neff grill/oven
- 1½ Bowl stainless steel inset sink
- Quooker instant boiling water mixer tap
- Chopping board top
- Waeco upright fridge/freezer to starboard

- 1 x Opening window
- 1 x Chromed opening hull port
- 4 x Deckhead lights

- Art Deco stained glass panel in door
- Jabsco electric toilet
- Vacuum flush with macerating pump
- Chromed shower; teak grate over pressed stainless steel tray
- Sump pump
- Ceramic sink with hot and cold taps
- 1 x Opening window
- 1 x Deckhead light

- 2 x Staggered up and over v-berths
- Locker and drawers stowage under
- Hatch in deck head
- 2 x Chromed opening hull ports
- 2 x Art Deco bulkhead lights
- Double-diagonal constructed forepeak bulkhead
- Access to chain locker

- Down 5 x steps to lobby
- Locker for generator controls and DC and AC isolators
- Door to large WC Compartment to port
- Door to master double cabin forward
- Door to guest twin cabin aft

- Twin mattress double berth
- House batteries under; some stowage space
- Lockers port and starboard
- Bedside dressers port and starboard
- Drawers under
- Under side decks stowage
- 2 x Opening windows port and starboard
- 4 x Art Deco bulkhead lights
- 2 x Art Deco reading lights
- 4 x Deckhead lights
- Mood lighting at side deckheads

- Jabsco electric toilet
- Vacuum flush with macerating pump
- Chromed shower; teak grate over pressed stainless steel tray
- Sump pump
- Ceramic sink with hot and cold taps
- 1 x Opening window
- 1 x Deckhead light
- 1 x Bulkhead light

- 2 x Large single berths
- Deep lockers under
- Chest of drawers aft
- 2 x Opening windows port and starboard
- 2 x Chromed opening ports in aft trunk bulkhead
- 4 x Deckhead lights
- 2 x Art Deco bulkhead lights
- Mood lighting at side deckheads



- Tumbleholme section varnished transom
- Flared bow sections
- Varnished mahogany taffrail, bulwarks and cap rail fwd to deck step
- Chromed stanchions and bases (original)
- Varnished handrail
- Raw teak laid deck on plywood; raw covering boards

- 2 x Chromed cowl ventilators
- 4 x Chromed Panama fairleads/ scupper drains
- Associated chromed anti-chafe
- 2 x Chromed Sampson post mooring bollards with bars
- Custom ensign staff
- Flush hatch doors to large lazarette/ steering flat
- Access to generator, compressor, steering and fuel tanks

- Varnished mahogany uprights
- 4 x Large styled toughened glass opening windows to port
- 3 x Large styled toughened glass opening windows to starboard
- 2 x Chromed opening ports aft
- Chromed flagstaff fittings aft
- Laid teak on plywood roof deck
- 4 x Chromed hand rails port and starboard
- Starboard athwartships companionway hatch/ double doors
- Chromed opening ports in door leafs
- Hinged, raked mahogany burgee mast; nav and spreader lights
- Support for lowered mast

- 3 x Chromed Panama fairleads/ scupper drains port and starboard
- 3 x Associated Herreshoff pattern mooring cleats port and starboard

- Varnished mahogany uprights
- 2 x Chromed frame sliding toughened glass opening windows aft
- 2 x Large toughened glass windows at sides
- 3 x Toughened glass windscreens
- Middle sash chromed hinged opening
- 3 x Chromed Speich wipers
- Mirror-finish stainless steel brow
- 3 x Chromed engine air outlets port and starboard
- Louvre mahogany engine/ engine space air intakes port and starboard
- Original running nav lights port and starboard
- Chromed original searchlight
- Radar and coms domes
- 2 x VHF antennae

- Steps up
- Tall, slim chromed cowl ventilators port and starboard

- Faired varnished mahogany uprights
- 3 x Low profile toughened glass opening windows port and starboard
- 2 x Chromed opening ports forward
- White painted roof
- Chromed faired handrails
- Stayed fwd hinged raked mahogany burgee mast; nav and spreader lights
- Support for lowered mast
- Trunk sides faired fwd as coaming to forehatch well and fwd cockpit

- Raw teak laid deck on plywood
- Raw king plank, covering boards and toe rail
- 2 x Chromed mooring fairleads port and starboard
- 1 x Associated Herreshoff style mooring cleats port and starboard
- Deck well with laid teak forehatch
- Chromed cowl vents port and starboard
- Chromed flag staff fitting
- Forward cockpit well; bench seat; cushions
- Lewmar vertical anchor windlass
- Chain gipsy and warping drum
- Chromed chain lock
- Thames type (USA) stainless steel anchor
- Mooring fairleads port and starboard
- Chromed Sampson post with bar
- Faired chrome stemhead light with flag staff socket



All new 2015

Main engines
- 2 x 6-cyl Caterpillar C12 ACERT 12 Litre diesels each 705 hp @2300 rpm
- Mounted horizontally
- Twin-Disc hydraulic gearboxes
- New wood shaft logs at restoration
- Drive through double universal joints, thrust races and cardan shaft systems
- 2 x Bronze A-Brackets with water-lubricated bearings
- 2 x Contra-rotating 60mm diameter stainless-steel shafts
- 2 x 1000 mm diameter bronze propellers
- Top speed est. 20 knots
- 22kVA Caterpillar, 24 V starting, water cooled
- In self-contained acoustic housing
- Split exhaust

- Steering system (new at restoration)

- Separate battery banks for engines; generator; house
- 24 V Charging by engine and generator alternators
- 240 V Charging by Mastervolt 120 A Combi charger
- Main circuit breaker panels in wheelhouse and adjacent to aft cabin stairs
- 240v AC system shorepower, the generator or 4kW Mastervolt inverter
- Underwater lights: OceanLED

- All tanks stainless steel; tested as required
- All tanks are twinned except the black water tank
- All plumbing/ systems new at restoration

- Remote filtration throughout
Main Engine
- 2 x 'Bunker' diesel tanks under aft cabin berths
- 2 x Wing main engines day tanks outboard of engine room
- Dedicated supply to each engine
- Pumps supply day tanks from bunkers & crossover between day tanks
- c 3000 L total
- 1 x Stainless steel diesel tank at lazarette
- Copper delivery system
- c 60 L
- 2 x 1000 L Potable water tanks under main saloon sole
- Total 2000 L
- Pressurised system to sinks and showers
- Hot water via immersion heater to tank under galley sole
- (Quooker instant boiling water mixer tap at galley)
Black water
- Under galley sole
- 1 x 200 L tanks for the 2 x sea toilets
- Deck evacuation and gravity
Grey water
- Under saloon sole
- For sinks and showers
- 2 x 750 L tanks
- Deck evacuation and gravity

- Individual space air conditioners in : -
- forward accommodation; wheelhouse; aft accommodation



Raymarine with Seatalk
- 18-inch RD418HD colour radar
- Hybrid touch screen
- Speed and distance logs
- Fishfinder/ depth sounder
- Auto-pilot
- Fluxgate compass

-Constellation Danforth/ White compass in chromed binnacle

- Raymarine VHF

- 45STV HD satellite television arrangement
- Enabled for TV and HDMI in each cabin



- Windscreen covers
- Handrail covers
- Full overall "winter" cover
- Skirts for hull down to the waterline from midships to the stern
- Summer covers for all brightwork including transom
- General cruising covers over the forward cockpit and masts and the searchlight
- Searchlight cover



- Canal & River Trust/ Environment Agency Boat Safety Scheme Cert 9/2023
- Fire extinguishing exceeding Boat Safety Scheme (BSS)
- Auto Fire extinguishing in engine room and lazarette
- Lopolight navigation lights
- Emergency steering facility
- Raymarine man overboard wristbands locator system
- Life vests
- Life rings
- First Aid kit
- LED deck floodlights



- Long and short mooring warps each in their own canvas bag
- Large fenders
- Original boarding ladder



No.2: Michael Cole/ Alamy
Under way River Thames: Woottens
Fireworks: Motor Boat & Yachting
East River landing: New York Times
Brando: Listal


These particulars have been prepared from information provided by the vendors and are intended as a general guide. The purchaser should confirm details of concern to them by survey or engineers inspection. The purchaser should also ensure that the purchase contract properly reflects their concerns and specifies details on which they wish to rely.


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