Jimmy Buffett’s Surfari 50 Drifter

The Surfari 50 fits the bill

Photos by Onne Van Der Wal

Ted Fontaine, of Fontaine Design Group, was working on a 58-foot concept yacht that might appeal to the Baby Boomer generation of sailors— the men and women who, as they eased into their “second life,” might be looking for some sort of hybrid between a sailing yacht and a powerboat, an all-around boat that is fast, sporty, comfortable and low-maintenance. Fontaine was introduced to singer/sailor Jimmy Buffett, who liked the concept but had his own ideas for the boat he would want. “Jimmy and I met and repurposed the boat to suit him,” says Fontaine. “He wanted something he could disappear on by himself and chill out. He wanted a boat he could sail on, fish off of, and carry his SUP fly-fishing board, surfboards and an outrigger paddle canoe.” The result is the Surfari 50, Hull #1, called Drifter, and customized for Buffett.

Designed to do it all, the Surfari 50 is a performance sailboat that can also motor along at a good clip like a true powerboat. As a sailboat designer who had worked with the renowned Ted Hood Sr. for many years, Fontaine has witnessed a lot of changes in the sailboat market. He says, “History will prove that many aging competitive yachtsmen have abandoned sailing altogether, selling their racing or cruising boats and moving on to midsize motor yachts.

“I tried to blend in the desirable features found on catamarans such as a large single-level floor plan with the powerboat feature of an open transom for easy water access,” he continues. The Surfari’s exterior styling has a low deck house that mitigates a boxy power boat look and a unique single-level indoor/outdoor floor plan with sufficient sun protection. The compact on-deck galley has a pull-out drawer-type refrigerator and an icemaker, sink and electric grill. There is easy access to the water via a large flip down swim platform, tailgate-style. Plenty of storage space for a host of water toys has been cleverly designed. The single-level living space makes for comfortable on-deck dining and entertaining. Below deck, there are multiple configuration possibilities for sleeping; one-, two- and three-cabin options.

Lightweight composite materials help make the boat as fast as possible. The mast and boom are carbon fiber and there is hydraulic and electric sail control for sheeting and furling the mainsail, thus rendering the boat easy to use singlehandedly. There is 360-degree visibility from the twin helm stations though a long single windscreen, sliding windows port and starboard and an optional sliding-glass companionway bulkhead. One has the option of a lifting bulb keel, making the draft either 5 ½ feet or 8 ½ feet, or a fixed draft of 6 feet, 5 inches. Either way, one can anchor in shallow anchorages.

There are race boats that are used for cruising and cruising boats that are used for racing. This is a sailboat used for recreational activities. The Surfari was designed for people who like to sail to a favorite harbor, and then sit on the boat, socialize, play in the water, and have a comfortable sleeping arrangement. Fontaine is betting that this is how both old and new generations of sailors who are not into competitive sailing will want to use their boats. With only 15 months of build time, you can think about early retirement and get going on your future fun plan. For Buffett, who is still working, this kind of boat merely enhances his life.




LOA: 48ft 9in.
BEAM: 14ft.8 in.
DRAFT: 6 ft. 5 in.
DISPLACEMENT: 37, 798 lbs.
BALLAST: 9,900 lbs.
ENGINE: 2X 80hp Yanmar JH diesels
MAX CRUISE: Top speed under power: 10 knots

Visit fontainedesigngroup.com or friendshipyachtcompany.com for more info.


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