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Here Come The Fun Submarines!

You think the Summer bays are crowded now!

So, what can I bellyache about now? Last summer we were anchored in a small, out-of-the-way cove, that hasn’t been over-discovered yet. I was lying out on the deck enjoying the sun and doing some drawing. Suddenly my wife and I heard gurgling on the port side. I jumped up and rushed to look over the gunnel to check if we were pouring out seawater from the bilge pumps, a sure sign we were sinking. Suddenly, a small periscope popped up, did a slow 360 to get the lay of the bay, and submerged. The water wasn’t clear to see far below but I could hear a prop quietly spinning and saw surface disturbance as it moved toward deeper water. I yelled out “It’s a damn submarine! I swear it!” My wife insisted I cool down in the cabin with a cold towel on my head.

By the time the summer was half over, I had put it out of my mind. Maybe she was right and it was too much sun. Autumn came, and I went to Tobay and a few New England boat shows and reveled in fishy center consoles, nicely designed cruisers, and downeast boats. I left those shows, happy as a great white trolling through a giant school of adult bunker. The holidays came and all my grandsons hovered around me asking me to give them their own sets of keys for my boats, I bought some time but, given their ages and seamanship abilities, I can foresee a day when I’ll be sitting on the dock wondering where the boats are.
Then came the winter boat shows. It has taken time to resolve how I would present this in writing, so here goes. Just as personal water jet skis have exploded, I saw the next boating craze staring me in my face and I must say it’s crazy!! Welcome to the world of underwater boating! There they were, in resplendent “Semi – Attractiveness”, the PUWPC’s. You read that right “PUWPCS”. (Personal Underwater Pleasure Crafts”) Yep! Your own family submarine. Most of them Euro-styled, of course. I stood in shock. Now I knew what I saw that July day was one of the first PUWCP in my neck of the bays!

As I strolled around and found five dealers of the different brands of these new underwater fun machines, my head began to spin as I tried to find both the positive and negative aspects of this potential new nautical invasion. That’s what a writer does when reviewing a product. I’ve done it hundreds of times. The first positive aspect I came up with is that they run on clean electric battery power. Even WW2 subs ran on battery power when underwater. Everything is going that way today. All my tools, toothbrush, grill, lawn mower, and weed trimmer are battery-powered. I even have battery operated comb, which I will probably regift to someone with hair next Christmas. None of these items have interchangeable batteries so I have a separate room in my basement for all the chargers.
The promotional materials from the manufacturers note that these little subs are definitely not built for speed. That’s a good thing. All of them come with state-of-the-art depth finders, sub-surface GPS, elaborate ship-to-shore communication systems and one of those WW2 dive horns you hear in the movies. I thought it was a very nostalgic touch. Every PUWPC has backup systems for the safety of all the adventurers on board. Periscopes and air intake units are all retractable. Each sub I saw had different dive capabilities from 75 ft below the surface up to 250 ft for the more expensive models.
Hulls are all made of a reinforced carbon material which every manufacturer claims is exclusive to them. But hey, marketing has never been a particularly honest profession. The models I viewed ran from 21 to 36 ft for this coming year. The exteriors had unique cool graphic designs; all of them mimicked innovative “rust” art surfaces which I considered creative. My favorite PUWPC has a flat deck with room to place a few beach lounge chairs. The small conning tower is adequate for running on the surface. All hatches are hermetically sealed. Topside has a retractable diving platform, wet bar, cooler, extender shade canvas, and waterproof sound system. There is built-in vinyl-covered seating in wonderful tropical colors.
I’ve decided to review the larger 35 ft model, the XL4 by Sinkwell Industries. Below deck is extravagantly outfitted. There are hyper-sealed picture windows everywhere, great for viewing underwater sea life except when we get red tides every other year. Giant arch lamps light the way for viewing an occasional fish, lots of empty mollusk shells, and a hundred years of tossed beer bottles, cans, anchors with cut lines and an occasional leaking sewer outflow pipe.
There are two immense 7’ x 8’ staterooms. An additional three hammocks can be tied to a myriad of water and electrical conduit piping throughout. The “Head” is slightly disappointing both in size (3’ x 3’) with just a shower head with a giant grated hole in the floor and no commode. It has nice brown marble surfaces, floor to ceiling. Sometimes you have to compromise on space. Everything is brightly painted to avoid the feeling of claustrophobia which I got within 3 minutes of being below. Gauges are everywhere indicating how full the ballast tanks are, how much electrical power is available, and the amount of usable oxygen. I thought the oxygen gauge could be better designed by removing the word “NONE’. Some things just don’t need to be said.
For Culinary aficionados, there is a nicely appointed 3 x 5 ft galley with a small sink, a mini microwave, a wood pizza oven, and one drawer with a mixed-up mess of knives, forks, spoons, and spatulas. A mini fridge fits neatly in the corner and a fold-down ironing board conveniently doubles as a counter, though all this is a beautiful use of almost no space, I did question the salesman, Mal Nemo, about the poor placement of the emergency escape hatch which required the removal of the mini-fridge, sink, and microwave, for a quick access.
He pointed out that this arrangement “Was better than no exit at all”!
The model PUWPC I just described is the XL4 Exclusive made by Sinkwell Industries in Northern New Mexico. ( The Published price is only $425,000. Salesman, Mal Nemo, said that this could “Go down” for the right offer. I think the creep was playing me. I remember faces well. At the next boat show, I’m bringing a belaying pin and then we’ll see how funny Nemo really is. Sinkwell finances its product through its own finance company, Andrea Doria Marine Financing. Other PUWPC manufacturers are Nude Ocean Submersibles, Deep Diver Unrecoverables Inc., and Muddstuck Mini Subs.
I walked away thinking what would happen to our already confusing and overly busy waterways. How long will it be before one of these submersibles surfaces right through the hull of someone’s boat? If their scope is down, how does the sub-captain know they’re on the right side of the channel? Should those aboard put on life jackets when they are submerged, hopelessly stuck on the Rhoda Wreck and out of air? Why would they? And most importantly, shouldn’t marina dock space be substantially cheaper because they can put a large Sea Rays right above them?
Well! That’s it! Welcome to your new boating nightmare! Jet Ski jerks jumping your wake and a sub surfacing right through your cockpit while you and your guests were trying to enjoy a drink and the sunset.
See you under the water!
Copyright for article and illustrations 2024 by Mark C. Nuccio.
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