Sizzler: Flush-Deck Speedster

Hidden away in Idaho is Duane Hagadone’s Sizzler, one of the most sophisticated daysailers ever built. Photographer Neil Rabinowitz takes us for a ride.

In a distant corner of North America, in Kootenai County, Idaho, is a clear glacial lake, wedged between mountain ranges of Ponderosa pine and the western sky. Lake Coeur d’Alene, at 700 meters elevation and nearly 60 meters deep, is 30 miles long, three miles wide, rimmed with massive trees and boulders — and is hundreds of miles from the Pacific. It is also home to one of the most sophisticated daysailers ever built — a 60-foot flush-deck speedster named Sizzler.

Caged in this small arena, Sizzler tacks restlessly from shore to shore like a corralled thoroughbred, tail up, nostrils flaring, prancing rail to rail, anxious to leap to freedom… But this is where it was built, and on this remote mountain puddle it will stay, hidden to the world.

It is here that Duane Hagadone wanted Sizzler. At 76 he is tall, lean, leathery and bright-eyed, and from his birth on this lakeshore to his development of a massive empire of publishing and real estate wealth he looms like the Ben Cartwright of this western region.

“All four of my grandparents grew up on this lake,” explained Hagadone. “We had no money and lived in a log cabin on the western shore, but we boated all the time, spent every minute of every summer on the water. And after years of sailing small boats on the lake I dreamed of building a boat like the Sizzler.”

Hagadone certainly had the means, with palatial homes around the world, and other boats, including a custom offshore rocket built by Don Aranow and two megayachts — a 120-footer and the 205-foot Lady Lola, with a helicopter on the stern.

“I love sailing, but I do not like all the time required to get the boat ready, so I had been thinking of a design I could sail quietly on the lake by myself, completely automatic, something stylish with a lot of sizzle,” recalled Hagadone.

Richard Hein, owner of Oceanco, the builders of Lady Lola, put Hagadone in touch with yacht designer Tony Castro. They discussed a stable, simple lake boat — but aside from the sporty flush-deck and Wally-like profile, Sizzler has features never before seen on a daysailer, or on any lake boat.

Hagadone’s vision had been fueled by the flush-decked speedsters he had seen while cruising in Europe. When Hein and Castro visited Hagadone to begin planning the concept of a singlehander in the lake’s sheltered waters, they realized the boat would have to be a vehicle for exhilaration because the confinement of the lake meant performance and entertainment were its only purposes. On its lake-sized world there would be no place for travel and destination cruising. This boat would have to leap to life right from the gate, and every particle, curve, and surface had to exude style for the discerning owner.

In true pioneering style Hagadone decided to build the boat right there, in a shop alongside the lake. There was a lakeside history of finely crafted motorboats from nearby small builders, and Hagadone himself owned a fleet of sporty wooden runabouts, so he pulled together a team to work on Castro’s design.

“To make it easier we choose the material his own people had experience with, and that was wood”, said Castro.

They cold-molded an inside layer of Western Red Cedar with three cross layers of mahogany. Epoxy and carbon fiber reinforcements throughout the boat kept the structure light (42,000 lbs.) while retaining some traditional elements of a warm teak deck and cockpit. They brought in New Zealand’s High Modulus to specify a complex laminate schedule, and then Giorgio Cecchinato of America’s Cup support arrived from Italy to assist with carbon fiber technology. The boat is a web of complex hydraulics, so Cariboni provided expertise on developing the systems. In true worldwide cooperation the finest suppliers in the world were accessed to contribute their best work to the design.

But it was still, in essence, a local affair. “That Hagadone had the faith in us to build the Sizzler right here on the lake with local talent, motivated our crew to devote ourselves to doing our absolute best work from start to finish,” said project manager Craig Brosenne. “We had the craftsmen, and were guided by an international team of specialists in carbon-fiber construction, rig technology, and systems who came and helped at different stages. But Hagadone enjoyed the process and takes great pride that his own regional crew could build it to the standards of the finest European builds.”

The boat, which took 30,000 man-hours over 13 months to create, looms like a product from the space program on this quaint western lake. Its lines are sleek and pure — no lifelines, no hardware interrupt the sheer. The design features a flush deck, plumb bow, an open reverse transom with an overhang, a lifting keel with a huge bulb, and a high-aspect ratio rudder. Southern Spars produced a 90-foot carbon fiber rig and wishbone integral vang for a futuristic profile.

Designed for light air and cockpit entertainment on the lake, Sizzler was built for singlehanded push-button operation. Belowdecks, maximum headroom is 5’9”, and there’s not a single berth. Topside, the 25-foot cockpit is fitted with an integral sound system and port and starboard sofas. Twin centerline tables lift out of the deck hydraulically. Just forward is a complete carbon fiber bar layout with icebox, and drawers filled with crystal glasses and decanters.

Recessed cleats with retractable mooring lines, a stern passarelle, and hydraulic fittings present an effortless push-button world, while the force and power of this boat lie hidden in hydraulic systems belowdecks. Its lake home requires no anchor, chain, or windlass system, so it has uncorrupted sheer lines from bow to stern. Joystick-operated bow and stern thrusters allow lateral docking and defensive maneuvers in the tightest confines among speedboats and omnipresent teenage wakeboarders.

The glow of Sizzler’s hull dazzles onlookers. The surface preparation began with the final mahogany layer covered by 16 coats of clear epoxy, followed by four layers of blue-tinted Alex Seal clear coat, and then three more layers of clear buffable Alex Seal and a final waxing. The result is that the mahogany grain shows through from several lit angles with a subtle blue mirrored effect. The hull color shifts from a midnight blue to a translucent light cobalt patterned with the wood grain.

Belowdecks the varnish and clear-coat epoxy reveals the honey-toned laminations of cedar and mahogany. The teak sole has a classic holly inlay appearance, but on closer inspection is actually inlaid with brushed steel. Except for the totally carbon fiber head, sink, and minimalist galley, and one L-shaped settee, Sizzler is purely function and style below. Detailing was the mantra, as even the bilge-mounted stainless tanks are polished.

Powered by a Volvo Penta auxiliary, the hydraulics are the true heart of this beast. They, too, are polished and pedestal-mounted, on proud display like the powerplant of some classic Alfa Romeo. Forward, where sail storage and cabins would normally be, is a showcase of hydraulic rams, batteries, and pumps. A large, round flush-mounted skylight circles the mast base on deck and features a carbon fiber cross beam, allowing abundant daylight below. It’s here the small settee might allow comfort below in a sudden squall. Meanwhile the foul-weather gear locker is stocked with enough Sizzler-emblazoned custom fashion-wear to outfit an entire Volvo crew.

But foul weather is rarely a concern, as this boat is normally a fair-weather vehicle, on its way to dice it up mid-lake or transport friends to a lakefront restaurant. It’s not a year-round boat, either. The water level in Lake Coeur d’Alene fluctuates with the seasons, and while Sizzler carries a 16,000-pound keel that drops from 8 to 12 feet in draft, the harsh reality is that from fall to spring the boat has to be hauled on shore as the lake level drops too low and the water gets very cold.

In this world framed by mountain and desert, as the land cools the warm lake waters pull the breeze from the east, reliably, each sunset — a clockwork-like event known as the Wolf Lodge Express.

Hagadone arrives, pulls the boat from the dock, and points at the sunset, the golden glow receding, the hull sparkling blue, the fresh lake waters rushing over the rails. He sits in silence and recalls his long life on the lake and tacks across the brief stretch once again. He could be anywhere, on any boat, at any time, but it is here that his heart savors the breeze and here, in the one-time shadow of his family’s log cabin that he pushes Sizzler and thrills on a dash from rail to rail.

Neil Rabinowitz YachtWorld Senior Photographer Neil Rabinowitz has photographed and written about all ends of the yachting world—racing, cruising and chartering—from the Caribbean to the South Pacific, and the Mediterranean to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest where he lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Recognized as one of the best, Neil has produced more than 2000 magazine covers and numerous feature stories. He continues to write and photograph for both editorial and advertising clients and has been a contributor to since its inception in 1995. View more of his photos on the Neil Rabinowitz website (

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