In the last 20 years deep-vee hulls have revolutionized small powerboating. They've opened offshore exploration and fishing to seamen of moderate means, they've made blue-water trips confortable and safe for family crews, they've opened whole new vistas to the fellow who wants to keep his boat on a trailer in the back yard.

But they aren't without a drawback or two.

Claude Rogers has a 20-foot deep-vee Wellcraft. He fears almost nothing with her. He slashes through breaking waves near shore around his home at Virginia Beach and he'll run 40 miles offshore without thinking twice.

A few weeks ago he launched her single-handedly off his car trailer at Kiptopeke, Virginai, in about five minutes flat. He fired up the big 140-horsepower V-4 outboard and invited the crew aboard.

The tide was falling and near slack low. Rogers wanted to be cruising off the beach when slack water hit, because that's when he expected to see big red drum fish in the shallows.

He made one little mistake.

Rogers raced out of the canal and into the sandy sloughs near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Once clear of land he pressed the throttle forward and the boat squared off on a slick plane. The water was barely rippled and the boat shrieked along like a fast-flying sea duck, barely skimming the water.


Five minutes out the Wellcraft lurched forward, then back. Then it lurched forward again, tossing the crew against the bulkheads. The big motor screamed at high revs as the prop kicked out of the water.


She was hard aground on one of the zillions of sandbars that lie barely concealed at low water in these parts.

"Damn," said Rogers, reaching to shut the motor down. "I don't believe I've ever run this hard aground in my life.

"Everybody okay?"

Okay, but they wouldn't be fishing that tide.

All hands stripped to shorts and climbed out. The deep-vee bottom had creased the sandy shoal and dug in a good foot. Three sound men applied backs and legs to the task of hoisting her off, but she wouldn't budge.

"That's it," the skipper said. "Sit and wait for the tide to come back."

In days past three sound men would not sit and wait for the tide when they ran a 20-foot skiff on a shoal. They'd drag it off and start anew.

That was before deep vees.

Deep vees aren't skiffs, though in the water they look like them. They are ocean boats in miniature. They don't drag easily.

But their capacity to dig into sand bars is a small price to pay for the benefits they offer.

Jim Martenhoff, one of the most knowledgeable boating observes in the country, was around in the late 1950s when Ray Hunt, a Boston naval architect, took an exteme view of what boat bottoms should look like.

"He revolutionized small boats," Martenhoff said, without a trace of doubts.

Until that time, a small boat was good in moderate seas and winds up to perhaps 15 knots. It was an open-ocean boat only on the fairest days, and no one knows when fair days will turn foul at sea.

Hunt knew that wooden boats with flat or slightly veed bottoms could beat the crew to death in a choppy sea. He thought out the extreme - a hull like a wedge that would slice through seas.

He tried it and it failed. With the old inboard power generally available at that time, a deep vee acted like a giant keel, overpowering the effects of even a large rudder.

The concept was experimented with but largely languished until 1960, Martenhoff said, when Dick Bertram of Miami tried it on a twin-engine arrangement. The twin engines provided two propellers, thus two sources of thrust, which overcame the maneuverability problem.

The resulting racing boat - Bertram called her "Moppie" - was entered in that year's Miami-Nassau ocean poerboat race.

The weather was atrocious for the race. Moppie roared off with the fleet and showed up in Nassau eight hours later. The other boats didn't appear until the next day. They couldn't take the seas.

The revolution was boosted along by the advent of setern-drive engine units, which matched inboard power with outboard drive units. That gave single propellers directed thrust and put the maneuverability troubles to final rest. Outboards became bigger and more reliable, too, and the deep-vee flood was on.

Today practically no serious small-boat manufacturer is without one or more deep-vee designs. Where once the ocean blue was the province of 40-footers carrying crusty skippers in blue blazers, the little guy rules the offshores waves today.

The principle behind all this is the wedge. A deep vee is measured by the vee of the bottom at the stern. Instead of slapping along across the tops of the swells, a deep vee slices through them, even when it's on a plane. That means a measure of the speed of a racer combined with the comfort of a cabin cruiser.

You see them everywhere, Deep vees are stacked outside every boat shop, with names like Mako, Seacraft, Aquasport, Wellcraft, Grady White, CorrectCraft, Whaler and Robalo.

The queen of the fleet remains Dick Bertram's 31-footer, which started it all. She's still the sweetest riding, still carris the most elegant lines and the highest price tag.

Just don't run her aground. You migh never get off. CAPTION: Picture, HIGH AND DRY ON A SAND BAR. By Angus Phillips.