Zurn spent his youth sailing on Lake Erie. After graduating with honors from the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, he learnt the trade from such giants as Dieter Empacher and Chuck Paine. Zurn spent time as a designer at both Able Marine and Tartan Yachts before starting his own firm in the 1990’s. However, he still owes much of his success to Billy Joel for commissioning the design that launched Zurn’s career, the Shelter Island 38 Runabout.
The Shelter Island 38 is easily, FHY owner, Forbes Horton’s favorite powerboat due to, as Billy Joel describes, her “go fast but look good” design. Zurn worked with Joel and builder Peter Needham of Coecles Harbor Boatyard to create a design reminiscent of the narrow commuter yachts of the 1930’s and 40’s with an ability to cruise comfortably at high speeds. The resulting design has become a highly sought after interpretation of the classic down east powerboat. To create a strong but lightweight design, the hull was built of a Kevlar and E-glass hybrid using vinylester resin. With this lightweight hull build, even with cruising speeds at 46 knots and a top speed of 55 knots, the Shelter Island 38 maintains an incredibly smooth ride. “It’s like my father’s ‘56 Buick,” said Billy Joel when the yacht was completed, “They used to say those GM cars from the ‘40s and ‘50s ‘drove like a boat.’ Now I know what they meant.”
Zurn’s successes in motor yacht design have continued to today. Working, once more, with Billy Joel, he intends to launch a 57’ Fast Commuter Yacht. He is still creating cutting edge contemporary designs from 20’ to 70’ with his own Zurn Yacht Design and other design companies such as Vanquish Boats in Newport, RI. He is also currently the chief consultant for “Yachts & Yachting” with AXYS Productions.