Zen and the Art of Spirit of Tradition Pontoon Boats.

It can take effort to sense the silver lining in the dark cumulus clouds of the custom boat business. We work in a mature market, of a discretionary product, for a flat demographic that makes little sense to the next generation. Boats are like golf, but with waves and even crazier names for sh#t. But there’s at least one ray of hope in the thunder clouds of the yacht-making game: Pontoon boats. Yup, pontoon boats: Floating packages of giant aluminum hot dogs are the runaway winners in the slowly recovering global boat building market, at least according the Boat Building […]

Retro Golden Globe One-Design Racer Gets Lost In Design Time.

Hey, Don McIntyre! You’re the organizer of the Golden Globe 2018 single-handed round-the-world race. You know, the one where anybody can grab a select list of old fiberglass boats and go around the world non-stop, with not much more than a sextant. Is there a rule we missed that says the new one-design for your race has to be a slow boat to China and back? It’s not like we’re not big fans of the coming Golden Globe Race 2018. We flat out love how your GGR will send off a mixed fleet of about 30 professional and amateur sailors. […]

Marine Engineering 111: Why is my cockpit eh … a cockpit?

We all sit in them, we stand in them, haul lines in them, and have lunch in them. But do we know why a cockpit is what it is? In many boats, the answer is no. Cockpits seam to slouch in as pre-ordained stories. And that’s a shame, because roughly 7 out of the 10 of the design choices in a vessel involve the design and function of a cockpit. Cockpits expose the inner guts of a boat to the elements and bad luck. Soles that are too low can sink a vessel through downflooding. And it’s the cockpit that […]

Question of the Month: Should I Varnish My Boat in the Caribbean?

We love boats of all materials– okay, except MAYBE go easy on the ferro-cement. But we’ve drawn a lot of cool boats, boutique boats, and modern classics. Many have been built as custom one-offs in composite wood construction. We’re often tapped for our expertise in building fancy things out of different wood species. And we recently had a reader and a customer pose a question we get a lot: Can I keep my modern wooden boat in the Caribbean year-round? What challenges will I see? To be honest, the brutal conditions of the sun and salt air of the sweeping […]

Marine Engineering 108: Why on earth does anybody pay so much for a custom boat?

And now, the customer: All the elegantly engineered keels, retro-installed electric drives and superyacht-regatta winning hulls matter not a whit unless these yachty wonders wind up into a real, floating boat. And that real boat requires the near magical, impossible-to-design thing: A real customer. We’ve been working the yacht design wheels for nearly 60 combined years, and we know less now about where the good clients come from than when we started. Where does the individual with the means, inclination and imagination come from to create a great boat? We have no idea. But it is impossible to overstate their […]

A Few Stairways to Heaven: What makes Anna’s interior go up … and down.

In this business, sometimes you spend two full months on a few sets of stairs. About half-way through the design of the 65-foot sloop Anna, currently coming together over at Lyman Morse Boatbuilders, we knew a unique focal point was emerging in this boat: The staircases. Designing any boat is a battle of inches. But with Anna we had to work in a graceful passage from the outer deck to the full interior of this yacht. Two seemingly simple sets of stairs were needed: One with just one riser, that led from the cockpit down to the raised salon. And […]

Paul Waring on “Alternative Boating Facts”

I’m an engineer. I live to reduce things down to basics. I love to break complex components into smaller pieces that make them easier to explain. Last week, we compared the price of different boats by measuring the cost of each pound of those boats. What did that simple price-to-displacement tool teach us? That comparing the price of boats is almost never apples-to-apples. The Bad News On Shopping for Luxury Goods. Comparing custom-made high-end products is tricky. The quality of the build and the cost of the labor are factors. Timeline and schedule also play a role. if you’re looking […]

What Ben and Steve Have To Say About Boatbuilding.

Steve Van Dam really did get his wife Jean, to “volunteer” to help him build his first boat shop. It was in 1977 and the young couple was living in a single-wide mobile home on a small woodlot outside of Harbor Springs, Michigan. “I wanted to build boats,” is how Van Dam likes to describe his approach to business. And today, almost 40 years later Steve, and now his son Ben, are still building some of the finest all-custom, handcrafted vessels on Earth. We sat down with Ben and Steve for a talk about their philosophy on boat building; how […]