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Megayachts

Nov 5, 2018 11:29 AM

Secrecy, ‘tire-kicking’ define state of yacht building in US, Canada

Westport Yachts has been building luxury watercraft for clients worldwide since 1964. The evolution of technology and craftsmanship has led to composite offerings in four lengths from the Washington state builder: 112 feet, 125 feet, 130 feet and 164 feet.

Courtesy Westport Yachts

Westport Yachts has been building luxury watercraft for clients worldwide since 1964. The evolution of technology and craftsmanship has led to composite offerings in four lengths from the Washington state builder: 112 feet, 125 feet, 130 feet and 164 feet.

If one thing is certain about North American yacht building in the past decade, it’s the ever-increasing air of secrecy. American clients comprise nearly 20 percent of the ownership of large yachts (100-plus feet) worldwide, yet for social, political and economic reasons, they prefer to keep their luxury purchases quiet. Some North American builders oblige these unofficial “gag orders” despite the adverse effect of being unable to market their projects.

Nobody ever goes in. Nobody ever comes out.” Like the fabled Wonka Chocolate Factory, there is much going on beyond the gates at Delta Marine, the largest custom yacht builder in the United States. But while the employees do come and go daily, the silence to the outside world is deafening. Sea trials on Puget Sound are the only giveaway for the impressive — and ever increasing in length — projects that this family-owned and operated shipyard is churning out. Case in point is the 206-foot motor yacht Satori, which was spotted being lowered into the water outside of the Seattle shipyard in late December 2017.

The only other known project at the yard, which builds in steel, composite and aluminum, is a 174-foot semi-displacement aluminum-hulled motor yacht designed and styled by Seattle-based Jonathan Quinn Barnett that is rumored to be launched this year. A composite superstructure hints that this build will be an extremely lightweight, high-volume vessel.

The ability to promote its two most recent projects has generated a burst of energy and activity at Manitowoc, Wis.-based Burger Boat Co. The first, a 103-foot, steel-hulled explorer yacht Northland (read the profile here) launched last November. The second, a 48-foot cruiser, Blue Boat Home, spawned a smaller series collaboration with Dutch design firm Vripack with the aim of enticing new yacht owners.

Christensen Shipyards has rebounded from financial setbacks dating to 2008 to resume yacht production in Vancouver, Wash. Hull 38 is currently under construction, a composite 164-footer with a pedigree of yard forerunners Silver Lining and D’Natalin IV.

Courtesy Christensen Shipyards

“We’ve seen a significant increase in inquiries from potential clients in the last several months,” said Ron Cleveringa, Burger vice president of sales and marketing. “We believe this is a sign of good things ahead for the U.S. yacht building industry.”

In Vancouver, Wash., the temporarily shuttered Christensen Shipyards came to life again two years ago to complete and deliver the 164-foot Chasseur and Silver Lining in 2017, projects that had been paused when financial difficulties due to the 2008 economic crisis befell the company. Production is well underway on Hull 38, a sister ship to Silver Lining, with an anticipated delivery of late 2018 or early 2019. This voluminous build will accommodate up to 12 guests in six staterooms, including an owner’s suite and full-beam VIP stateroom, and lists a helipad, outdoor lounge and sundeck spa pool among its amenities.

Production continues at a steady pace 160 miles to the northwest at Westport Yachts, which builds advanced composite motor yachts in 112-, 125-, 130- and 164-foot series at facilities in Westport and Port Angeles, Wash. “The interest in our products remains high, particularly from U.S. clients,” said Alex Rogers, director of sales.

Hulls 60 and 61 of the Westport 112 will deliver to their owners by mid-2019, while Hulls 62 and 63 are underway. The next 130 was being delivered to its owner at press time, with Hull 16 of this model scheduled for a February 2019 delivery. Hull 15 of the 164 series, which was added to the company’s offerings in 2006, is also under construction. The contemporary-styled Westport 125 raised pilothouse series, a 2017 addition to the company’s lineup, now has Hulls 5 and 6 in production.

Crescent Custom Yachts of Richmond, British Columbia, is building a 112-foot tri-deck yacht for scheduled launch in 2019. The composite vessel, with exterior lines by Luiz de Basto of Miami, Fla., has a 26-foot beam and a draft of 6 feet 8 inches.

Courtesy Crescent Custom Yachts

Just over the border, Crescent Custom Yachts in Richmond, British Columbia, has three composite motor yachts under construction. The first, a 112-foot tri-deck designed by Miami-based Luiz de Basto with an interior by H2 Design of London, is on schedule for a 2019 launch, as is a 117-foot Greg Marshall-designed fast pilothouse yacht. Both of these vessels are actively for sale.

The uniquely American sportfishing market accounted for the bulk of yacht building production in the U.S. in the past year, albeit most of it falling into the under-100-foot, non-megayacht category. New Jersey-based Viking Yachts has launched 12 hulls in its 92-foot series in the past two years and is preparing to launch the first of its revised 58-foot series, while in Tampa, Fla., Bertram Yachts continues to produce for owners who enjoy the balance of fishing and leisure, its highly anticipated 61-foot model having recently debuted.

Despite the hesitancy currently being experienced in North American yacht building, new legislation signed into law by President Trump in August is expected to positively impact the industry. Now, yachts over 300 GT that meet Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) requirements can be flagged and registered in the U.S., something American owners were previously reluctant to do because of an antiquated law that defined a yacht of that volume as a commercial vessel — thereby subject to more stringent operations and construction standards.

Couple this with the impressive brokerage sales in the U.S. — American clients accounted for 46 percent of worldwide sales in 2017 — the outlook is positive. As one shipyard executive said, “Owners are on their boats, using them, enjoying them. The boats are moving. Fuel is affordable and the charter market is healthy.”

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