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PALM BEACH VIDEO: Mahogany boats carve out a presence

It was a weekend when mahogany memories were made.

At the 28th Palm Beach International Boat Show, retro runabouts, commuters and cruisers held a strong presence on the docks. The brightwork on Ramp 9 gleamed from boats by Grand-Craft, O’Neill Craft and Vicem’s Windsor Craft.

O’Neill Craft showed two vessels — Little Queen Bee and Ironsides. The Riviera Beach, Fla., company builds its classic cruisers with fiberglass hulls (refitted Bertram 28s), but all teak or mahogany above the hull, said company owner Roger O’Neill.

The largest retro boat I saw was over at Ramp 8 — the 85-foot Trumpy Enticer. On the hard, Hacker-Craft had its 27-foot Tommy Bahama Edition Speedboat powered with a single Ilmor MV8 6.2-liter, 430-hp gas engine. There were other “woodies” that I’m sure I missed.

“It’s a little unusual for a contemporary boat show to have this many nice mahogany runabouts and motoryachts, but I think that really speaks to both the venue and the visitors who are attracted to the Palm Beach show,” Soundings Trade Only editor-in-chief Bill Sisson said. “There’s an appreciation for that lovely retro styling and everything that goes with it, from varnished teak and mahogany to bronze fittings to a sense of tradition. Maybe it’s a micro-trend.”

Click play for a look at the classic offerings.

On Ramp 10, the 54-foot Posh, a retro commuter designed by Bill Prince and built by the Brooklin (Maine) Boatyard, garnered plenty of jaw-dropping interest.

Posh is “a reimagination of a 1930s art-deco commuter yacht, but bristling with superyacht tech under the surface,” Prince said of the 54-footer.

The emerging wooden boat trend is a result of two converging themes, Prince said.

“One, far fewer [new fiberglass] boats are being produced in today's smaller market and the wooden-boat niche appears larger as a percentage of the total new-boat market,” Prince said. “Two, those who are in the market for a new boat now are relatively wealthier than the typical pre-2008 buyer. Today's buyers represent the wealthiest slice of the pie and tend to seek the highest-quality, most elegant boats available. Modern hand-crafted wood boats fit this description.”

The Palm Beach show is a good place to find those high-end buyers, said Bill Cavanagh, president of Grand-Craft mahogany boats, which is based in Holland, Mich.

Cavanagh showed his 36-foot Grand-Craft, also a commuter-style boat with a gas inboard (a V-8 382-hp Ilmore). “It’s a dayboat with storage and a toilet forward,” he said. “We have 10 of these in use across the country.”

O’Neill likes Palm Beach, too. He said he sold two boats at the show and a third buyer expressed high interest.

— Chris Landry




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