For the Record: Builders ramping up production, bringing back employees

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Several boat manufacturers announced in recent weeks that they are reversing the industry's downward trend by bringing back workers and increasing factory production. Among the builders posting modest improvements are Four Winns, Chaparral, Sea Hunt and Mystic.

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  • Production at Four Winns' Cadillac, Mich., plant has increased since its recent purchase by Platinum Equity. Four Winns has since gone from one line to three, and workers have been called back from layoffs caused by former parent company Genmar's bankruptcy.

Engineering, marketing and sales, warranty and parts - and all other company functions - are beginning to return to normal functions, the company says in a statement.

"During these tough times, we've been fortunate to have had the ability to keep our design team operational," says Jeff Olson, Four Winns president, in a statement. "You'll soon be seeing the product and design innovations for the 2011 lineup."

  • Chaparral Boats added employees and increased production due to "excellent results" from early-season boat shows, the company says. Chaparral has increased its employee count in 2010 by more than 120 and now has approximately 450 employees, says company president Jim Lane.

The company also has increased production "approximately 200 percent compared to the end of 2009." Lane says the company did not release specific unit figures. In filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company acknowledged it had "reduced our production levels drastically" in 2009 to allow dealers to reduce their inventories.

  • Sea Hunt Boats has increased its production to keep up with demand, the company reports. "We are blessed; business is good, and orders are steady. We have had to increase production to keep up with our dealers' demand," says Capt. Larry Jett, director of dealer development.

The Columbia, S.C., manufacturer has increased production from 20 to 25 boats a week and has added staff. Sea Hunt has 68 employees and 60 dealers.

  • Mystic Powerboats, of DeLand, Fla., has doubled its production of high-

performance power catamarans by adding additional molds, tooling and more efficient production techniques. "We actually had several inquiries for smaller 42s or 44s, but our 50-foot recreational boat demand was so high we had no choice," company president John Cosker says of the increased production.

Aluminum-boat builder Duracraft is for sale

South Carolina-based Duracraft Marine is for sale. Steve Deese, who also owns Encore Boat Builders, builder of Bentley pontoon boats, says he's selling because of health issues and wants to concentrate on his pontoon business.

Deese, 59, is selling all the assets - finished boats in stock, tooling, any and all equipment and parts inventory - of the company, as well as the name. The company, he says, is listed for "well below" market value and comes free of debt.

"The Duracraft name has been around since the 1950s and has an ... excellent reputation of quality and value and has thousands of boats in the market today," he says of the aluminum boat line. "This company has potential of millions in volume, as it has in the past."

Deese owned Duracraft from 2002-2008, when he sold it because of health reasons. However, the party he sold it to was unable to keep it up and running amid poor economic conditions, so Deese bought it from creditors in 2009.

He reopened Duracraft in January but stopped production in March. He says there are about 50 finished boats in the 75,000-square-foot facility. Buyers can lease the building and land with an option to purchase, or purchase it along with the company.

The pontoon business is booming, Deese says, adding that he's building eight to 10 pontoons a week to meet demand.

"I'm putting all my effort and time into Bentley," he says.

- Beth Rosenberg

Aussie boatbuilder taken off the block

Australian builder Riviera announced in April that the company's secured debt holders elected to withdraw the business from the sale process and focus on rebuilding. "Over the last 11 months our bankers have been impressed with our performance, despite the prevailing market conditions, and the positive gains made as a direct result of the restructuring process," Riviera CEO John Anderson says in a statement. "Our focus is now firmly to build the business and make it even stronger."

Anderson says sales are above expectations, and during the last 11 months, more than 100 new Rivieras have been sold worldwide. The builder also signed new international dealers in the United States and Europe.

Spectre power cats back in production

Frisini Motorsports announced it has purchased the molds for Spectre power catamarans and is now producing the boats at its manufacturing facility in Tampa, Fla.

"I saw a big gap in the market for a reasonably priced performance boat," says Tony Frisian, owner of Lyndhurst, N.J.-based Frisini Motorsports, in a statement. "Performance boat prices have soared out of control over the last few years, and it's time to make this great pastime affordable again."

Production began in February, and two new models are already being built, Frisian says.

Wesmar forms partnership for European presence

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Wesmar president Bruce Blakey and Alex De Boom, president of Arie De Boom Marine of France, announced that their companies have established a partnership called Wesmar Europe. Under the agreement, Arie De Boom will develop a sales and service network for Wesmar products throughout Europe.

Wesmar will supply the equipment and technical training for the sales and support of its bow and stern thruster equipment, roll fin stabilizers and hydraulics.

Industry mourns several players

  • Robert G. Keith, who owned and operated Keith's Marina in West Bend, Wis., for decades, died April 1. He was 92. Keith bought the marina on Big Cedar Lake in 1968. In 1990, the family added to the business and now displays more than 200 boats in its showroom. "Although we purchased the business in 2001, until just two weeks ago, our 92-year-old father, Robert Keith, came to work each day to talk with our customers and to make certain his five sons 'tow the line,' " the Keith brothers say in a statement.
  • Richard Drew Rasor Jr., of Larchmont, N.Y., who had a successful career in advertising sales for several magazines, including Yachting, died suddenly March 30 at the age of 48 while on vacation with his family. He leaves behind a wife and three young children. "We lost one of the good guys," says Ed Baker, publisher of Bonnier Corp.'s Yachting and Salt Water Sportsman. "I know of no one out there who could say anything bad about Rich." Donations can be made to The Rasor Family Trust 2010, in care of The Golden Shoestring (Junior League of Westchester on the Sound), 149 Larchmont Ave., Larchmont, NY 10538.
  • Louis H. Munkelwitz, a former vice president and general manager of Interlux North America, died March 7 in Crossville, Tenn. He was 85. Prior to joining Interlux, Munkelwitz worked for the Harvey Hubbell Company and the Woolsey Paint Company. He retired in 1980 and moved to Sarasota, Fla., where he became a consultant to the Pro-Line Marine Paint Co. He later consulted and assisted Nautical Coatings Co. in establishing its products in the Bahamas and Caribbean.
  • Capt. Bruce O. Tobiasson, 66, owner and chief engineer of Waterfront Design Associates, died Feb. 3 in Medfield, Mass. Tobiasson was known for designing more than 350 marinas and small-craft harbors in the United States and abroad. He was an engineer for more than 45 years and began Waterfront in 1983. Many of his designs have become standard practices nationally and internationally, and his book "Marinas and Small Craft Harbors," published in 1991 and revised in 2000, is considered a solid reference guide for the field.
  • Industry advocate Dave Wygoda, 62, died of cancer in his hometown of Oceanside, N.Y. In 2001, he chaired the Chris Larkin Memorial Fishing Tournament, one of the largest charity fishing events in the Northeast, and in 2003 and 2004 he hosted the Discover Boating booth at the New York Boat Show. Wygoda joined MPC Network, publisher of the MPC Boaters Directory, in 2005 as New York sales manager and remained with MPC until his passing.

GPS giant to change corporate home

Garmin Ltd. announced its board of directors unanimously approved moving the company's place of incorporation from the Cayman Islands to Switzerland.  Garmin's shareholders will be asked to vote in favor of the proposed change at a shareholder meeting set for May 20. Garmin says it does not expect the redomestication to have any material impact on its financial results.

Assuming completion of the redomestication, shares of the Swiss company would be listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol GRMN, the same symbol under which Garmin shares are currently listed. The Swiss company would remain subject to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reporting requirements, the mandates of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and the applicable corporate governance rules of NASDAQ.

Marketing program helps marinas online

ActiveCaptain, an online forum for boaters, announced a new program designed to help marinas market to boaters. ActiveCaptain Co-Op is a time-sensitive offer of discounts, special rates and free services that marinas can post to 20,000 ActiveCaptain members. Marina owners can turn on and off the offers whenever they want to drive more business to their facilities, the company says.

Marinas pay nothing to create and display co-ops. They pay $1.99 when a co-op is used by a boater, and the transaction has completed. The program is accepting enrollment. www.activecaptain.com

Compressor manufacturer moves to new location

Engel USA, a leader in portable 12-volt compressor and refrigeration technology, moved its warehouse and corporate offices to a larger facility in Jupiter, Fla. "The demand for our products heats up every day," says president Paul Kabalin in a statement. "We need the additional space to make sure we have the ice chests, fridge/freezers and accessories in stock so our dealers can get the products they need when they need them."

The company's new address is 900 Jupiter Park Drive, Jupiter, FL 33458.

Pier Genius moves HQ to former school

Dock manufacturer Pier Genius recently purchased a high school in Woden, Iowa, that was closed last year and transformed it into its manufacturing facility, indoor showroom and sales/training center. The 16,800-square-foot facility includes a pond for research and development. The pond also serves as an outdoor showroom and material durability testing center.

"Typically, the volume of manufacturing we accomplish would require over 40,000 square feet, but our lean practice methods make us very efficient and require less space," says Jesse King, Pier Genius president, in a statement.

Pier Genius also plans to add a windmill to help power the building, which will be completely operated by wind, solar and geothermal by 2015, according to King.

Employees get a cut of company profits

Defender Industries of Waterford, Conn., reports it rewarded its staff with a share of profits earned in 2009. Eligible employees received the equivalent of a week's pay on average. The family-owned marine retailer saw sales growth of more than 10 percent in the last year, and this is the fourth consecutive year Defender has been able to share its success with staff, according to the company.

This was the eighth consecutive year of significant growth and the sixth consecutive year of record sales for 71-year-old Defender, according to the company.

Torresen Marine goes solar

Torresen Marine announced it will install a 150-kW solar power project at its main facility in Muskegon, Mich. The company is partnering with Inovateus Solar and Chart House Energy to provide the marina and the community of Muskegon with a new power source on top of Torresen's 28,000-square-foot sailboat storage facility.

The $740,000 system will offset power by 30 percent and produce the equivalent energy it takes to power 20 homes in the Muskegon area, according to Torresen.

IBBI hands out annual awards

Independent Boat Builders Inc. recently presented awards at its annual purchasing conference in St. Louis. The winners were chosen on the basis of a survey completed by IBBI members, rating suppliers in six categories.

IBBI honored Marine Fasteners, Piedmont Plastics and Reichhold as Supplier of the Year. "These three suppliers have provided outstanding service to our membership over the last year," IBBI controller Jodi Sanders says in a statement. "All of our sponsored suppliers show tremendous dedication to our membership, and it was a close vote to determine the top three that truly went above and beyond."

IBBI also handed out Outstanding Partner Awards to companies that narrowly missed out on the top awards. Those recipients were CH Robinson, CPS Distributors, Foam Supplies and MPI. Supplier Fin-Addict Marine was named Outstanding New Supplier.

MRAA names new board member

The Marine Retailers Association of America appointed Joe Hoffmaster, of Hoffmaster's Marina, Woodbridge, Va., to the board of directors as representative of Region Three. Hoffmaster will complete the unexpired term of Jim Browning, who recently resigned. He is the second-generation owner of Hoffmaster's Marina, a member of the Spader 20 Group and a member of ABYC, NMEA and Christians in Commerce.

Boston Whaler unveils largest model ever

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Brunswick Commercial and Government Products introduced the 37-foot Justice, the largest Boston Whaler model ever built. "In a triple-outboard configuration, the 370 Justice has the horsepower for border and coastline patrol, drug interdiction, and offshore homeland security activities," sales manager Jeremy Davis says in a statement. "With the amenities on board and a 450-gallon fuel capacity, teams can stay on the water longer and more comfortably."

The 370 Justice will be available for in-water demonstrations May 11-13 at the Multi-Agency Craft Conference in Norfolk, Va.

In other news, Whaler announced that FishTopia, an in-water celebration of friends, family, fishing and freedom, will debut this summer. Each FishTopia event will include a fishing tournament, as well as other activities for people of all ages.

FishTopia events will differ from location to location, where activities may include live music, cooking demonstrations, water sports, games and contests. Participants also will be able to upload photos to show off their catch or their own FishTopia fun.

Boston Whaler plans to release more details about the inaugural FishTopia, as well as those hosted by dealerships around the world.

Trawler Fest heads to the Northwest

The next Trawler Fest event, produced by PassageMaker magazine, will take place May 20-22 at the Cap Sante Boat Haven in Anacortes, Wash. The show celebrates the cruising-under-power lifestyle and will feature more than 70 exhibitors. More than 60 boats will be on display for boarding from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

Educational seminars will also be held at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. daily and include such topics as All About Anchoring, The Latest in Navigation, and Exploring the Queen Charlotte Islands. Admission to these will be included with the $15 general admission to the show.

PassageMaker is a division of Dominion Enterprises, the parent company of Soundings Trade Only. www.passagemaker.com

Record vendor numbers at Florida flea market

Organizers of the Dania (Fla.) Marine Flea Market say this year's event had a record 329 vendors, and the number of attendees was up 6 percent from last year. Exact attendance figures for the March 18-21 event were not released.

"While we have no way of tracking vendor sales, the overwhelming consensus of vendors with whom I spoke believe this was the best Dania Marine Flea Market ever," says Jennifer Dudas, general manager and vice president of show organizer Al Behrendt Enterprises, in a statement. Next year's event is scheduled for March 17-20.

This article originally appeared in the May 2010 issue.

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