Finding Solace in a new, mysterious boat design

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Stephen Dougherty, founder of Solace, was instrumental in the success of the EdgeWater and Everglades brands.

Stephen Dougherty, founder of Solace, was instrumental in the success of the EdgeWater and Everglades brands.

Most industry observers might be wary of a public relations campaign announcing a new boat line with no pictures of the boats. Instead, there are images of seashells, sand and waves. But if the owner of the new Solace line has the name Dougherty — the same Dougherty family behind the Boston Whaler, EdgeWater and Everglades brands — a certain amount of leeway should be granted.

Stephen Dougherty, who sold Everglades in 2015, had always planned to come back to the boating industry when the time was right. “When we left Everglades and started a company doing work for Disney theme parks, I figured that business would eventually transform into the boat business,” Dougherty told Trade Only Today. “We have a 200,000-square-foot facility, staff of 140, including a full engineering team, along with a machine shop, paint facility, welding and five-axis routers. One of the routers is 60 feet long. We have more capabilities now than we’ve ever had in the past.”

Building ride vehicles for theme parks, Dougherty’s team became experts with advanced composites, carbon fiber and epoxy infusion.

Dougherty had several years to think about the kind of boat he’d love to build for himself. “I had those years to think about new projects and what I’d want my perfect boat to look like,” he said. “I realized there was nothing on the market like that, so we decided to build it.”

Solace=USEThis

The company is not being secretive for the sake of being coy, Dougherty said, but rather hiding a half-dozen patents that will be used on the new boat. “There are many unique features, including the shape of the hull and swim platforms,” he said. “We’ve also designed a lot of new mechanical components and hardware. We have an awful lot of new stuff that is going to be ready to hit the market in the next two months.”

Dougherty says the first model will be a 33-foot center console design. The other boats be larger and launched every three or four months after the Solace 33 debuts in the spring.

The line will be upscale, incorporating high-end components as standard features. “We learned something from Everglades,” Dougherty said. “No matter what options we included, it pretty much cost the same thing to build in terms of time on the production line. Therefore, we made the decision to make everything standard on the Solace line. We’ll even have a Seakeeper gyro on this boat as standard equipment.”

The Solace line will eventually comprise six models. Todd Albrecht was hired as sales manager to grow a dealer network.

The fact that the industry could be nearing the end of its growth cycle doesn’t bother Dougherty. “We started all our companies during down periods,” he said. “At this point, we’re growing and as we sign on dealers, we’ll have a big pipeline to fill.”

The theme park facility, while ongoing, is being transformed into a boatbuilding plant. “Our lamination capabilities are state of the art,” Dougherty said. “We also have one of the biggest gelcoat spray booths in Florida. We have bridge cranes for six production lines and a built-in vacuum system for infusion. We can do everything in-house, so we can be a lot more creative. Our designers have a lot more freedom.”

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