The Hinckley Company has long been a leader in technology, and in 2017, it became the first production boatbuilder to roll out an all-electric luxury yacht, Dasher.
Its recent foray into outboard propulsion with a Sport Boat line that topped speeds of 52 to 63 mph was followed by the introduction of the OnWatch vessel monitoring system. Hinckley also was among the first boatbuilders to offer a certified preowned program. A common thread among all these advances is Scott Bryant, whose background includes economics, engineering, boatbuilding, yacht design, sales and marketing. He spent four years with Hinckley Yachts as director of new product development before becoming vice president of product development and engineering.
His excitement about Dasher, Hinckley’s 28 1/2-footer with twin 80-hp Torqeedo engines and dual BMW i3 lithium ion batteries, was evident at the 2017 Newport International Boat Show. The wood-free boat is built with hand-painted, lightweight composite “artisanal teak.” Its concept is a collaboration among Michael Peters Yacht Design, America’s Cup engineers, composites experts and others in innovation and the tech industries.
The 6,500-pound vessel has a cruising speed of 10 mph and a top speed between 18 and 27 mph. Dasher’s range at 10 knots is about 40 miles; at top speed, it would be about half that. It can be fully charged in about four hours. “You push a button and it comes to life — yet, it’s silent,” Bryant said during the unveiling.
The OnWatch system uses sensors to track various data points on a boat and relays them via a cellular system to servers that update a mobile website, and Bryant hinted that boaters can expect to see Hinckley continue to further the customer experience through technology.
“Besides working at Hinckley, I have a real interest in technology and the way it shapes all aspects of our lives,” Bryant says. “I happen to be focused on the way we spend our time on the water, but I’m passionate about it, so it makes it easy to talk about.”
Q: Where are you based? Did you grow up boating?
A: My wife and I live in Barrington, Rhode Island, and we’ve got two kids. My wife is a professional photographer and teacher, so she gets to do that from home. We’ve lived in Rhode Island for almost 12 years now.
My dad was a sailor, so I started sailing and boating at very young age on Long Island Sound. I’ve always had an affinity for the water and boating. I remember wandering around marinas and boatyards and boat shows with my dad. I remember burning a lot of time watching boats coming in and out of slips; I remember it being very impactful, watching how boats moved through the water. I just gravitated towards it.
My dad had an old Tartan 34 when my brother and I were kids. My family would cruise Long Island Sound on that boat most weekends during the summer. I sailed competitively through the Junior Yacht Racing Association back in the ’80s and ’90s.
We also had an old 1959 13-foot Boston Whaler that my grandfather bought brand-new. It’s like a lot of people in the boat business who also discovered passions for boating on a 13-foot Whaler.
Q: Can you talk about your professional progression to Hinckley?
A: When I went off to college, I wasn’t event thinking about going into the boat business. I studied economics and music at Bucknell University. It wasn’t until after I graduated college that I started getting interested in it.
When I graduated, I moved to Marblehead, Massachusetts, and I started working at CW Hood Yachts as a boatbuilder. That was in 1997. I did all aspects of boatbuilding for a couple of years and really became passionate about both being on the water on a boat I had a part in developing and building and working with my hands.
From there, I wanted to learn more about what makes a boat a great boat, and specifically how to design one, so I went through the yacht design program at The Landing School in 2000. Immediately after that I went to Legacy Yachts. I stayed there for a couple of years and then got hired by TPI (Tillotson Pearson Inc.) Composites and had a multitude of roles both in engineering and development relative to True North, Alerion, and worked with the guys from J/Boats. I got exposed to a lot of manufacturing techniques, and a lot of different types of designs and technology specific to manufacturing. TPI developed the SCRIMP resin-infusion process in the early ’90s.
From there I developed an affinity for how people’s behaviors affected product development and design, and an interest in marketing and sales, as well as entrepreneurship relative to boatbuilding. I was really interested in how to run a small business in the boatbuilding field, and boots-on-the-ground, guerrilla marketing. I was moved within the organization to a sales and marketing role. That was when TPI transitioned into Pearson Marine Group. For five or six years I was running sales, marketing and also product for True North and Alerion, which were the brands owned by Pearson Marine Group at the time.
It was fun to transition a bit away from the engineering side of things and become really focused on the way people’s behaviors affected product development. That involved really listening to what people wanted, and how they were boating and spending time on the water.
Based on that, I developed and designed a series of boats for True North and Alerion and was part of the marketing plan for them as well. That really rounded out my experience and prepared me well for my next move, which was to Hinckley.
Q: Tell us about your time with Hinckley.
A: I’ve been at Hinckley for four years, and it’s been an amazing ride so far. Hinckley is a world-class organization. I started as director of product planning. That was a strategy role, so I was looking at opportunities in the marketplace and spending a lot of time with customers, trying to understand their experiences and where the experience was trending towards. I used that information and data to put together a long-term product strategy for Hinckley relative to boats and technology.
From there, my role developed to what it is now, which is vice president for all of product development and engineering. Those plans that were set in place four years ago when I got here, it’s been really fun to see some of that come to fruition just recently. Right when I got here, we started talking about outboards. We started talking about vessel telematics and digital switching, and where the market is going relative to automation.
Q: Your experience with engineering, technology and marketing must dovetail nicely at Hinckley. And your sailing background as well, because aren’t a lot of Hinckley owners lapsed or former sailors?
A: I’ve been lucky to have this diverse background. I’ve really enjoyed, especially in past year, collaborating with our new chief marketing officer, Pete Saladino. We’ve worked tightly together, where it’s been a co-leadership and partnership of working through marketing and product together.
Q: Hinckley is celebrating its 90th year. What might surprise readers about the company’s history?
A: It’s not so often you hear about a boat company celebrating its 90th year, right? We’ve got a few events coming up we’ll be celebrating, including a rendezvous this summer in Nantucket.
The company has had a lot of really amazing milestones. Few people know that in 1933, Hinckley launched its first motorboat. In 1941, we supported the war effort, and we built over 250 boats for the Navy and Coast Guard, their minesweepers. In 1959, we started building the Bermuda 40; at that time, we were really leading the industry in production fiberglass.
We introduced the first Picnic Boat in 1994, which is almost 25 years ago, with the JetStick technology as well as infused carbon Kevlar construction. A lot of people know we were the first recreational boat with a joystick control, but we were really out on the forefront relative to construction by making the hulls with carbon/Kevlar and infusing them.
In 2017, we introduced Dasher, which was the world’s first plug-in, electric luxury yacht. And then this year, it’s Hinckley Sport Boats, which are our outboard-powered boats. We’ll also be introducing the first Picnic Boat 40, our first boat using even a newer construction technique: infused epoxy into carbon and Kevlar that will all be post-cured.
Q: What are some of the benefits of using epoxy?
A: The Picnic Boat 40 and boats going forward after that, as well as the Hinckley Sport Boats, will all use that technology. We basically retooled the factory to build parts infusing epoxy into carbon and Kevlar instead of vinylester. As a result, we get a product that is lighter and stronger. Infusing the resin into this dry material allows us to align all the fibers in the right direction, so we’re able to get the perfect resin-to glass ratio to optimize weight and stiffness in the boats.
Beside the fact that it’s stronger when combined with carbon and Kevlar, epoxy is better for the environment and for our workforce. Also, because we are infusing epoxy, we’re able to infuse the hull and the structure all at once — so, carbon, Kevlar, the stringers — all of that structure happens at once, there are no secondary bonds, which truly makes a much stronger, stiffer hull.
Q: How does the process add to the cost of building?
A: The value that epoxy construction brings is very high. There’s always the price tag that goes along with that, but really, it’s a smaller percentage of the overall construction method that we use for building fiberglass parts than maybe other manufacturers. That is because we’re not just using carbon fiber in our stringer gaps. The outer skin of all our boats is Kevlar. There are multiple layers of carbon. The entire hulls are carbon and Kevlar. So, the epoxy — yes, it’s a little bit more expensive, but it’s a smaller percentage of the overall than what it might be for another manufacturer.
Q: Attracting and retaining manufacturing talent has been a big challenge for the industry. How are you doing it?
A: There’s a lot of talk of a shortage of talent in the workforce. We benefit from a longstanding culture of boatbuilding in Maine. When things have sped up or slowed down, we’ve been on a steady incline for years now. We’ve been focused on retaining the right people.
When you walk the lines at the manufacturing facility, you see the pride, you see the dedication that’s going in and people don’t go anywhere. Guys have been there for 30 years.
As we’ve grown, we’ve really had to focus on optimizing our most valuable asset, which is our employees. If there’s ways we can get more efficient and ways we can bring more value to customer by better utilizing the workforce we have, that’s what we do. I’m not on the human-resources side of the business, but I know there’s been a fair amount of training of the younger generation up in Maine, teaching a lot of the art of boatbuilding.
There are literally thousands of decisions that have to get made for a boat to arrive at its final resting place, just to get built on the shop floor. And finally, once it’s been defined, once it’s been engineered, and all those thousands of decisions have been made, you get it to the floor and there’s still a nuance that happens at the craftsman level. We build a certain amount of boats each year, and everything gets touched by the human hand, which is really special.
Q: Can you discuss the migration to outboard power, and why the company opted to do that now?
A: There are two things that we’ve been watching happen in the market recently. Our customers, and all of us, are more and more pressed for time. With all this technology things should be getting simpler, but it often seems like things get a little more complex. On top of that, outboards have begun to reach performance thresholds that are changing the way people use and experience their boats. The fact that people have less time, and the fact that outboard-powered boats are going faster, and doing more, and becoming more prevalent — those are the things that ignited our desire to offer an outboard-powered Hinckley.
Q: What are the MSRPs?
A: The base price for the 42-foot Hinckley Sport Boat Center Cabin is $735,000, and the Sport Boat, which is the larger cabin version, has a base price of $895,000.
Q: How did Hinckley design the Sport Boats? They seem purpose built.
A: This was not an existing design that we just slapped outboards on. The messaging strategy around the Sport Boat is different. Both are purpose-built for outboards with this idea of refined performance at the core.
I spent a lot of time talking with customers and understanding how they’re spending their time on the water. We’re not focused on giving them what they ask for; we’re focused on giving them what they want. We get to that by really listening carefully to the way they’re using boats. Although the outboard market is growing, the customers for the outboard-powered boat are slightly different from what they are for our other Hinckleys.
The underbody of the hull is designed by Ray Hunt, who is a veteran when it comes to outboard-powered boats. The rest of the design was all done in-house. They did all the naval architecture on the boat.
The key design parameters are around agile handling, performance at sea and ease of use. Obviously, impressive speed is a byproduct of the design philosophy and the fabrication techniques. And the power density on outboards is terrific, so when you combine that with the lightweight construction on our platform, we’re able to get pretty impressive speeds of 52 mph or 63 mph with optional power.
Q: The Sport Boats have already gotten attention because they’re so fast. What are the power options?
A: You can get the boats with either Mercury or Yamaha power, triple 300s or triple 350s, or you can get them with twin Seven Marine 627s.
Q: And these will be built to order like other Hinckleys?
A: Yes. We take a lot of pride in our direct-sell model, where we’re able to bring as much value to the customer as possible instead of going through a dealer. Part of selling direct is building to an owner’s specific tastes — cushions and colors and some custom options we’re able to entertain.
Q: When can we see one?
A: There will be one Center Cabin hitting the water this summer in July, and the larger cabin version Sport Boat will be available in February 2019. With a new product launch, we will own the first boat for the first eight weeks of its life for that exact reason — we’re taking press and possible customers out on the boat — and then it quickly gets sold. But that’s only for a new product launch.
Q: So is Dasher somebody’s boat now or is that a prototype?
A: Dasher was truly a concept program with the intent of going into production. The first hull is very much a prototype.
Q: Does that mean if someone says, “I want one,” you’ll build one?
A: Yes. We have plans to go under production with that boat. It’s about done with its initial circuit of showing press, showing it at boat shows, and it’s just been in the recent past that we’ve been able to take lot of customers out on the boat. It’s moving into sell mode. (Dasher costs around $500,000.)
Q: Do you get a lot of customers on Dasher who have never been underway with electric propulsion?
A: Everybody. We knew that was going to be the case. Sure, there are electric boats out there — displacement boats that do 5 or 6 knots — but this is another kettle of fish. This boat does almost 25 knots. Much in the way when Tesla came out with the Roadster in 2007, nobody had driven an electric car. As more people understood what driving an electric car was like, that’s when Tesla really took off and started selling actual cars.
I think the exact same thing is going on with Dasher. I’ve spent a lot of time on the boat; even before we launched it in September of last year, we built a test platform the year prior. I’d spent a lot of time testing it and understood what the boat was about. So, seeing people have these amazing experiences on the water with friends or family, where it’s quiet and you just hear the water, or the voices of your friends and family around you, is pretty remarkable. We’re seeing people realizing how nice it is to not have the sound or the smell of a gasoline or diesel engine and experience the beauty of going to the dock knowing it’s fueled or coming back from a trip and plugging it back in so it’s ready the next time — it’s pretty special.
Q: Torqeedo continues to hone that technology, with longer battery life and more speed, but boaters have been slow to adopt electric. Do you see the segment growing?
A: Yes. I think the future is electric. It’s happening in the automotive space, and I think it’s on its way here. With the development happening in battery technology and energy storage, it’s here to stay. How it shows up in the industry going forward, it’s really going to start with projects like Dasher. It’s showing up more and more on sailboats for auxiliary power. People are going to pick it up as they have these experiences on the water with electric boats. They’re going to really understand the benefits — the ease of maintenance, the ease of use, no stink — it’s going to take some time but we’re on our way.
Q: Hinckley used 3D printing to create the titanium hardware and console on Dasher. Can you talk about some of the innovations, and the process regarding additive manufacturing?
A: The potential that 3D printing has for the marine industry is pretty remarkable. It has the promise of saving so many steps in the manufacture of FRP [fiberglass reinforced plastic] parts or alternative parts by potentially eliminating the need to actually create a plug and a mold and then molding pieces. Instead, we’re talking about possibly and hopefully just making parts, enabled by a 3D printer.
3D printed parts save time: They’re fast, they’re precise, and it’s great for creating shapes that were hard to create in the past.
We partnered with the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center to develop this additive manufacturing piece of what we did with Dasher. We worked with them to optimize the designs for the parts for 3D printing, and the selection of materials. There are many types of materials that can be used in the process and we wanted to use something that would require the least amount of finish time, because we knew we had to post-finish these parts. We needed something that could withstand a lot of heating up and shrinking, because we knew the boat was going to be spending a lot of time in the sun.
The console on Dasher is a pretty intricate design. Just in the top alone, it has different parts to give it the look that it has. It’s almost sectioned off into three distinct areas. There’s the helm, there’s the center area where the custom user interface is, and then there’s the starboard side that has the storage area. From a design standpoint, it’s very pleasing on the eyes, and what’s hidden beneath seems very hidden. But the pieces look like they’re basically floating on the carbon base underneath it. I don’t think we could’ve gotten that same level of accuracy with an FRP part.
Q: What other benefits, and limitations, do you see in additive manufacturing?
A: One benefit of additive manufacturing that’s similar to composite construction is, based on what the load parts are from an engineering perspective, you can add more material into that area and design it down to a very small level. I think 3D printing has the promise of easily being able to mix and match materials in one part.
Depending on what kind of finish you want on the part, that’s a determining factor whether additive manufacturing is the right way to go. Because, no matter what, if you’re looking for a high gloss, you’re still going to need to post-finish parts. Depending on how you approach that, it could be fairly labor intensive.
The cost of executing 3D printed parts, it’s not exorbitant. There’s so much growth and development going on with additive manufacturing, but I think over time, that’s only going to come down.
There are some boatbuilders like us that are very interested in this technology, and the ultimate goal is that people start integrating that capability. We’ve started to make those steps. We acquired a 5-Axis machine in addition to our other CNC machines, and although it’s a cutting machine, it could be retrofitted to be a 3D printing machine.
Q: The titanium components and “artisanal teak” helped remove more than 2,000 pounds of weight from the Dasher, correct?
A: Yes, and what’s interesting about the “artisanal teak” is that it really requires that same level of artistry of creating amazing shapes out of solid wood and applying varnish. It’s just a different medium. Painting the grain onto a surface saves a ton of weight, and it saves wood as well. We were able to apply that finish to a composite material, so there’s weight savings, and it creates a surface that’s a lot more durable relative to sunlight and the daily use of a boat.
Q: Without giving anything away, what other trends do you see ahead?
A: There’s a lot happening in the shipping industry relative to autonomous boating. There are things showing up in the automotive space and shipping space. We continue to keep an eye on them and will develop them if we feel like it will truly augment the customer experience.
Q: Autonomous boating means so many different things to different people.
A: I think about that relative to the commercial shipping space. I’m not experienced there, but what I understand it to mean is, we’re taking the human element out of ship operation. The reasoning behind that is there are certain aspects of shipping that can be executed better by a computer. If there’s a part of recreational boating that can be done better by a truly tested piece of software, rather than a human, then it will start to show up in boating.
Software has taken over parts of our lives because it’s a better-suited tool to do a job. But again, doing it just for the sake of it is a miss. In recreational boating, it always has to be about the experience.
We’re really talking about ease of boating, and making things easier. From a technology standpoint, we spend a lot of time thinking about advancing our yacht care centers and servicing our customers and making sure they have everything they need on their boats. We’re thinking about how our service centers and yacht care centers can really benefit the customers using technology and being more thorough. We see a lot of growth and opportunity on that front as well. That fueled the development of our telematic system Hinckley OnWatch.
Q: You also introduced a certified preowned program last year, and concierge services at your yards. Can you talk about that, as well as a little more about OnWatch?
A: We just opened another service yard in Stamford, Connecticut, and the American Boat Builders & Repairers Association named Hinckley Yacht Services Portsmouth as its Boatyard of the Year. We’re running tons of boats through our yards, and I think the fact that our customers continue to come back to our service centers is a testament to the experience they’re having. Having that growing network gives our customers the state of mind that the entire Hinckley organization has their back on the water.
Hinckley OnWatch is standard equipment on all our boats. We’re continuing to develop that, to be able to remotely operate certain modes on the boats. We’re really working towards staying connected with our customers and letting our customers stay connected with us in a truly automated way. So, if there’s a challenge on water, we can show up in all ways possible, in person or digitally.
It seems like new companies are showing up all the time and offering a telematic type of service, which I think is great, and some boat owners are adopting it. But using it as a tool in the context of a large service organization, that’s where the technology really shines.
We’re really excited about the growth of our certified preowned program announced last year. Our customers understand how servicing the boats with us leads directly to enhanced resale value. It’s pretty unique, having a brand of boat connected directly to a nationwide network of yards.
Besides that, we also guarantee our hulls and decks for life — for life — and it’s transferable.
Our On Board program continues to be successful. Our Hinckley service customers get used to having a pretty high level of care to begin with. Those that want that particular level of per-trip concierge, that’s what our On Board program is about.
If you go to a really nice high-end resort, which some of our customers are going to, you get used to a really high level of service. It helps to drive that level of service within our own organization.
This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue.