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Sea Hunt Boats quietly gains saltwater market share

NORWALK, Conn. — Sea Hunt Boats has been gaining market share in the 18- to 30-foot range saltwater market steadily during the last decade.
Sea Hunt sales manager Johnny Craig spoke about the company’s success at the Progressive Norwalk Boat Show.

Sea Hunt sales manager Johnny Craig spoke about the company’s success at the Progressive Norwalk Boat Show.

NORWALK, Conn. — Sea Hunt Boats has been gaining market share in the 18- to 30-foot range saltwater market steadily during the last decade, but is fairly quiet about its success.

The Columbia, S.C., boatbuilder sees dealers making three to four turns on average, while they clamor for more boats. But Sea Hunt has found its sweet spot, according to Sea Hunt sales manager Johnny Craig, and isn’t looking to add to its 34 dealers in its network.

“The company builds 2,000 boats a year,” Craig told Trade Only Today at the Norwalk Boat Show. “We produce eight boats a day, every day. Then the boats are on haulers and being delivered. There are no boats in the yard.”

The company, founded in 1995 by Vic and Bubba Roof, a father and son team, now has a 170,000-square-foot facility and is not computerized at all, Craig said. Bubba Roof, age 44, has the majority stake in the company and runs it with his partner Joel Moss.

“Bubba is there every morning at 6 a.m. and checks the molds,” Craig said. “He invests in inventory of purchased items. He keeps it in stock so he can deliver those eight boats each day, and keeps track via a pad of paper and a pen. Bubba is the only one who submits orders to be produced.”

“Every dealer I have would like to have more boats,” Craig says, adding that he was hired by Roof to make sure “the dealers were being taken care of.”

Steven Bolanos of All Seasons Marine Works, the dealer displaying seven Sea Hunt models, as well as Regulator and Pursuit, at the show, said his business would gladly take more Sea Hunts. “We sell them as fast as we get them,” Bolanos said.

The company had tried to build beyond those 2,000 boats, but scaled back again to ensure the quality and oversight that the company has built its reputation on.

“We have no intentions of expanding into bigger boats either,” Craig says — which is noteworthy as nearly all the saltwater market players have introduced new models in the 40-foot range. “That’s not us. We don’t want to build a half-million dollar boat. We build boats for families, not just hardcore fishermen.”

Roof also doesn’t spend money on print advertisements, relying on devout word of mouth. The company is debt free and relies on its buying power to keep prices low. Craig didn’t want boat show prices listed in print, but maintained that the boats are among the most competitively-priced without sacrificing fit, finish and quality.

Craig, who came from Stingray Boats, said he was captivated by the enthusiasm and excitement at the company.

“Bubba has a real passion for the brand and a great relationship with his dealers,” he said. “They retain their employees because they pay well. Where we are in South Carolina, there are other boatbuilders. Our employees have opportunities to go elsewhere, and we don’t want that to happen.”

There are more than 100 workers at the plant, though Craig declined to be specific about the workforce. The dealer network is in the Southeast and Northeast, with a couple in Texas, Craig says. Dealers in other parts of the country would like to represent the product, but, “Who would I cut off to give a new dealer 40 boats?” Craig asked.

There are seven lines within the brand, many of them center consoles. Those include the Gamefish Series, the BX Bay Boat Series, the Ultra Series designed for comfort, the Triton Series — billed as “an affordable boat with excellent performance” — the dual console Escape Series, the center console Edge Series, and the RZR Stepped Hull Series.

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