Winslow Homer The Fog Warning 1885, Dave Mallach's nautical report on fine yachts

The Real Deal

So this clip from 1933 – to me one of the funniest in film history – playfully illustrates the difference between the real deal, and that which is not quite. I see this in the boat biz all the time.

Last week I wrote about fun times at yacht builder Happy Hours. They are fun, but the truth is they don’t compare to those of the Marketing people. Let’s just say they can get a little … raucous! They also have their own unique lingo. For example, I’ve heard heard this refrain more than a few times:

“But how can we make our boats more … aspirational?”

Seeing my dumb look, they explained that there might not even be a yachting industry without the concept of “aspirational brands.” If you don’t know what your clients aspire to own, you can’t build it. Or, even, (cue Marx Brothers, please) how to copy it. And copying does work.

Up to a point.

When I mention Hinckley to a knowledgeable boater, they almost always show a little of that aspirational look – a certain wistful gaze, a soft sigh, a thoughtful expression that shows they know exactly what they desire, and why. There are not many yacht builders who can elicit that look as intensely as Hinckley.

I think one reason is how much of the appeal, by design, is almost subliminal – just beneath the radar screen, let us say –  and it’s because of all the curves! You would be hard-pressed to find a flat surface on these boats. One of the carpenters told me that she’d walk eight miles out of her way to avoid a boring surface. And trust me, curves are difficult to engineer. They take wood of just the right grain, skills of just the right type, and more labor hours than you might imagine. And lots of sandpaper! Here are some examples of the lengths they will go:

c2

The Toe Rail Bench, clamps galore! Note the word “BEND.” These toe rails vary in three dimensions over every inch of their entire running surface, like an Ionian column.

And how about this: Any builder can put in a flat door. But howzabout this homage to a classic roll-top desk?

curves1

Why do all this work that virtually no one else chooses to do? I suppose because when you do it right, you get the aesthetic payoff that drives those aspirational feelings. You get a yacht that from the exterior looks like it’s in motion even when it’s at rest. And from the interior, one that feels as warm and comfortable as home.

So they do what they do. Others can come close. But sit at the helm of these jet boats, push that joy stick forward (or backwards, or sideways) and my experience is that you’ll feel that kick-in-the-butt passion that Hinckley delivers.

And, loyal readers, next weekend you can!

Hinckley_Experience_Sag_June_2016

Yes, I will have the brand new Talaria 34R (as in Runabout) at Sag Harbor’s Town Dock for sea trials this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I suggest you reserve your appointment now, lest you fall victim to the motto I’m known for in this industry – You Snooze, You lose.

If you haven’t been to Sag in awhile, there are a bunch of town docks east and west of Main Street. Our slip, #5 on Long Wharf is shown here:

sag docksarrow

I look forward to sharing this wind-in-your-hair experience with you, as well as some early order pricing details (privately).

So ciao for now, and as always, thanks for listening.

dave

PS: Next posting? Seven Miles of Hinckley, and photography of the just splashed Hunt 72!

Why a duck?

“Why a duck?” asks Chico.

Or, more to the point:  Why a Hinckley? Well, here’s one [lengthy] answer:

When you get a bunch of builders together at happy hour, sooner or later the conversations turns to this:

“What should we build, and how should we build it?”

It can be a tough call.

A builder can determine, for example, that a yacht of X size and Y price will succeed in the marketplace. So they focus almost exclusively on designing and building a yacht that hits that price point, dead center. Everything else (aesthetics, performance, safety, functionality, durability, customer service, warrantee) is important to them, of course, but is not necessarily their principle objective (except safety, of course).

So, the bottom line is that when someone builds to a price, you usually get what someone thought you’d be satisfied with.

Or a builder can work day and night, to the exclusion of almost everything else,  to draw and build a yacht of stunning beauty. But it it takes a lot of time, money, skill, and luck to build an aesthetically perfect yacht that also covers the “everything else” list, above. Too often the all-important items on that list can become … secondary?

It can be hard to build an enduring business around secondary.

Which brings me to Hinckley Yachts. I direct your attention to this wonderful book: Hinckley Yachts – An American Icon, by Nick Voulgaris:

vougarisIt is a thorough, engaging, and beautifully photographed history of the boats Hinckley has been building since 1928. I’ve got your copy here in my Southampton office, so stop by and grab it. This book really brought home to me that you cannot build fine yachts for eighty-eight successful years without doing everything just right.

I thought I’d explore this “everything just right” theme in this blog for the rest of this summer. I’m going to start with my favorite “just right” and that is Quality. Because you can’t walk through the Hinckley yard (and I urge you to do so) without seeing that Hinckley decided first and foremost to build a yacht of the highest quality.

I took these pics up in Maine last month, and they says it all for me:

qinspect

                                   Hinckley’s Delivery Room (more on this below)

My first point is too obvious to say, but I will: You can’t build a quality yacht without quality people. I’ve gotten to know the wonderful “down east” people in Trenton, Maine. Some have worked for Hinckley for thirty years. Some, like young Trevor here, are more recent employees, having come up through Hinckley’s brilliant Apprenticeship Program with local colleges:

trevor

Trevor is “the helm guy.” When you buy a Hinckley, Trevor built the helm. It takes him about a week, from scratch, and you can see the pride he takes in his work. Here’s what it looks like at the end of his week:

trevor helm

Watching Trevor work, it became clear to me that quality is interwoven into Hinckley’s cultural DNA. They understand better than most builders I know that the end stage (an owner’s complete enjoyment) depends on the attention given to stages far, far earlier in the process.

I’d like to share with you two examples of Hinckley’s wholly unique approach to this: Electrical wiring, and preliminary sea trials. They may seem a little arcane, but they directly affect the quality of the ownership experience. So, if I may:

Wiring – Most builders build the hull, and then immediately attach the deck. At some point after that, in cramped conditions with limited headroom, a team of electricians (either employees, or commonly, subcontractors) come aboard to do the the wiring, fighting for every inch of space with carpenters, plumbers, engineers, and other assorted hanger’s on (um, that could include me).

Now yachts have a shocking (pun intended) amount of electrical wiring. On a seventy-footer, for example, wiring can exceed two tons in weight! It’s so heavy, in fact, that designers have to figure out how to balance it to avoid listing to one side (typically most of it is put on one side, and, for balance, the generator(s) to the other).

In those cramped and busy conditions (not to mention hot and dark), perfect electrical work is almost impossible. And electrical, more than almost anything else on a yacht, must be perfect. Even if everything works fine at owner turnover, five or ten years later an errant screw head can finally work its way through a live wire, causing a blown circuit, or worse. As a long-time Sales Director at Hinckley told me,

“We build these yachts so that our owner’s grandchildren can run them when they grow up.

For that, you need special care.

Hinckley wiring is done by their own full time wiring specialists, fifty yards and a floor above the yacht, in their Wiring Room. Hundreds of color-coded and hand-labeled wires are bundled into harnesses, connected to their circuit breaker boards, and tested in full right there in the shop. Then, and only then, the whole assembly is moved like a giant anaconda into the boat for install and re-testing.

It is the best process I’ve ever seen. Every builder should do it this way. I don’t know any that do. It’s a perfect example of why, as a senior manager at Hinckley for almost 20 years told me,

“We’ve never in my time had a warrantee claim come in for more than $5,000.”

I verified it, loyal readers. It is true. And it’s the most shocking thing (no pun intended) I’ve heard in my 20+ years in this industry.

Still with me? How about Preliminary Sea Trials – Every other builder I’ve ever come across finishes the yacht, including hull painting, bottom painting, and varnish, and then splashes it for preliminary sea trials to see how she runs.  Whatever has to be fixed is done at the docks, where glass breaks, splinter’s fly, and scratches swarm. It is almost impossible to return the yacht to its perfect state. It’s such an obvious and routine process that it never occurred to me it could, and should, be done any other way.

It can, and it does, at Hinckley:

Hinckley finishes all mechanical work first, before the cosmetics. Then, before the boat is painted and varnished, she goes into the water for a couple of weeks of testing. When everything checks out 100%  she is re-hauled and moved to the Delivery Room for cosmetic completion (that’s where the sign – The Next Inspector is our Customer– hangs).

It is a more expensive way to build a boat. But by identifying issues early, before crews have to worry about cosmetic concerns, the builders can work in a an unfettered way to get the yacht just right.

So, I’ll end as I began: “Why a duck?” asked Chico.

 “Because the water is deep!” answers Groucho.

Thanks for listening. The next post will be full of details about our Experience Hinckley event in Sag Harbor from June 23rd – 27th.

There, with your own eyes, hands and butts, you can run a Hinckley 34R and understand exactly what I mean by Hinckley Quality.

Thanks, as always, for listening. And, as always, if you have any questions, just launch a flare!

dave

Big News in the Yachting World

grand-opening-smGreetings, and welcome to the launch of The Fog Warning. My name is Dave Mallach, and I’ve been a yacht broker and an enthusiastic observer of all things nautical for almost twenty years. It’s my hope that you come to enjoy my unique take on some of the finest yachts afloat, as well as some engaging digressions on maritime life, art, and history.

For those returning readers of my original blog (all 4,000+ of you!) I welcome you back with great joy. I ended that blog exactly three years ago with the comment “Perhaps someday another blog will take this one’s place.” Well, that day has come!

And for all you new readers, I gleefully pipe you aboard as well.

I announce here with real pride and gratitude that my home port for all the stories that follow is with the builders of the finest yachts I’ve found- Hinckley Yachts and Hunt Yachts. Long-time readers know that I have spent most of my career selling runner’s-up to these wonderful offerings. It is one of the great rewards of my life to now be associated with the gold-standard builder that originated the winning Picnic Boat concept.

In celebration of that relationship, I have opened Hinckley’s first New York office in the lovely seaside village of Southampton. I am certain that Hinckley’s iconic styling’s are a perfect match for the Hamptons lifestyle, and I invite you to live it with me.

Our first big event is in nearby Sag Harbor the weekend of June 25th!   I will have Hinckley’s latest and greatest yacht, the brand new Talaria 34R, available for sea trials. If you would like to experience what Hinckley’s  jet boat experience is like in the Hamptons, please join me for cruises that weekend in and and around Shelter Island’s pristine waters. We can explore some secret flats and inlets I normally can only access in my shallow draft flats boat. Such are the joys of jet boats. A video of this wonderful yacht follows here:

So, dear loyal readers, buckle your seat belts (put on your PFD’s?)! There is much to follow in The Fog Warning, and I’d like to sincerely thank for joining me in this grand adventure. Feel free to subscribe for regular updates.

Enjoy!

dave

All thoughts, feelings and opinions expressed in The Fog Warning are just that – My own personal can’t-fall-asleep-at-night ruminations. Some people lay awake and count sheep. For some of us,  it’s boats…