Thursday, May 31, 2007

NorthStar Heads to China

Several builders are starting to market their boats in China, and a handful have partnered with shipyards there to build their yachts, but NorthStar Yachts is taking the concept in a different direction. It's packing up its entire operation in Kalama, Washington, and re-establishing itself in the country of the Great Wall.

Why such a drastic move? In a one-on-one meeting last February, Keith Huzyak, president of NorthStar, told me that it’s just become too expensive to continue being a semicustom builder in the USA due to insurance costs and various requirements of the U.S. Coast Guard, OSHA, the EPA, and other agencies. On top of that, there’s the cost of acquiring machinery and other items the Kalama facility has never had, such as an overhead crane to move things more easily around the shed and a rail system for launching.

That’s why in May 2006, NorthStar started investigating yards in China. While Huzyak and the other principals met with 15 yards, they signed an agreement with yet another facility—one which would permit U.S. ownership and operation, he stressed, thereby avoiding the need to train an entire workforce and potentially creating a competitor down the road. Jerry Clark, the COO of NorthStar, and other department heads will be based in China and overseeing everything. In addition, NorthStar is retaining another group of department heads to remain focused on servicing its yachts; they’ll split their time between China and the USA. (Northstar is keeping its purchase department in Kalama to acquire and ship items not readily available in China.)

As for the yard itself, it’s in Zhu Hai region, in the Pearl River Delta, near Macau. It already has a 5-axis CNC mold and has been using computer-aided design and resin infusion on ferries and patrol boats.

NorthStar began shipping gear overseas in April. We’ll keep you updated on its progress, which as you can imagine is being followed closely by buyers and competitors alike.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Last time I blogged it was to tell you about some factory tours I was doing in Italy, specifically Sessa. Shortly thereafter I moved on to Azimut, which turned out to be not so much a factory tour as a sojourn. For Azimut is both huge and about much more than building boats.

I began my tour in Aviglana, where Azimut manufactures boats to from 39 to 70 feet. This is a relatively new plant; the oldest parts are about six years old and one building was completed last year. Another is scheduled to begin construction later this year, Not surprising given its age, the facility is very modern, clean, well-lit, and virtually devoid of styrene odor. It was running at pretty much full capacity when I was there. From there I drove to Varazze, on the coast where the company has a big stake in a new marina project, complete with 800 slips (400 for sail on one side and 400 for power on the other), parking for 900 vehicles, water view apartments for sale, and a variety of shops. Although much of the shops and apartments are still unoccupied, it's nevertheless impressive. To my knowledge, no other boat builder is engaged in such a project.

From here we drove south to Viareggio, when Azimut builds Azimut motoryachts from 75 to 116 feet, the larger one in the recently purchased Lusben Shipyard, and in a separate facility next door, its line of Benetti composite yachts. The ex-Lusben works is also home to Europe's largest TraveLift, a 600-ton monster. My last leg was about an hour south in Livorno, where Benetti builds its full-custom, steel-hull yachts. There's yet another facility on Italy's east coast where the company laminates the hulls and deck for its composite Benettis, which are then brought to Viareggio for fitting out. Obviously Azimut is huge—there's really nothing in America—or for that matter in the world—that matches the number, size, and modernity of its boatbuilding facilities. I was bowled over.

Time for Bass

If you live in the Northeast and haven't launched your boat yet, it's time! We've been having some of the best spring weather we've seen in a long while, and it's bringing fish with it. These bass were caught right off the beaches of the South Shore of Long Island over the Memorial Day Weekend. The bite is on so call the crew and wet a line.

Green Ferries For Blue Highways

Fresh on the heels of solar-powered sun21's arrival in the Big Apple, New York-based ferry service Circle Line recently announced plans to update its Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island ferry with a solar-powered, hybrid trimaran vessel.

According to published reports, a focal point of Circle Line’s bid for the renewal of its contract with the National Park Service (who manage the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island) is the Miss Statue of Liberty. The 115-foot vessel would hold 600 passengers (she’s got a 42-foot beam) and is based on an existing ferry built by Australia’s Solar Sailor; Sydney’s harbor boasts an 80-passenger sightseeing vessel (built by Solar Sailor) that utilizes solar technology that’s been in service since 2000.

Some of the Miss Statue of Liberty’s features include: a 23- by 50-foot solar “wing” that captures sun and wind and is computer-controlled for optimum sun-wind capture; two bow thrusters and a total of seven bow, midship, and stern thrusters for close-quarters maneuvering and on- and offloading passengers; and twin diesel engines capable of burning low-sulfur fuel. In addition, the solar wing can mechanically fold down in high winds—in this guise, its photovoltaic panels are still active and it also serves as a hardtop to shade seating on her top deck. Top speed is said to be between 10 and 12 knots (up to 6 knots on solar-wind power alone), with construction costs estimated at $8 million dollars.

San Francisco’s Alcatraz Cruises is also planning to introduce a solar-powered Solar Sailor-built vessel on its route.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Boating Bloopers

All in the Family

Talk about following in someone's footsteps: You're looking at a handful of the 15 father-and-son and four sibling boatbuilding teams who work for Burger Boat Company. In some cases, their grandfathers and even great-grandfathers were craftsmen at the Wisconsin-based yard, which opened its doors in the 1860's. It's a refreshing difference in an age where we all hear stories about kids wanting to do anything but take part in the family business. As Gene Gauthier, who's in one of the father-son pairs (and a 14-year employee of Burger), puts it, "I am proud to have my son Reed share in my career as a fine craftsman. It's so rewarding to guide him as we build the interiors of these unique and sophisticated yachts together."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Downeast Diva

Hard by Maine's Somes Sound, John Williams Boat Company is one of several Mount Desert Island boatbuilders featured in the May 2007 PMY article “Boatbuilding, Downeast Style.” As the image above shows, the builder’s latest launch, Survivor, is a looker; she’s a Stanley 36, named for its designer Lyford Stanley. Her exterior is reminiscent of a lobster boat but with lots of teak: teak pilothouse sides, a teak trunk cabin, and teak grab rails on the pilothouse and foredeck all compliment her black hull. Also note the teak butterfly hatch on the foredeck.

She’s powered by a single 440-hp Yamnar diesel mated to an Evolution Company marine shaft system; according to Williams boat company, she's reportedly capable of a 18-knot (20.7 mph) cruise speed and a top end of 22 knots (25.3 mph). More info on Survivor is available on the company's Web site.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Former President Bush Trying to Dock His Boat

Win This LifeVest From BoatU.S.

In order to promote boating safety this season, BoatU.S. is sponsoring a photo contest called "Get Hooked on Safety." Send in your best safe-fishing photos (that means with a PFD, of course) and you will be entered to win the Mustang inflatable LifeVest seen here, a $150 value. For more information, visit the contest's home page.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lady Moura Runs Aground at Cannes

Lady Moura, a 344-foot yacht owned by Saudi billionaire Nasser al-Rashid, ran aground this past weekend off Cannes, France.

The Blohm + Voss-built boat, #10 on Power & Motoryacht’s World’s 100 Largest Yachts, reportedly hit a partially submerged rocky outcropping: Authorities quickly closed two nearby beaches, fearing that a fuel spill would reach shore. Lady Moura was later seen being pulled off the rocks by a tug or salvage boat, and two holes could seen in her bottom, according to news reports.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Regulations Threaten Mexico's Pelagic-Rich Waters

If you fish, have fished the waters off Baja California, or are at all concerned with worldwide pelagic populations, a recent e-mail that I received from Wayne Bisbee, founder of the Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Bisbee’s Black & Blue Tournaments, will be of interest to you. It alerted me to a potentially tragic, harmful situation that threatens billfish and other game fish in the waters off Baja California.

Despite strong opposition from a number of groups, including the Billfish Foundation, Mexican officials approved Regulation NOM-029, or Shark Norma. Promoted as a way to stop the overexploitation of sharks and rays, the regulations can certainly do more harm than good. The Billfish Foundation points out the potential tragedies behind NOM-029:
Under current regulations no commercial fishing vessels are allowed to fish for or possess marlin, sailfish, dorado and other protected species within the 50 mile conservation zones. The only allowed fishing was under sportfishing bag limits. This law provided strong protection to a wide variety of marine life. Under NOM-029 these species can be targeted and retained. Commercial boats less than 30' can come within 10 miles of shore with longlines (section 4.2.1). Commercial longline boats between 30' and 89' can fish as near as 15 miles from the shore in the Sea of Cortez, and within 20 miles of the west coast of the Baja (4.7.3).
And this is the tip of the iceberg. What can you do to help? See the Billfish Foundation article on how to take action.

A $500 Million Haul

An exploration and salvage company based in Tampa, Florida, just hit the jackpot. Odyssey Marine Exploration uncovered a Colonial-period shipwreck containing more than 500,000 silver coins weighing over 17 tons. The coins are expected to fetch approximately $1,000 each when sold at auction. Not much is being disclosed about the location of the wreck for security reasons, but rumors place it off the coast of Cornwall in SW England.

Not surprisingly, Odyssey's stock price jumped up more than $3.00 after announcement was made this morning.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Big MANN on Campus!

This 65-foot Paul Mann custom boat dubbed D.A. Sea was launched last week and made quite an impression with local Outer Banks commuters. While the admittedly oversized load may have indeed slowed traffic a bit, many drivers were reportedly overheard commenting on her sharp entry and head-sea-slicing bow flare.

Quite the sight, isn't she?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Boat Insurance Demystified

Stories of the sea are often deal with myths: Atlantis, the Bermuda Triangle, Moby Dick (although the Melville novel is based on a true, tragic event), and the yarn that many fisherman like to spin, the one that got away. Recently, Progressive Insurance surveyed more than 1,000 boat owners and found out that one of most wide reaching, on-the-water myths that many boaters share is about their boat insurance.

Some of these myths are the most basic, requiring policyholders to read the fine print on their policies:

“Our survey shows that many boaters aren’t aware of insurance coverage limitations, especially when it comes to location,” says Progressive’s boat product manager Dominic Mediate. “Some boat insurers define navigation limits on a policy, so it’s important for all boaters to clarify this with their insurance companies,” he adds.

Some other common myths among boaters that Progressive’s surveys revealed are:

•Boaters throughout the entire U.S. are NOT paying higher insurance premiums because of hurricanes. According to the survey, 74 percent believe that all boaters are paying more due to recent, damaging hurricanes.

•Homeowners insurance cannot offer the same protection policy that specialty boat insurance can. One-third of those surveyed (33 percent) mistakenly believe that by adding their boat as an endorsement on their homeowners policy, they would be covered no matter what occurs.

•Bundling policies don’t necessarily mean better rates. While 45 percent of those polled felt that this was the case (and it may be for them) it has been shown that shopping around can lead to better rates.

With dockage at a premium in many areas of the country and the hurricane season approaching, are you properly covered this season? Have you seen your boat insurance rates go up? Stay the same? Let us know here.

Yachtspotting in the BVI

The first week of May was more like Megayacht Mania Week at the famed Bitter End Yacht Club, where the PMY staff gathered for our annual staff meeting. In fact, so many famous yachts visited the waters of North Sound in Virgin Gorda that a turnstile should have been put in place. You're looking at the Westport Resolute (above) and the Christensen Thirteen (the ex-Barchetta, below).

Also spotted that week: the Benetti Domani, the Feadship Gallant Lady and the Broward Lady Francis IV . If I'd had a dollar for each time someone asked me, "Which yacht is that?" I'd own one instead of simply write about them.

Ocean Yachts' New Boat

Ocean Yachts is working on a bold new sportfish project called the 37 Billfish. The boat has been popped out off the mold and the build is being chronicled on the builder's blog.

Italian Yards

I'm over in Italy touring a bunch of yards, and have come across two that are particularly interesting to us Americans. One belongs to Sessa, a builder that's relatively new to the United States but that is getting ready to celebrate its 50th Anniversary building boats here in Italy. The company has a lot of models, from a line of small center consoles that it builds in a factory in southern Italy and which it will not export to the U.S., to a 42 that's built in the factory I visited. (It also has a new 53 on the way that will soon be coming to the States.) The factory is squeeky clean and extremely well organized—plus I discovered first-hand that it has a great cafeteria! It seemed that about half of the workforce is women, and I was impressed to see that everyone wears protective clothing (including respirators) and that there is virtually no Styrene odor thanks to a powerful air-handling system. And they must be selling boats because they work two shifts. Overall, pretty impressive.

I'll tell you about Azimut in my next post.

Friday, May 11, 2007

NMFS Delays Circle Hook Rule Until 2008

The National Marine Fisheries announced this week that the planned 2007 circle-hook requirement for all U.S. tournament-participating big-game anglers using dead bait has been put off until 2008. The ruling was handed down just as the 2007 big-game tournament season was getting underway. Circle hooks in dead baits have been shown to decrease the mortality of released fish as the hook is designed to catch in the corner of the fish's mouth. More traditional J-hooks have higher incidents of gut hooking and death after release. The delay in implementation came after many anglers wanted to know what effect the rule would have on lure-bait combinations rigs and larger blue-marlin-type hook baits. Whether these questions are answered by 2008 or not, the rule will go into full effect in January.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Solar-Powered Boat Arrives In The Big Apple

The sun21 slipped into New York City’s North Cove Marina emitting no discernable sound except the hollers and cheers from an enthusiastic crew who had sailed her across the pond in a 52-day, 3,500-NM trip. As reported here in an earlier post, the Sun21 is the first motorized vessel to cross the Atlantic under solar power exclusively. The photo below shows her eight 2'x5' photovoltaic panels on her roof that power her twin 8-kW Lemco lightweight, low-voltage D.C. motors. A 3,600-pound bank of batteries stores the power, so on days when there is less sun (or hardly any at all), the boat can still go along at approximately 3 knots.

It turns out that this project, spearheaded by Swiss shipbuilder Mark Wüst (who along with David Senn, Michel Thonney, Beat von Scarpatetti, and Martin Vosseler made the transatlantic voyage) is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to clean energy emerging from Switzerland. The Swiss meet 57 percent of their energy needs via hydropower, with wind, solar, and organic waste recycling delivering results in cities across the country.

With fuel prices predicted to approach $4.00/gallon at your local on-road gas station, how much do you think gasoline and diesel will be at your fuel dock this season? Is solar power feasible in private vessels? Tell us what you think here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Racing at Bitter End: It ain't over 'til the cooler's empty!

PMY's annual sales and edit meeting was held last week at the Bitter End Yacht Club (BEYC) on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. This is the second year in a row that we have been welcomed with open arms at the renowned sailing destination, regardless of our penchant for diesel. Who says blow boaters and stink potters can't get along?

BEYC sailing instructors even tried to convert us with a five-minute crash course in sailing followed by a regatta onboard the resort's fleet. Chaos ensued of course, but considering there were no collisions or MOBs, it was deemed a success.

The winning team included (from left to right) ad sales rep David Parkinson, senior editor Ken Kreisler, ad sales rep Joe Illes, and video & creative manager John Turner. They may have won the regatta, but they never do seem to let that cooler run empty at the BEYC—so I guess the race is still on!

Your Boat Tips Wanted. Prizes Offered!

The smiling man you see above is Capt. Joe Barbara with his new Edson PowerKnob. Barbara was photographed by his wife at the helm of his 38-foot Ronin Sportfish just off Manalapan, Florida. He was the winner of Power & Motoryacht's monthly Tip of the Month Contest last February for recommending the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser as “the best small detail a boater needs to keep aboard.”

Want a chance to win this great product? Post your best tips here and send them to today.

President Sarkozy Goes Yachting

Remember the old TV commercials after the Olympics and other big sporting events where an unseen interviewer would ask the star atheletes, "Now that you've won, where are you gonna go?" to which the response was always, "I'm going to Disney World!" Well, with all due respect to the Mouse House, these superstars may want to rethink their vacation destination by borrowing a page from the newly elected French president. Nicolas Sarkozy flew to Malta this week to cruise aboard the charter yacht Paloma, a classic canoe-stern beauty. The 198-footer, one of the world's largest private yachts, was built in 1965 and extensively refitted in 2003 and 2004. Wonder if he and his family will put the karaoke system or waterskis to good use?