Pacific Seacraft Will Sail Again

North Carolina entrepreneur buys storied boatbuilding company. "Shipyard News" from our October 25, 2007, CW Reckonings

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Stephen Brodie (above) purchased Pacific Seacraft in September and appeared at the U.S. Sailboat Show in October to represent his new venture.Elaine Lembo

Stephen Brodie, of Washington, North Carolina, was looking into possible business endeavors recently when he heard about an upcoming public auction at the Pacific Seacraft headquarters in Fullerton, California. "This one sort of fell in my lap," said Brodie. "I heard about the auction on a Wednesday night and I was on a plane to California the following Sunday."

Pacific Seacraft Corp. voluntarily filed for protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws in May, calling it reorganization, not a closing. But since no investors ponied up to save the day, an auction, under Chapter 7, was authorized by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and took place September 18, at the company's headquarters. Brodie went to the auction and bought the Pacific Seacraft name, the trademarks, the molds, and most of the in-process hulls.

This is a new venture for Brodie, a marine archeologist by trade, whose on-the-water time has mostly been spent on research vessels. Brodie's never even owned a sailboat. He describes himself as a novice sailor and amateur boatbuilder with a background in commercial construction. "But I sail with a lot of friends," he said. "And we've often bareboated in the B.V.I."

Brodie will operate his new company under the name Pacific Seacraft, and he has leased industrial space in Washington, right on the Pamlico River. He's currently in negotiations with 10 former employees of the old Fullerton plant, though he concedes that it will take some time to get things going. "Right now, most of the assets are still on trucks somewhere between California and North Carolina," he said.

Brodie acquired six in-process hulls, one of which, a 37, is owned by, and will be completed for, a Bahamas-based customer. The other five hulls will be finished as spec boats. In about a year, Brodie hopes to be offering at least four models: the 31, 34, 37, and 40.

"I just want people to know that Pacific Seacraft is still alive," Brodie said. "It will take a while to crawl back, but these boats will be of the same high quality they always were." To help prove that point, Brodie was on hand at the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis with a few already existing Crealock-designed boats, provided by one of his dealers.

The financial woes plaguing Pacific Seacraft had been going on since before boatbuider Allan Poole took over as CEO in 2006. According to sources close to the case, the company had been operating without sufficient working cash for several years. At the time of the Chapter 11 filing, it had about a half dozen boats in production, with nearly $1.4 million in accounts receivable.

James Joseph, the court-appointed trustee for Pacific Seacraft, confirmed that Horizon Capital Management Group had agreed to loan $1 million to the company but backed out at the last minute, citing the tenuous economy as the reason for its change of heart.

Pacific Seacraft began building sailboats in 1976 with its Dana and Flicka lines. These small but seaworthy boats quickly gained a reputation for strength and durability. Soon the company added more designs to its production, including popular 37- and 34-foot models. These boats, with their signature canoe stern, were designed by the legendary W.I.B. "Gentleman Bill" Crealock and bear his name. In the 1990s, the company produced 40- and 44-foot versions of the designs. The company survived the economic downturn of the 1980s and was cited in an early version of Ferenc Mate's The World's Best Sailboats: A Survey, and twice made Fortune magazine's 100 Best Products list of United States manufacturers.