A Season Ripe for Rebirth

Boatbuilders emerge as fresher versions of their former identities. From "Past the Spindle" for May 28, 2008


Last fall, Stephen Brodie (above) bought the struggling California builder Pacific Seacraft; this summer, the company launches a new 31-footer.

Spring is known as the season of rejuvenation, so what better time could there be for three venerable names in the boating world to announce that reports of their demises had been much exaggerated?

Rhode Island boat builder Shannon Yachts last fall closed its doors--on paper, at least--while investors were relieved of their duty. The company re-emerged as Schulz Boats, with designer Walter Schulz at the helm and the same management team and craftsmen still at work, reports Bill Ramos.

The latest announcement from the builder of some serious cruising sailboats is the 53 Hybrid Power Sailer, a boat designed to provide ample creature comforts, speed under both power and sail, and a fully functional interior helm station. A booklet detailing the boat shows a ketch rig with dual headsails and describes the 53 as a world cruiser, with a range of 1,500 miles under power and unlimited range under sail alone. A number of interior layouts--including up to four cabins--will be available. Look for a launch of hull number one in the spring of 2009.

Meantime, Shannon is shooting for a fall launch of a new Global 52, being built for Bob Bitchin of Latitudes and Attitudes fame (one must ask, will the hull be AwlGrip or tattooed?), and the company just launched one 39-footer and has started work on another. A number of refits of older Shannons also are under way, as well as some wooden boat restoration projects.
Pacific Seacraft is another builder that saw new life last fall. The company regrouped over the winter and has a boat to launch just in time for summer--a 31-footer, to be exact.

Last fall when the California builder of mostly William Crealock-designed cruising boats went up for auction, Stephen Brodie and his father, Reid, stepped in and bought the company. Stephen at the time was a marine historian looking for something new to do, and, well, he found it. When his turned out to be the winning bid, he had just eight days to pack up and vacate the premises. With help from PS employees, he filled several tractor-trailers with five hulls in various stages of completion, molds, and parts, and sent them on their way, still without a final destination.

As the convoy headed east towards his home state of North Carolina, Steve found temporary quarters in an old industrial site in Washington, a small town off Pamlico Sound. A handful of key PS employees chose to make the move, and the company was again in business, although with some admittedly well-elevated hoops to jump through. The most urgent task is to restore faith with customers and suppliers, but Steve said he's confident they're making progress on that front. Meantime, several dealers have remained interested in the boats.

Next in line for completion is a 34-foot model, and there's a 37 and 40 in the works. Meantime, the hunt is on for a permanent home, most likely in the Washington area, which is where Steve, and now several displaced Californians, call home.

Our third springtime blast from the past is Prout Catamarans, late of England and now of Florida, with construction taking place in China and Thailand. Prout was an early innovator of cruising catamarans that met its maker in the late 1990s. The remains of the company were eventually acquired by the Winfair Group of Toronto, Canada, which owns, in addition to sizeable real estate and resort holdings, executive jet operations and Celebrity Yachts. According to Prout representative Gary Fretz, the same workmanship that goes into high-end corporate jets and large power yachts will go into the new line of Prouts.

The model line of new cruising catamarans will range from 45 feet to 72 and larger, and Fretz says we can look for a 45-footer at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis in the fall. The 45 is a redesign of the old Prout 46, with construction materials and technique upgraded to cut weight. Prout is also planning to roll out a line of power catamarans for the fuel consumers among us.