In 1973 ongoing technological
refinement and continuity were assured when Walter’s sons, Klaus
and Urs, joined the firm at the same time that a new production facility
opened in nearby Sihlbrugg. In the years since, Klaus, a naval architect
trained at Hamburg University, and Urs, a mechanical engineer whose apprenticeship
in engine construction was completed at Daimler-Benz, have applied contemporary
expertise to Boesch models inside and out. Under their watch handling
and overall performance of the entire line have been improved with the
development of a proprietary curved rudder design, and they have further
reduced upkeep by introducing low-maintenance MerCruiser electronic V-8
Yet as contemporary as these boats are, it is their timelessness that
is most arresting. A Boesch’s finish is so superb that I had trouble
imagining how it is achieved until Rolf Greter, Boesch’s international
representative, guided me through the production plant at Sihlbrugg. On
the main assembly floor I found three men—the number routinely assigned
to the construction of each hull—at work on a 23-foot 680 Costa Brava
(which lists for about $115,000). They worked at an unhurried, painstaking
pace, and their demeanor was calm and resolute.
a centuries-old apprenticeship system still exists. I learned from Greter
that for four years apprentices are carefully disciplined in the skills
employed at Boesch and then work an additional year at another boatbuilder—as
true journeymen exchanging ideas and techniques—before returning. The
silver-haired craftsman with glasses balanced on the tip of his nose who
was carefully planing the Canadian maple inlay on the 680’s forward
deck, I was told, had been with Boesch for more than 20 years, not an
unusual span here.
Such men and women build each craft to an early stage of completion until
an order comes in, at which point it is finished according to the client’s
desires. These may include the tone of the finish and customization in
the cockpit, stern, and cuddy cabin. “Boesch customers are used to
having their most important possessions—their houses, even their
Bentleys—built to order,” says Greter. “It only follows
that they expect their boats to be constructed according to their individual
ideals as well.” Boesch is highly accommodating so long as the boats’
signature lines are not compromised.
On a 30-foot 900 Riviera de Luxe (Boesch’s latest model, priced at
about $265,000) nearing completion in the finishing studio, Greter pointed
out modifications made to the swim platform and to the stairs on the reverse
transom. At the helm, where the dash was not yet fully installed, a craftsman
was sanding varnish over a recessed surface the owner would probably never
lay eyes on. I asked Greter to get a shot with the Nikon he was carrying.
As he focused, the worker smiled shyly and backed out of the frame, and
no amount of cajoling could convince him to re-enter the picture. Men
on the assembly floor had behaved identically just a few minutes earlier.
Everyone at Boesch seemed to modestly insist that the boats should speak
Next to the finishing studio we entered a room furnished with a variety
of lathes and other heavy apparati used to machine every piece of hardware
fixed to a Boesch runabout. Be it cleat, seacock, or fuel fill cap, all
are milled on the premises from solid brass or bronze. Greter looked on
with evident pride as I hefted a gleaming chromed grabrail socket. The
two-inch fitting must have weighed half a pound. “Quite simply, we
build the boats to last forever,” he told me. “Of more than
3,600 that have been constructed since the 1920s, we know that at least
2,500 are still in existence.”
I had seen evidence of this on a lower floor at Sihlbrugg where dozens
of runabouts were in varying stages of restoration. Greter had run his
palm over the seamless surface of a model from 1930 that was sanded down
to pinkish mahogany. “This is the beauty of wood,” he said.
“When we return this boat to her owner, she will appear exactly as
she did 70 years ago.” The boat was in a long rank that included
models from nearly every decade of Boesch’s existence. As I looked
from boat to boat, I knew that some were far ahead of others technologically,
and I could note here and there the subtle stylistic variations that marked
the succession of the lineage. But even so, surrounded by all those beauties,
my foremost feeling was that at Boesch the distinction between rare museum
piece and latter-day heirloom is immaterial.
Boesch Motorboats (41) 1 715-1344. Fax: (41) 1 715-1311. www.boesch-boats.com.
Grand Craft (U. S. dealer) (616) 396-5450. Fax: (616) 396-6210.
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