Building Burger's Biggest Part Two: The Construction
[Editor’s note: On October 22, 2004, Burger Boat Company announced a plan to build the biggest motoryacht in its 141-year history: the 155-foot trideck Time for Us. Charter/cruising editor Kim Kavin was granted unprecedented access in following the project during the past two years. This is the second installment in her three-part series about the vision, construction, and completion of this historic American motoryacht—and what it means for the yard’s future.]
Scraping, screeching, and grinding pierce the Wisconsin calm like steel plows through a light snow. About 50 Burger employees crawl like ants over exposed subfloor girders, carrying handsaws and band saws meant to strip away aluminum imperfections before fairing can begin. In what will become the guest staterooms, three workers try to make sense of plans for installing piping. On the boat deck two workers tear out a stairway that’s out of plumb by half an inch so it can be rebuilt.
During a few seconds when the din recedes, music echoes throughout the towering construction hall: “Your momma don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock and roll...” Not a single worker breaks his concentration to sing along as company president David Ross and I make our way through the shell of the 155-foot Time for Us. It’s just after 10 a.m. on a January morning last year—a little more than a year into design and construction. Everyone knows the project is about a month and a half behind schedule.
If they can’t get back on track, Time for Us won’t launch in time to display at the 2007 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. All the sweat, all the struggle to build the biggest Burger ever will be lost from the public stage.
Complex worldwide communications among multiple companies is slowing the build process, but by everyone’s estimation on this day, the sudden growth of Burger itself—which the Time for Us build is supposed to help spur—is adding to the challenge.
Heck, when you double your workforce inside of a year and then ask those people to build the biggest boat they’ve ever seen to standards they’ve never attempted, you’re bound to hit a few speed bumps.
NEW FACES, NEW CHALLENGES
The key team members overseeing Time for Us, including director of manufacturing Mark Gagnon and director of design Ron Beilman, spend the day telling me enthusiastically about how proud they are of what Burger is achieving and about what it represents for the yard’s future.
And yet there is distinct anxiety and even frustration behind their words, and in the offhand comments I hear from their employees. It is borne not just of having to learn new and better ways of doing things, but also from the revolving door of colleagues who have had a hand in the project as the owner and Burger make adjustments to bring in the skills needed to get the job done right.
For starters, Capt. Chris Young, the owner’s on-site representative from day one, resigned, with Capt. Hammond Oldham, previously of the 131-foot CV9, now acting as liaison between the yard and the owner. Oldham has been in town about two months, he’s not as in tune with the owner as Young was, and, quite frankly, he seems frazzled. In a moment of candor, he admits, “It’s hard. There’s a lot of people involved. A lot of egos. It’s easier being out there [at sea] with the worst ten crew and the worst ten charter guests.” A few months after my visit, he’s gone, replaced by yet another captain with new ideas for Burger’s team to integrate.
BUILDING BURGER'S BIGGEST
Part One: The Vision
In the first of a three-part series, we go inside to follow a 155-foot yacht from concept to completion.
Part Two: The Construction
Team turnovers and learning-curve delays threaten the delivery timetable for the 155-foot Time for Us.
Time for Us = Time for You?
Time for Us is available for sale.
This article originally appeared in the February 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.