The sun was still rising over western Mexico as I settled into the main saloon onboard the Westport 164 Evviva. It had been an awe-inspiring few steps up the passarelle, knowing that I was making my way onto the largest production motoryacht in the world.
"Hi, I’m Orin Edson," the trideck's owner said with a warm smile. Edson, the founder of Bayliner, now owns both Evviva and the yard that launched her. To make sure I understood how this innovative Westport 164 series came to be, before taking me on a walk around his new personal yacht, Edson took me on a stroll down memory lane.
"In the late '80's, I spent two trips to Europe trying to figure out how I was going to buy a big boat," he recalls. "There were lots of good builders. But getting them to build a fast boat... I came back and had built about 400,000 fiberglass boats [at Bayliner]. To not have a fiberglass boat was going to be hard for me."
Just conceiving a 160-foot composite boat in the early 1990’s made some think Edson was That Crazy Guy. But he teamed American naval architect Bill Garden and European stylist Don Starkey with Daryl Wakefield, who was building 100-foot custom composite boats at Admiral Marine in the Pacific Northwest.
"It was a wood mold, not reusable at all," Edson recalls. "Daryl had to stretch his building—and his courage. We didn’t even have a TraveLift. We had to get special permission from the fisheries department to raze the beach and lay down a wood-plank road to get the boat into the water."
That first Evviva—at 160'11"—became the toast of the worldwide megayacht community, winning award after award. At the time she was a one-off. 'In hindsight, it wasn't just a prototype for this new 164,' Edson says. "It was a prototype for the Westport business."
Some 15 years later Westport—with Edson as its owner, Wakefield as its CEO, and Garden and Starkey still collaborating on design—is turning out five 112s and five 130s a year. There are 26 of the 112s and 20 of the 130s cruising the world today. The new series of 164s, an evolution of the first Evviva, will add at least two Westports a year to that total. The first, Vango, was delivered in February 2006. Edson's Evviva launched in December, practically in Vango’s wake where these size boats are concerned.
The next two 164-footers are already well underway—one has sold and, according to Westport, about a half-dozen clients are circling the other. Whoever misses that deal can get in line for Hull No. 5, which, like every Westport, will begin production on schedule with or without an owner.
That schedule, Edson says, is what helps to keep Westport prices so competitive. "You take an enormous amount of labor out of the boat," he explains. "Not materials, but labor. You get a lot more for your money."
This article originally appeared in the May 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.