Building Burger's Biggest Part One: The Vision
[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 this project during the past two years. This is the first 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.]
On November 5, 2004, a man in his early 70s strode purposefully past the old hull shop at Burger Boat Company and into a towering new $5-million, 48,000-square-foot building hall. A grandfather wearing a warm smile and a comfortable sweater, the real-estate entrepreneur had a 6'5" frame that made him an imposing presence. Well, that and the fact that his deep pockets were going to fund the new hall’s first complete project, the biggest motoryacht in the history of the Manitowoc, Wisconsin, yard—an estimated $30-million stepping stone from which the company hoped to leap into a new era of megayacht construction.
“Well, that just got us all going,” Gagnon says with a wide grin. “We’ve never had that before.”
Mark Gagnon, director of manufacturing, says the man’s arrival was the most exciting thing he’s seen since starting work at the yard in 1980. Gagnon stood along with dozens of Burger’s 240 employees, blinking beneath his safety glasses and craning his neck to watch. The man’s presence effortlessly filled the wide-open, ten-story structure as he introduced himself, his wife of five decades, and his captain. As Gagnon recalls, “He stood up and said, ‘I’d prefer if you call me Jack’” and then issued a challenge—finish this boat in 23 months, and I’ll host a party for you and your families so you can show them how good your work is.
In fact, the Time for Us project would mark many things Burger employees have never had before. This proposed 155-foot all-aluminum trideck would be the largest, most complex, most meticulously engineered yacht Burger has attempted to build since it opened for business during the Civil War era. So precise was the owner’s vision for world-class construction that he brought in not just the venerable Dutch naval-architecture firm Vripack to work with Burger’s team, but also the project management firm Patton Marine, known for boats as big as 400 feet LOA. Burger’s craftsmen would be building their first keel-to-flying-bridge project in the new facility—seeing whether its heated floors really did make a difference from the fans in the old building hall. They would use the yard’s brand-new four-axis router on woodwork so lavishly envisioned, it would be designed, built, stained, and varnished in a way they had never before tried.
And they would be working for this tall Kansan who wanted everybody to call him Jack, who had never before built a yacht, and who was willing to take his chances along with theirs.
“Everybody I’ve ever talked to, they never question Burger quality,” Jack says. “The only question is: Can they build a 155-foot boat?”
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 November 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.