A Boat Is Born
Welcome to the first of a five-part series in which we follow the creation of a brand-new sportfishing boat from conception to launch. PMY has been granted exclusive access to the birth of Makaira. For now we‘ll keep its parent company anonymous, but as we get closer to launch, we will reveal it. Of course, we'll conclude the series with an exclusive first test of this exciting new convertible.
The clock never ticks backward. if you're in an industry that thrives on change while you remain static, you could wind up part of history instead of writing the next chapter. taking that lesson to heart, one boatbuilder decided three years ago that it had to push the limits of boat design, construction, and performance—a bold and high-risk move that it hoped would produce the next great leap in sportfishing boats.
What resulted was a new boatbuilding company called Makaira. The name, which has Latin roots, means marlin, and for many anglers marlin is the ultimate quarry. It's an animal that has evolved into a powerful, speedy, sleek underwater predator. If you've ever seen one, it's an awesome, jaw-dropping sight. This builder, after deciding it wanted to launch the ultimate, sleek, and speedy mid-60-foot on-water predator, bestowed the same name on the new company and boat. But while the marlin has had millions of years to become what it is today, Makaira had to fully evolve in just three years.
The project naturally started with the hull form. What design would offer the best combination of seakeeping and speed? The Makaira team was looking to build the fastest vessel in her class. (Similiar-size vessels are currently hitting speeds in the high-40-knot range.) To accomplish this, the designers chose a variable deadrise hull form. This shape provides a deep forefoot and head-sea splitting entry and flatter aft sections to create lift and thereby increase speed and efficiency.
This variable-deadrise hull shape, called Waveform, came from Stephen French's well-known design firm Applied Concepts Unleashed out of Stuart, Florida. The name refers to the cross section of the hull, which is, well, wave-like and provides a blend of concavity and convexity. This combination manipulates the forces of buoyancy, pressure, and suction and ultimately determines the vessel's behavior in varying sea conditions. In addition, to minimize drag and maximize speed, a sea chest reduces the need for multiple through-hulls and other gear protruding into the water.
French's company has been working on variations of this hull design for more than 20 years and is behind a lot of the fastest and most eye-catching custom sportfishermen on the water today. Some of the notable names using Applied Concepts Unleashed designs include Garlington, Spencer, Whiticar, Briggs, Tribute, F&S, and Rybovich. All have built boats noted for their flowing lines, speed, and soft ride.
But unlike the companies above, which regularly take up to two years to complete a boat, Makaira will be built on a production-boat timeline. So how does one build a custom-feel sportfisherman over the course of months, not years? Makaira couldn't be cold-molded like many of those custom brands; it would take too long. The key, the builder says, is the right combination of high-tech materials and advanced construction techniques.
The Makaira team and French's crew burned the midnight oil to find that combination, going over the boat literally inch by inch and pound by pound. (As of presstime, about 6,000 design hours had already been invested in the project.) Makaira was born to be a premium brand, so while the cost of materials was a concern, the builder was willing to spend more than a typical production company (though it won't release exact costs) to get the desired result. After all, Makaira hopes to leapfrog the industry in terms of both design and build with this boat. To date the principals says they're satisfied with the progress towards that goal.
Makaira's parent company has more than three decades of open-molding experience, but for this project a conventional lay-up would have resulted in too much weight. Makaira's team also considered vacuum-bagging, but, like the cold-molding process, it would take too long to work on a production schedule. The new builder came to the conclusion that vacuum-infusion would be faster, provide the required strength and reduced weight needed to hit the performance benchmark, and meet the strength requirements for bluewater duty.
I wondered how different the two vacuum methods were, and Makaira's staff explained that with vacuum bagging, the gelcoat and skin coat are laminated using traditional open molding. Afterwards, a dry laminate is layered in the mold and wetted out using rolled or sprayed resin. The vacuum bag is draped over the wet resin/laminate and then sealed. The vacuum removes the air, applying pressure to the laminate, trapping the resin, and enabling even distribution of it. With infusion, a vacuum bag is draped and sealed over the entire part, with all laminates layered into a mold dry (except the gelcoat and one skin coat, applied using traditional open molding). The vacuum draws the resin into the bag and the laminate via feed tubes. The hull is fully infused in one shot with an optimal glass-to-resin ratio.
The infused hull will be fully cored with Corecell, and the vacuum process will ensure that it is light yet strong. The weight issue is so tied into this boat's performance goals that the same meticulous care was given to deciding the vessel's stringer and bulkhead arrangements.
As for stringers, a standard male-mold system would have required significant filling and fairing to get that highly finished custom-boat look, which would eat up time on the production line. And to maintain the philosophy of this being a premium boat, a finished look was necessary. A vacuum-bagged stringer system could've worked, but it would require the same amount of finish work as the male mold, says the builder. So Makaira looked into constructing a female-mold stringer grid.
A conventional stringer grid would actually weigh more than the other two options, but if the grid were infused, the weight could be comparable. And it would still offer significant backbone while providing a finished look without countless man-hours of fairing. To save more weight and provide thermal and acoustical insulation, honeycomb coring was chosen for all bulkheads.
Makaira's team now knows how they'll build their boat and what the hull bottom should be. But they still need to figure out external lines and accommodations. Next month we'll see how technology and hull form drive those decisions and how the look and layout evolve. (Hint: I've just returned from Applied Concepts Unleashed, where I saw Makaira Concept #16, which should closely resemble the finished product. Talk about meticulous.)
This article originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.