We’re doing quite well,” says Wesmac owner and founder Steve Wessel from his office up in Surry, Maine, just a short drive from Bar Harbor. “It’s been extremely busy.” He’d just come back from Cape Cod, where’d he’d been giving a new owner an ins-and-outs tutorial on his freshly splashed 50-footer.
Wessel’s boats are fine examples of Downeast craft, with classic looks topside and modern running surfaces below—hard chines, full keels, and hydrodynamic sternposts and skegs. But Wessel will be the first to tell you that he also owes a great deal of his success to his variable-pricing scheme. Each customer gets to select his hull size, which ranges from 36 to 54 feet with cost based on labor and materials. Then he gets to go through a checklist of options that starts with the most basic choices.
Do you want a lobster (one open side), sport (long), or cruiser (longer) cabin top? Would you like Wesmac to install it? How about an engine? Shaft and drip pan installation? Bottom paint? Even the lay-up method for the hull is available with a slew of upgrades, including vinylester resin (for the hull, superstructure, or both), solid fiberglass or balsa or foam coring,Durakore plank stringers (in lieu of spruce), and Kevlar. Every boat is built to each owner’s budgets and requirements. “We’re different because you can get a boat at any stage of completion you want, from bare hull to turnkey,” says Wessel.
What makes Wesmac truly different is what happens when someone wants to purchase a hull but forego some, or even all of the options—in other words, build a boat himself. “Do-It-Yourself’ers are about half our business,” Wessel explains, “and we give them a hull at their desired stage of completion and all the advice they need.”
Take Proctor Wells of Phippsburg, Maine, who’s been working on and with boats for 40 years. Back in 2000, he decided that going DIY would be the best way he could have his his dream boat. His chief consideration was that she be a relatively lightweight, ocean-ready vessel that would allow him to both lobster and go day cruising with the family, so Wells had Wesmac lay-up a 46-foot Kevlar hull using polyvinyl resin. “I knew what I wanted, and I knew how I wanted to do it,” said the 50-year-old, adding, “My grandfather built a boat when he was 68, and people laughed, but he always said that that was how long it took to know what he wanted.”
Since he didn’t have a crane, Wells had Wesmac install his single 800-hp Caterpillar 3406E diesel, Twin Disc 2.00:1 marine gear, and prop shaft prior to delivery. As for everything else, it all came together in his garage after just under a year of work, with help from his father-in-law and some friends. Wells began by installing the below-decks accoutrements such as shelving and stowage units, then constructing the bulkheads and mounting a pair of 250-gallon aluminum fuel tanks on either side of the engine.
Next up were the piping and wiring runs. “I was lucky enough to have a brother who [is] a pretty good electrician,” he explains. The duo first installed two banks of twin 8D batteries, then set up the 12-volt electrical system, which has subsequently run basic equipment such as his JVC radar, twin VHFs, and Hondex track plotter. He opted to forego a genset for a 3,000-watt inverter to power his microwave, deck lights, and 15-inch flatscreen computer.
After finishing off other components below, such as the dual-station hydraulic steering system (one cockpit control and one at the helm) from Hydroslave in Rockland, Maine, (he hired a friend who knew about hydraulics), it was time to install the superstructure and deck. Wells positioned 2x4s to support the sections of foam-cored-fiberglass deck panels that he had ordered from Wesmac and reinforced other areas, such as under the gantry, with extra wood.
Since Wells intended to use the vessel for both recreational and commercial purposes, he had opted for a split wheelhouse that allowed plenty of seating for guests but also maintained good sightlines from both helm stations. Choosing Wesmac allowed him the flexibility of adding lots of other custom features—such as a prism to illuminate the foc’sle—that weren’t available on production vessels he looked at.
“I got the boat I wanted,” Wells enthuses. Indeed, he says that with the engine detuned to 600 hp (due to fishing regulations) and turning 1600 rpm, his 12,000-pound (dry) Tenacious cruises at 19 mph (16.5 knots) and reaches a top speed of 23 mph (20 knots). He adds that the project was so successful that the state of Maine used the same basic design package to build three of its own research vessels for the Department of Marine Resources.
This article originally appeared in the August 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.