A Magnificent Transformation
Part 2: When it comes down to it, they are created by human hands, from start to finish.
By Eileen Mansfield
The Morgan family spent summers at their cottage on Lake George, New York, where outboard racing was a popular sport and Morgan was a regular participant. “I raced every weekend from May to November,” he recalls, later moving on to bigger races like the Gold Cup and the President’s Cup. Morgan recalls asking a boatbuilder at the Gold Cup if he could spend some time at the builder’s shop in order to learn how to build a raceboat. Eventually Morgan was building all his own boats, including the hardware and engines. “We’d run the engines so fast that I’d have to build a new engine at the end of each race,” he recalls.
One of the boats he raced on Lake George was a famous Hacker Craft called El Legarto (nicknamed “The Leaping Lizard of Lake George”), of which he later built a replica.
In the 1960’s, after retiring from racing, Morgan came back to Lake George (a place he says “got under my skin something terrible”), where he started doing boat restorations. With the Hacker Boat Company now defunct and the supply of old Hackers dwindling, he started making patterns of the boats he was restoring. “I have the kind of mind where I can look at something and figure out what to do with it,” explains Morgan. Eventually he bought the company’s name and started making what some now refer to as “Morgan Hackers.”
Relatively little has changed in the way these boats are built, at least from a philosophical standpoint. When it comes down to it, they are created by human hands, from start to finish. “This is by no means a computer-built boat,” Bob Rockwell, who works in the wood shop at Hacker, explained to me while giving me a tour of the yard, where he cuts out the frames before they are assembled. This point was well taken as I watched him use a pencil to trace a pattern onto a piece of wood. “These boats come in as a pile of wood,” he added.
Rockwell explained that it takes approximately 1,000 man-hours to make a standard Hacker: 32 hours to build frames, 130 to 150 hours to set up frames and start the bottom, 130 to 150 hours for side planking, 130 to 150 for deck build-out and planking, 100 to 120 hours to prep, 100 to 120 hours for interior framing, 75 to 100 hours for varnishing, 110 to 130 hours for finishing and trim fit-out, 60 to 80 hours for rigging and instrumentation, 40 to 60 hours for ulpholstery, and 30 hours for miscellaneous quality-control tasks (i.e. lake test, cleanup, prep for delivery).
Only a few of the 26 Hacker Craft employees have had formal boatbuilding training. “Hands-on teaching is the best experience,” explains Lynn Wagemann, director of operations.
Next page > Part 3: “The overall look is the same as in the ‘20’s and ‘30’s. It’s the creature comforts that are new.” > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
This article originally appeared in the August 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.