Warning Signs Page 2
Spectator — February 2002
By Tom Fexas
|Selecting a custom boat/yacht builder, part I.|
3. The yard is going to build the "fastest motoryacht in the world." Building the "fastest motoryacht" again involves a builder's quest for glory, and again, it is best that speeds increase in measured increments rather than quantum jumps. Fast yachts require a whole different construction philosophy using exotic materials and eat up more labor. High-speed motoryachts often involve jet propulsion and gas turbines. The builder should be familiar with, or seek outside help for, the propulsion systems proposed. The yard should never be learing on your project.
4. The yard just bought a private jet or helicopter. No builder needs a private jet or helicopter. It is part of the glory thing again. If the yard has something special to offer, clients will find their way to the facility and do not need to be ferried around. Besides, clients with means will usually have their own private jets or helicopters. If the jet or `copter is needed primarily to shuttle the builder's repair crews around the country, this may indicate something in itself.
5. The builder offers you a piece of the company before you sign the contract. Alarms bells and claxon horns! Abort! Abort!
6. The company has recently been taken over by a successful businessman who knows nothing about building boats and, in fact, made his fortune in the brassiere business. This is the guy who figures that "business is business," and if he can run a successful brassiere company, he can apply the same "foundations" to boatbuilding and also do well. Sometimes it works, but usually it doesn't.
7. Management is full of nonboating land lubbers. Most guys get into the boatbuilders business because they simply love boats. Once outside MBA types or lawyers get involved, it becomes just another business.
8. When you go through the yard, workers are swarming all over your boat like diligent ants, but when you look at other boats under construction, nobody is working on them. You can bet your sweet transom that as soon as you leave the facility, guys will be off your boat and working on another in preparation for that owner's visit. The old switcharoo.
9. Personnel turnover is faster than that of the the local pizza joint. No mystery here. The employees know something you don't and are seeking greener pastures.
10. The principal of the yard has an unlisted phone number.
11. The principal of the yard is driving a '66 Buick, but after you sign a contract, he buys an $80,000 Benz.
12. The yard owner is also the owner of a recently launched boat. Believe me, this is usually not a case of "I liked it so much I bought the company." It is more likely, "In order to get my boat, I had to buy the company."
Next month I will explore more signs that your custom builder may be headed into trouble. It is important to note that hundreds of custom boats are delivered each year to happy owners, and honest, capable boatbuilders can be found worldwide. Nevertheless, it is important to involve a good liar--er, lawyer who knows the marine industry at contract signing time. In the end it is usually pure stupidity or greed on the part of the buyer that leads him (or her) to an unqualified builder.
Tom Fexas is a marine engineer and designer of powerboats. His Web site is www.tomfexas.com.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.