Strangers on the Docks

Spectator — March 2001

Spectator — March 2001

By Tom Fexas

Strangers on the Docks
Close encouters of the productive kind.
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"Where do clients come from?" is a question commonly asked by aspiring/perspiring yacht designers. While I would like to say that clients are drawn to us by our outstanding promotional programs, I am forced to admit that fate more often than not brings an architect and client together. Chance encounters on the docks have led to great things for me in the past. Here are a few standouts.

Stuart, 1985. About 15 years ago I was really upset with an outfit in California marketing one of our designs as the "Fexas 42." It was using my name without permission, and other clients were upset that this upstart outfit could call its boat a "Fexas" and they could not. I wrote letters, but to no avail. The next step was to get "liars for hire" (lawyers) involved and sue the bastards.

So I was hanging around a boat at the Miami boat show one day when I was approached by a good-looking, square-headed surfer dude. He said his name was Dick Peterson and he was the guy selling the Fexas 42 on the West Coast. I tried hard to dislike the guy. I really did. However, his golly-gee-whiz attitude and sincerity overwhelmed me, just as it has hundreds of clients to whom he has since sold boats. How could I sue this nice guy who was so enthusiastic about one of our designs?

We walked and talked. Soon afterwards Mikelson Yachts was born, and the Fexas 42 became the Mikelson 42. End of problem. Beginning of a long relationship. That encounter on the docks has resulted in 12 new designs and a bunch of good West Coast friends. Today Mikelson is a major player on the West Coast and fast making inroads on the East Coast.

Fort Lauderdale, 1978. I was at the show with the prototype for the 44-foot Midnight Lace when I bumped into a couple of guys cruising the docks. They asked if I was the guy that designed the Lace. We started talking. "They" were Don Canavan and Dave Jackson from Rex Yacht Sales who then represented Cheoy Lee on the East Coast. At that time the only powerboats Cheoy Lee built were trawlers. Canavan and Jackson told me that Cheoy Lee was interested in getting into modern, high-speed stuff. I invited them for a run on the Lace after the show was over.

From that chance encounter has grown a long and close relationship between Cheoy Lee and our office. The 48-foot Cheoy Lee Sportfish (our first design for the builder) was introduced in 1980. Since then we have done 31 designs for Cheoy Lee and are presently working on new ones.

Next page > Strangers continued > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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