40 — By Capt. Bill Pike — May 2002
|Ken Reiter wanted a truly personal boat. So he went back to his roots--custom boatbuilding.|
Before sea-trialing his new custom Knowles 40, her owner, Ken Reiter, and I had breakfast at the IHOP in Stuart, Florida. It was a reunion of sorts. We'd met a few weeks before, at the Miami International Boat Show. My wife and I had been strolling amid the yachts and megayachts on Collins Avenue when a middle-aged guy with boaty clothes, a sun-tanned face, and a shock of white hair--Reiter--tapped me on the shoulder. "Capt. Pike," he asked, "would you have time to come over and look at my new custom boat? You'll be impressed."
"Sure," I replied, and off we all went. Soon it developed that Reiter had recognized me from a photograph in PMY, a fortuitous sighting, he enthused, given the nature of my profession and the readiness of his vessel for testing and reportage. As we moved along through the crowds, his excitement seemed to escalate. His gestures, too, became more animated, like he was nervous about introducing us to someone, a wonderful lady-friend perhaps, or a beautiful fiancée.
Reiter told us he'd been boating for 55 years, and the cold-molded 40-footer we were going to see--a vessel that had taken over two-and-a-half years to complete and nearly $1,000,000 to buy--was the manifestation of just about every bit of wisdom he'd been able to wrest from the sea. Her curves and cosmetics were veritable works of art, he said, and certain facets of her design and engineering were very savvy.
Finally, we arrived. Within moments, I concluded that Reiter's boat was indeed as beautiful as he'd described her, and without being in the least strange or ungainly, quite original. The builder, Bill Knowles of the Knowles Boat Company of Stuart, Florida, rose from a roosting spot on a covering board and stuck out a hand in greeting, his eyes shaded by an enormous Tilley hat. I sized him up pretty fast--quirky, rebellious, perfectionistic--a total boat-guy. We hit it off. Soon Knowles was detailing the virtues and assets of Reiter's boat with as much fervor as Reiter. My wife was intrigued. I was, too. I resolved to do a sea trial as soon as possible.
But breakfast always comes first. As our IHOP pancakes arrived, Reiter and I began talking about the pros and cons of custom boatbuilding, a subject he enjoys and understands well, having grown up in a well-to-do Long Island family, with a father who commissioned, loved, and fished one custom fishboat after another.
"The idea for the Knowles," Reiter marveled, "started with a 30-foot Luhrs walkaround I owned once, a production boat, can you believe? With a great layout--a great layout."
The remark emphasized both the immense opportunity an owner has for personal input and involvement during a custom build, and the sizable premium he can expect to pay for the opportunity.
"But problems arise," Reiter added ruefully, "Even with the best-laid plans."
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.