The Real Thing Page 2

The Real Thing
Part 2: As contemporary as these boats are, it is their timelessness that is most arresting.

By Tim Clark — May 2001
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In 1973 ongoing technological refinement and continuity were assured when Walter’s sons, Klaus and Urs, joined the firm at the same time that a new production facility opened in nearby Sihlbrugg. In the years since, Klaus, a naval architect trained at Hamburg University, and Urs, a mechanical engineer whose apprenticeship in engine construction was completed at Daimler-Benz, have applied contemporary expertise to Boesch models inside and out. Under their watch handling and overall performance of the entire line have been improved with the development of a proprietary curved rudder design, and they have further reduced upkeep by introducing low-maintenance MerCruiser electronic V-8 gasoline engines.

Yet as contemporary as these boats are, it is their timelessness that is most arresting. A Boesch’s finish is so superb that I had trouble imagining how it is achieved until Rolf Greter, Boesch’s international representative, guided me through the production plant at Sihlbrugg. On the main assembly floor I found three men—the number routinely assigned to the construction of each hull—at work on a 23-foot 680 Costa Brava (which lists for about $115,000). They worked at an unhurried, painstaking pace, and their demeanor was calm and resolute.

In Switzerland a centuries-old apprenticeship system still exists. I learned from Greter that for four years apprentices are carefully disciplined in the skills employed at Boesch and then work an additional year at another boatbuilder—as true journeymen exchanging ideas and techniques—before returning. The silver-haired craftsman with glasses balanced on the tip of his nose who was carefully planing the Canadian maple inlay on the 680’s forward deck, I was told, had been with Boesch for more than 20 years, not an unusual span here.

Such men and women build each craft to an early stage of completion until an order comes in, at which point it is finished according to the client’s desires. These may include the tone of the finish and customization in the cockpit, stern, and cuddy cabin. “Boesch customers are used to having their most important possessions—their houses, even their Bentleys—built to order,” says Greter. “It only follows that they expect their boats to be constructed according to their individual ideals as well.” Boesch is highly accommodating so long as the boats’ signature lines are not compromised.

On a 30-foot 900 Riviera de Luxe (Boesch’s latest model, priced at about $265,000) nearing completion in the finishing studio, Greter pointed out modifications made to the swim platform and to the stairs on the reverse transom. At the helm, where the dash was not yet fully installed, a craftsman was sanding varnish over a recessed surface the owner would probably never lay eyes on. I asked Greter to get a shot with the Nikon he was carrying. As he focused, the worker smiled shyly and backed out of the frame, and no amount of cajoling could convince him to re-enter the picture. Men on the assembly floor had behaved identically just a few minutes earlier. Everyone at Boesch seemed to modestly insist that the boats should speak for themselves.

Next to the finishing studio we entered a room furnished with a variety of lathes and other heavy apparati used to machine every piece of hardware fixed to a Boesch runabout. Be it cleat, seacock, or fuel fill cap, all are milled on the premises from solid brass or bronze. Greter looked on with evident pride as I hefted a gleaming chromed grabrail socket. The two-inch fitting must have weighed half a pound. “Quite simply, we build the boats to last forever,” he told me. “Of more than 3,600 that have been constructed since the 1920s, we know that at least 2,500 are still in existence.”

I had seen evidence of this on a lower floor at Sihlbrugg where dozens of runabouts were in varying stages of restoration. Greter had run his palm over the seamless surface of a model from 1930 that was sanded down to pinkish mahogany. “This is the beauty of wood,” he said. “When we return this boat to her owner, she will appear exactly as she did 70 years ago.” The boat was in a long rank that included models from nearly every decade of Boesch’s existence. As I looked from boat to boat, I knew that some were far ahead of others technologically, and I could note here and there the subtle stylistic variations that marked the succession of the lineage. But even so, surrounded by all those beauties, my foremost feeling was that at Boesch the distinction between rare museum piece and latter-day heirloom is immaterial.

Boesch Motorboats (41) 1 715-1344. Fax: (41) 1 715-1311.
Grand Craft (U. S. dealer) (616) 396-5450. Fax: (616) 396-6210.

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

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