A Word With... Ralph Cantlay
Awarded a Purple Heart in World War II, Ralph Cantlay turned his impressive military service into an even more remarkable mechanical engineering career at some of the greatest shipbuilders and recreational boatyards in the world. The California native retired this year from his favorite job of all, senior vice president of engineering at Hargrave Custom Yachts, and will celebrate his 80th birthday in July. Power & Motoryacht recently caught up with Cantlay to talk about his life with boats.
Q: What is one of your earliest boating memories?
A: I got my first sailboat—a little Snowbird—at age six and loved to take it out around Newport Beach. I grew up there, and my family had a 47-foot Stevenson that we used to cruise out in Catalina Channel. My dad converted an office chair into a fighting chair, and that’s what I used to catch my first marlin when I was nine years old. We had a lot fun back then.
Q: When did you first enter the boating business?
A: In 1969 I went to work for Ingalls Shipbuilders in Pascagoula, Mississippi. I worked on many large container ships, and really enjoyed the job. I learned there just how crucial precision engineering is. I remember once we were assembling a 700-foot container ship and were placing the house into the hull. It was being lowered by a big crane. We realized the entire house was off by 9⁄16 of an inch. It wouldn’t fit. We said, “Well, back to the drawing board.”
Q: How did you enter the recreational boating world?
A: I came to Hargrave in 1997 and was greatly honored to be associated with a company founded by a man of Jack Hargrave’s stature. He was simply an amazing naval architect, he was a true artist, and I greatly respected and admired his work. His designs were the model of elegance and simplicity. And Mike Joyce, who owns the company now, has done a fantastic job supporting that heritage and maintaining the high-quality pedigree of the Hargrave name.
Q: Now that you’re retired, how do you enjoy spending your time?
A: Well, unfortunately, I can’t boat much anymore. My eyes are bad, and it’s not as easy for me to get around on a boat. But I still enjoy working as a consultant for Hargrave. I help owners who want to put new engines in their boats.
I still enjoy solving problems that come up at the yard. I really enjoy this business, I always have, and I feel lucky to have been able to work with what I consider the best custom boatbuilders in the country.
With a single bid, you not only stand to win a brand-new Sea Ray 185, but also help save lives in the process. In June, Sea Ray is auctioning off the boat and other marine equipment as part of its annual drive to raise funds for cystic fibrosis. There is no minimum bid, and all of the proceeds will to go toward finding a cure for the genetically transmitted disease, which affects approximately 30,000 children and adults in the United States. A defective gene causes the body to produce abnormally thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening infections. In the United States, about 2,500 new cases are diagnosed each year.
If you’d like to participate in this year’s event, you can either take part in the live auction on June 11 in Sea Ray’s hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, or you can bid online at eBay (use the search term “Sea Ray Cystic Fibrosis Charity”). The auction closes at 9 p.m. EST on June 11. If you’d like more information, call (865) 583-0355.
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