Born in the U.S.A.
We caught up with author Nick Voulgaris III, whose new book Hinckley Yachts: An American Icon came out last month, to talk about boats, his book, and the good folks in Maine.
PMY: What brought this project about?
VOULGARIS: My love affair with Hinckley began when I was a little boy. I always admired the classic lines of these boats, and Hinckley has this mystique and aura about it that no other boatbuilder has. I purchased a Hinckley Bermuda 40 back in 2006 and embarked on a two-year restoration of the boat, and as I began taking her apart I was completely enthralled with how well built the boat was. And I wanted to tell her story.
PMY: In doing your research for the book, was there anything that stood out to you?
VOULGARIS: I think one common misconception is that when Hinckley began building the picnic boat in the late ’90s the public at large, I think, felt Hinckley was selling out by building motorboats. Hinckley actually started building motorboats—their first was built in 1933. Then they got into the sailboat business, and then sort of returned to its roots by offering the picnic boats and now the Talaria line, in addition to building sailboats. It seemed like some of the old salty sailors felt the company was straying by building these motorboats, but in fact that’s its heritage.
PMY: Did you get to have a lot of interaction with Hinckley owners or was it mainly just with the company?
VOULGARIS: No, with the owners as well. So many people are passionate about the Hinckley name and brand. One that I spoke with was David Rockefeller, who offered to write the forward, which is amazing. He’s incredibly devoted to the economics of Mount Desert Island and it’s public knowledge that when Hinckley was struggling in 2009 with the recession he ordered a boat that he probably didn’t need at 92 years old just to keep the factory going and prevent layoffs. Also Martha Stewart, who is a big supporter of the brand, she wrote an essay, and Chuck Townsend from Condé Nast. And lesser-known people as well—just hearing personal stories and finding boats that have been passed down from generation to generation. Again, Hinckley has this sort of presence that a lot of other boatbulders don’t. It’s kind of hard to describe in words, but people have this love affair with the brand that I haven’t found with other companies.
PMY: What was your favorite part about putting this all together?
VOULGARIS: Probably working with the folks at Hinckley. I spent a lot of time with Jim McManus [Hinckley’s CEO] and Phil Bennett who’s been with the company close to 30 years, and made 5 or 6 trips to Maine and equal amounts to Portsmouth [Rhode Island]. Phil kind of took me under his wing, and we spent countless hours over numerous months going through the factory and introducing me to all the workers and really showing me how these boats are put together—and it’s a really fascinating process. It’s sort of a joke that a Hinckley has this connotation of being a very expensive boat, but when you go to the factory and see how they’re built, and the complexity, and how much goes into making these, and how many man-hours—it almost seems undervalued.
Hinckley Yachts: An America Icon, by Nick Voulgaris III, published by Rizzoli New York, April 2014, $65, www.rizzoliusa.com