The author had the chance to see how Yamaha props are made. He'll never look at those outboards the same way again.
Who needs five outboards? Does anyone really need a 45-foot center console with fold-down gunwales? Is there anyone that needs a million-plus-dollar yacht?
I’ve heard it time and time again over the years. No, no one needs those things. When I see one of those questions on social media, or hear it on the docks, or more rarely, get asked in person, I think about explaining the rush that comes with blasting atop the water at over 50 knots, but I stop myself. They wouldn’t understand anyway, and trolls, well, they’re going to troll.
The truth is that the boats we cover and love are luxury items that allow us to pursue a passion. We’re not shipping goods from port to port. We’re not protecting ports like the Coast Guard or fighting fires like the FDNY. No, we own boats because they’re fun and they provide an escape better than anything else I know.
In reporting for this magazine, I’ve been privileged to get access behind the scenes at numerous builders and manufacturers. I’ve reported on what it was like to work at Sabre Yachts and how Seakeeper is keeping manufacturing jobs alive in their factory just outside Pennsylvania’s Amish country. I recently had the opportunity to tour a Sunseeker factory in Poole, England where multiple generations work side by side to craft some of the most sought-after luxury vessels in the world. A 6-inch thick, teardrop-shaped cutout from a Sunseeker 116 hull sits on my desk. The small souvenir doubles as a conversation starter and overused joke: “I just need to visit there 1,000 more times and I’ll have a full yacht.” What I really like about that hunk of hull, though, is that it reminds me of the workers who show up day in and day out creating that hand-laid fiberglass hull—one layer at a time.
I also recently had the opportunity to join a colleague on a tour of Yamaha Precision Propeller in Indianapolis, Indiana. When he first invited me, I couldn’t help but shake my head and wonder why Yamaha was building their props so far from shore.
I’d learn that the factory, situated in the heart of the Rust Belt, has been building props the same way for nearly a half-century, with fire and metal. It’s a labor-intensive job that involves the careful handling of wax molds and working in cramped quarters. Where the prop-building process really gets hot is in the foundry, where an 1,800--degree oven and molten metal require unparalleled focus.
“Just a single drop of sweat falls into that canister,” said one employee as we watched liquid metal pour, “and you have a huge explosion on your hands.” I looked it up later on YouTube. He wasn’t kidding.
From Maine to the U.K. to Indianapolis, there are a couple things these manufacturers all have in common. From what I can tell, they care deeply about their employees. The craftsmen I met were proud of the work they were doing, but underneath that pride, they had an underlying concern about the future. Fear that their jobs might be replaced by robots or cheaper labor in other countries. Fear that a lack of younger workers seeking this type of work will lead to an uncertain future.
Manufacturing jobs are a hot topic these days, especially with an election cycle heating up. There will be a lot of talk about jobs in the United States. I don’t like talking politics in general, and I’m certainly not going to do so here, but I do want to acknowledge the many men and women I’ve met on shop floors who love what they do and the companies who work hard to treat their employees well when no one’s looking.
Thirty-eight-year veteran at Yamaha Precision Propeller Albert Durant told me as my tour concluded, “We love what we do. We realize it brings a lot of pleasure to a lot of people. We rev hearts.”
I thought of those words as I tested a Tiara 43 on Lake Michigan a couple weeks ago. Ahead of me was a horizon with limitless possibilities and behind, a quartet of Yamaha outboards being pushed along by hand-crafted props built by men and women who sure are glad that there are people out there who want boats with a choir of outboards, even if they don’t need them.