Boatbuilder’s Expo

An extended series profiling the 50 best big-game boatbuilders worldwide.

August 29, 2007


/viking Yachts/

Without big, fast and powerful boats, the sport of big-game fishing as we know it would cease to exist. Over the course of a short history, game boats evolved from rock-solid commercial workboats into sleek, opulent sport-fishers with the ability to venture far offshore, or even cross oceans, and return home safely. Before the advent of the global positioning system, EPIRBs and Coast Guard rescue choppers, the ocean commanded much greater respect from those who chose to venture out on her waters; consequently, virtually all of today’s builders and designers still strive to build solid, safe hulls.

But tied as they are to seaworthiness, those same builders made their reputations by pushing the envelope in both design and speed. And so the art of boatbuilding evolved – with builders continually searching for new techniques and materials that could blur the lines between weight, strength, speed and ride.

However, you can’t define any of the sport-fishers found on the following pages by mere specs alone – each comes with a heritage, personality and look particular to its builder. So in _Marlin’_s debut Boatbuilders’ Expo, instead of smothering you with endless specifications and telling you about how many heads you’ll find on a certain model, we thought we’d introduce you to the companies and people who actually make the boats you love. After all, entering into a boat contract is a lot like a marriage, and getting to know and liking the in-laws puts you way ahead from the outset. She might be your girl now, but it’s always nice to see where she came from.


– Dave Ferrell

**Featured Boat Builders: **
Part I Albemarle Boats American Custom Bayliss Boatworks BB Boatworks Bertram Yachts Briggs Boat Works Cabo Yachts Calyber Boatworks Carolina Classic Boats Davis Yachts Part II Egg Harbor Yachts F&S Boatworks Gamefisherman Garlington Landeweer Hatteras Yachts Henriques Yachts Holton Custom Yachts Jarrett Bay Boatworks Jersey Cape Yachts Jim Smith Boats Part III Legend Custom Liberty Yachts Lightning Yachts Luhrs Mann Custom Maverick Yachts Merritt Boats Mickelson Yachts Miller Marine Nordhavn Yachts _Part IV _Ocean Yachts Post Yachts Rampage Yachts Riviera Yachts Roscoli Inernational Rybovich and Sons Scopinich Boats Sculley Boatbuilders Shearline Boatworks Silverton Marine _Part V _Spencer Yachts Tiara Yachts Titan Custom Topaz Boats Tribute Performance Viking Yachts Weaver Boatworks Whiticar Willis Marine

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_First up: Albemarle Boats


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Albemarle Boats

While some boat companies dabble in both the fishing and cruising markets, this is not so with Albemarle. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Albemarle Boats and you won’t find a day cruiser anywhere in its lineup. Scott Harrell Sr. started the Edenton, North Carolina, company in 1978 with a few center-console models that quickly impressed the boat-savvy captains in the area with their hard-core fishing amenities. That commitment to fishermen remains to this day.

Purchased in March 2005 by Brunswick, Albemarle now makes up a piece of the Hatteras Group, complementing the large boat line with an entry-level size range (24- to 41-footers) that still reflects the best quality possible. “We’ve never changed our focus from the hard-core fishing side,” says President W. Burch Perry. “We still only make fishing boats.”


Albemarle pursued an aggressive growth strategy in the last several years, coming out with the 41 in 2001, a convertible in 2005 and a new 36 in 2006. “We’ve pretty much been reinventing the whole line,” says Perry. “We got away from the narrower beams and listened to our customers and dealers. But our cockpit has changed very little.”

**At a Glance: **-Hard-core fishing focus -Smooth, dry ride -Traditional heavy-duty construction

All Albemarle boats come loaded with simple, yet extremely functional fishing amenities. You don’t have to ask for a livewell, bait station or giant fish box when purchasing an Albemarle; they come standard on every model. But man does not live on fish alone.

“Our ride is our number one attribute. We build dry boats,” says Perry. “Our customers always tell us that we have a great riding boat, which all comes back to our construction techniques. We build our boats out of fiberglass and use fir stringers. We do use some composites in our bulkheads and engine mounts, but our stringers are still made out of wood and we see no reason to change that. The only reason to replace the fir would be to save weight, and that’s not what we want to do. It’s our weight and hull design that gives our boats a smooth, dry ride.”


But being heavier doesn’t make them slow. “We still set 30 knots as our targeted cruise and we find our customers are pretty happy with that,” says Perry.

For more information, contact Albemarle Boats of Edenton, North Carolina, at 252-482-7600, or visit

_Next: American Custom Yachts

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American Custom Yachts

Marlin did its first review of an American Custom Yacht in the December/January 1994 issue; it was an “On the Drawing Board” piece in which Dean Travis Clarke reported that they expected to get 48 to 50 mph out of her. This Freedom, the first of many, lived up to those projections and instantly vaulted the new company to the front of the pack. Most of the credit goes to Dominick LaCombe, the former vice president of Monterey, who partnered with Edison Chouest Offshore in June of 1992 to start the company’s quest for speed.

“I’d been in the business with Monterey since 1983 but I was ready to do some of my own things. At Monterey we had to make incremental changes to our basic platform. I wanted to start from scratch and build a boat with the high-quality craftsmanship of a Rybovich or Merritt, with the speed of a Jim Smith – that had been my goal since I was a kid. When I met the Chouest family, I got the chance to make the hull I wanted, the way I wanted to make it,” says LaCombe. “I think we’ve far surpassed my original goal – we work really hard to make each one better than the last.”

**At a Glance: **-Super fast -High-tech construction methods and materials -Looks as good as she runs

“One of the main reasons the company has done so well is that the Chouests are a family of boatbuilders,” says LaCombe. “They understand what I’m trying to do here and give us a tremendous amount of support.”

The Chouest family’s expertise in ship building influences the way LaCombe and his talented crew of craftsmen assemble each new hull. “We are a totally custom shop and we build a brand-new steel jig for every hull. The Chouests cut the steel and we weld the jig together here at the shop. By using steel instead of wood jigs, we can easily make changes if necessary,” says LaCombe.

“Our customers don’t have to ask for a specific-sized boat; they come in with ideas about what they want to do and where they want to go, and we try to build them exactly what they need. And since we build cold-molded, custom boats, that extra foot or two won’t cost much if you feel you need more room,” he says.

For more information, contact American Custom Yachts of Stuart, Florida, at 772-221-9100, or visit

_Next: Bayliss Boatworks

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Bayliss Boatworks

While John Bayliss is a relative newcomer to boatbuilding, he certainly doesn’t lack boating and fishing credentials; the first seven hulls he delivered reflect the expertise of this tremendous waterman. “I started charter fishing in 1975, got my own boat in 1980 [a Ricky Scarborough], and then a commercial boat. I helped around the yard and paid attention while my boats were being built. I gave them some of my ideas, but my entire career has been laid out to be a fisherman.”

After getting an offer on his Paul Mann boat that he couldn’t refuse, Bayliss found himself boatless, wondering what to do next. A call from Hatteras Yachts soon had Bayliss manning the helm of the company’s traveling demo boat, the Hatterascal. “That introduced me to an entirely different world of boatbuilding,” he says. “Part of my job was to look around and give them ideas to use on their next projects, so I took note of a lot of good ideas along the way.”

Bayliss finally found an output for all of this education when he opened up his own shop in 2002. Bayliss’ reputation as an excellent fisherman and all-around good guy ensured a brisk business right from the start. “By the time I had my building finished we had four orders. A lot of good folks took a chance on us, and I thank God that our first boat turned out to be such a good one,” says Bayliss.

**At a Glance: **-A true traveling sport-fisher -Stunning fit and finish -Blend of Florida and North Carolina styling

Always humble, Bayliss says folks like Paul Spencer, Irwin Forbes and Mark Willis were always willing to listen to his ideas and would tell him whether or not he should proceed in a certain direction. “Willis even recommended Robert Uhlburg to handle our naval architecture and that relationship has been exceptional for us,” says Bayliss.

One of the first things you’ll notice about a Bayliss is its striking look – and that’s no accident. “Starting with our first boat we wanted a blend of a North Carolina and a south Florida look. Our goal was to have one of our boats pull into a marina and spark the question, ‘Where was that boat built?’ However, we still place high importance on the engine room, machinery spaces and interior. We receive a lot of input from some very sharp owners and captains and we constantly try to raise the bar on every boat we build,” he says.

For more information, contact Bayliss Boatworks of Wanchese, North Carolina, at 252-473-9797, or visit

_Next: BB Boatworks

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BB Boatworks

Founded in 2000 by a partnership between boatbuilding legend Buddy Cannady and charter boat captain/boatbuilder Billy Maxwell, BB Boats quickly found a market for its traditionally built, Carolina-style hulls. Cannady has built boats ranging in size from 16-foot skiffs to 58-foot sport-fishers while all of the BB Boats launched thus far have been between 55 and 58 feet.

“Our boats are double stick-framed, juniper-and-plywood planked, built using the same techniques that have proved effective for Carolina builders since the mid-1900s,” says Maxwell. “While we build boats the same way pioneers like Warren O’Neal did, advances in technology are always welcome; we use high-tech materials, such as Gougeon Bros. epoxy, AB fir plywood and Knytex 1708 biaxil fiberglass cloth. The technology and new materials continue to offer positive changes, but most often we find ourselves sticking with materials that have proven themselves in terms of both performance and cost.”

“Our situation is unique to the Carolina Builders, in that all of our employees (and both of us) are active captains or mates at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, running fishing charters from April through November,” says Cannady. “Therefore our boats must be made available to the owner in one winter’s time. This time restraint contributes to the overall lower cost of our boats.”

**At a Glance: **-On-time delivery -High-quality, low cost -Traditional Outer Banks construction

“In the tradition of the Carolina builders, we loft our boats ourselves,” says Cannady. “And we use the experience of actually fishing these boats in some of the roughest conditions combined with the many hulls under our belts, to achieve a smooth, dry ride. The balance between power and the overall weight of the boat is critical to its efficiency. Our boats are known for their seaworthiness; the compromise lies in the weight of the engines versus the amount of deadrise engineered into the design.”

The pair strives to uphold the long tradition of the Outer Banks’ boatbuilders by constructing boats that not only look good but are built to stand the test of time. “We provide a good price, on-time delivery and classic Carolina-styling on a boat that’s built to last for many years to come. We work closely with our buyers to map out what they want versus what they can really use (and maintain) – as well as affordability in terms of fuel efficiency,” says Cannady.

For more information, contact BB Boats, Inc. of Manteo, North Carolina, at 252-473-1097.

_Next: Bertram Yachts

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Bertram Yachts

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the offshore fishing game, then you’ve probably stepped aboard a Bertram. Founded in 1960 by the world-class sailor and champion powerboat racer, Richard Bertram, Bertram Yacht Company went on to build some of the most successful sport-fishers ever produced, including the ever-popular 54 and the legendary 31. In October of 1998, one of the world’s foremost motor yacht manufacturers, Ferretti S.P.A., purchased Bertram with the intent to expound on Bertram’s stellar reputation in the fishing community.

True to its racing heritage, Bertram continues to focus on seakeeping abilities and its well-known ride. “While our boats were always known for their ability to shine under real-world conditions, our partnership with Ferretti only increased our commitment to performance. Our deep-V design combined with the work of our engineering teams at Ferretti and here at Bertram, result in a great-riding hull,” says Joe Bubenzer, president and chief operating officer. “We thoroughly computer model all of our hull designs under both static and dynamic conditions to see what will happen when waves come up against the hull from all quarters.”

**At a Glance: **-Smooth, dry ride in rough weather -Built solid to last -Stable fishing platform

“In terms of speed, our hulls are very competitive, but again, we like to focus on our ride and performance when things get bumpy – a Bertram is almost always going to be faster in a rough sea. You might see a few boats with published top-end speeds greater than ours, but it’s the speed and ride that your boat provides under tournament conditions that really matters,” says Bubenzer.

Ferretti’s purchase also brought another interesting innovation to the Bertram line, the Anti-Rolling Gyro (ARG) system. “The ARG is really a revolutionary advance in boating comfort,” says Bubenzer. “The self-contained gyroscopic stabilizer dampens roll at anchor or at slow speeds without the use of external fins. It dramatically changes the movement of the boat and makes the boating experience much more pleasurable for those susceptible to motion sickness.”

In all likelihood, the words ‘built like a tank’ were probably first uttered over the hull of a Bertram Yacht. “We’ve always been very conservative when it comes to our construction,” says Bubenzer. “We overbuild our boats because we prefer to err on the side of structural integrity. You won’t find any wood below the waterline on a Bertram hull. I like to say that we use a “durability-based engineering approach.”

For more information, contact Bertram Yachts of Miami, Florida, at 305-633-8011, or visit

_Next: Briggs Boat Works

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Briggs Boat Works

Capt. Sunny Briggs earned his stripes fishing with North Carolina’s top skippers. At 12 years old, he started mating for Capt. Lee Perry. A few years later, he went to work as a deckhand for Capt. Omie Tillett, who mentored him into the role of charter-boat captain and eventually, custom boatbuilder. “Omie never cut corners,” Briggs says. “He instilled in me at an early age that every part of a boat should be built the best you can with no unfinished areas. Be proud of every part of a boat.”

Briggs Boat Works is currently working on hull number 51. Briggs specializes in using the time-tested cold-molding processes to build his boats, but he doesn’t shy away from new technology. In the early 1990s, Briggs teamed up with Applied Concepts and launched the first custom boat using a CNC router to cut the jig rather than the time-consuming lofting process. The end result was a more accurate jig that cost less money and took less time.

**At a Glance: **-Custom boats from the mid 50-foot range -More than 30 years of experience -Yachts that cruise in the mid 30-knot range

“I have taken my boatbuilding experience and combined it with the talent of Applied Concepts to consistently improve the custom sport-fishermen we build,” Briggs says. “I favor the cold-molded technique of construction because of the many advantages it gives the builder. It allows us to give the owner a better product for his investment. Cold molding and working with cored composites assures us that we are using the best material in each area of the vessel.”

Briggs says the customer drives the design at his yard. “I don’t think an owner should have to pick from plan A, B or C. We custom-tailor our boats to our customers’ needs, keeping the integrity of our proven designs. It is important to build the best possible sport-fishermen for every owner, never forgetting that what you cannot see is just as important as what you can see.”

After 30 years of building boats, Briggs says he always tries to improve his craft. “On our latest 56, the owners told us they like to fish barefoot a lot, so we designed a built-in sprinkler system in the toe kick of the mezzanine to keep the teak wet and cool on those hot summer days. We’re always trying to come up with something new. That’s what keeps it fun,” Briggs says. “I’m fortunate to have a very talented and intelligent team.”

For more information, contact Briggs Boat Works of Wanchese, North Carolina, at 252-473-2393, or visit

_Next: Cabo Yachts

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Cabo Yachts

Cabo Yachts has been building sport-fishing boats since 1991, completing more than 1,000 hulls to date. Cabo currently builds express sport-fishers ranging from 32 to 52 feet and flybridge models from 35 to 48 feet. “We try to build the highest-quality production sport-fishing vessel in the world,” says Jim Renfrow Jr., vice president of sales and marketing. Cabo builds its boats in the desert near Adelanto, California, but the West Coast manufacturer delivers boats that raise fish in all of the world’s hot spots.

Cabo manufactures, or controls the manufacture of, nearly every component of the boat to ensure only the highest quality parts make it on board. Also, Cabo does its own in-house tooling to make parts with flawless and durable finishes for lasting beauty. Cabo’s electrical setups have been described as a work of art and is clearly a benchmark for the industry. “We only use multi-strand, individually-tinned copper wire, and if a line calls for 12 gauge wire, we use 14,” says Renfrow.

**At a Glance: **-Excellent fit-and-finish -Well-designed layout -Solid fiberglass construction

That philosophy of overbuilding carries over throughout a Cabo, particularly in the hull construction. “We build our boats with solid fiberglass hull bottoms using proprietary vinylester resins,” says Renfrow. “We get asked a lot why we build our boats out in the desert. Well, the land was cheap, but we also have only 17
percent humidity, which is perfect for curing our resin. We only do one layer of fiberglass per day and we get a great cure.” Cabo also bonds the liner, hull and superstructure together to form one solid piece, giving the boat its rock-solid feel.

First and foremost, however, Cabo builds its boats to fish from – there are very few fishing options left to add to its standard packages. “We try to include everything people would want in a fishing boat, as well as think about what people might want two or three years down the road and do our best to accommodate them,” says Renfrow. “Not only do our boats come standard with tuna doors, fish boxes, live wells and backing plates for a fighting chair, but all these components are the right size and located in the right place.”

For more information, contact Cabo Yachts of Adelanto, California, at 760-246-8917, or visit

Next: Calyber Boatworks

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Calyber Boatworks

With more than 21 years of experience under his belt as a shop foreman and master carpenter for companies such as Davis Yachts, Calyber Boatworks’ owner, Trevor Sherrick, knows what it takes to build a true Carolina-style hull. Sherrick started Calyber six years ago, teaming up with Jim Murphy to produce small fishing boats with the same fit-and-finish as much larger yachts.

Murphy, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing, says the company’s initial 23-foot center console proved so wildly successful that, “we now produce eight, handcrafted custom sport-fishermen per year, ranging in size from 23 to 35 feet. We build a true Carolina warped-plane boat with a deep-V entry and an 11-degree deadrise in the stern for stability. We provide the same quality of the big builders in Wanchese, but we’re just doing it on smaller-sized boats that one person can run alone. We are a small shop, but one that’s quality-oriented. Somebody told me the other day that we build floating Faberge eggs.”

**At a Glance: **-Big-boat quality in small package -Great fuel economy -Expert construction

Calyber takes tremendous pride in its workmanship and goes to great pains to make sure that its employees share the same ethic. “The key people in our company are all seasoned veterans of the boatbuilding industry,” says Murphy. “They’ve been hand picked because of trusted associations in the past. It starts with our head of lamination, who has over 40 years of experience, and runs right on through to our custom tower fabricator, whom we’ve worked with for almost 20 years.”

But what these mighty mites lack in size, they make up for in performance, and Calyber is always looking to get more out of a smaller package. “We’ve really been intrigued by the Volvo IPS drives. On our 35, they burn half the amount of fuel than a conventional inboard does. We get a top-end of 39.9 knots and a 31-knot cruise with the IPS drives, burning only 26 gallons per hour at cruise. With regular inboards the same boat burns closer to 50 gallons per hour. Obviously we will put any power in the boat that the customer wants, but once they handle one with the IPS drives the engines usually sell themselves. A first-time boater can spin the boat 360 degrees in about eight seconds with the joystick.”

For more information, contact Calyber Boatworks of Edenton, North Carolina, at 252-482-0775, or visit

Next: Carolina Classic

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Carolina Classic

Mac Privott, owner of Carolina Classic Boats, grew up running North Carolina’s dicey inlets and knows firsthand what it takes to build a solid offshore fishing boat.

“We glass everything together from the keel up,” he says. “Every time you step on her, you’ll notice there’s no flex – no creakin’ and crackin’.”

Privott began building boats in 1975 and has more than 2,000 hulls to his credit. The company presently builds boats from 25 to 35 feet, and each one focuses on the needs of fishermen. The cockpits are engineered to run several lines, with no tripping over engine boxes or cleats, but the most recognized – and appreciated – Carolina Classic feature is the big, wide bow that slices the seas and keeps you dry. “We build to fish offshore, and that means build them tough,” Privott says. “A Carolina Classic will take more than any captain should ever ask of it.”

The Carolina Classic team is heavily involved in the design and layout of the topsides but leaves the hull design up to veteran naval architect Lou Codega for the boat’s deep-V hull. All the building takes place at the company’s North Carolina facility.

**At a Glance: **-Builds 90 to 100 boats a year -Glasses every piece together for added strength -More than 2,000 hulls since 1975

Carolina Classic stands behind its product and selects the best component parts available, using only stainless and noncorrosive materials. Everything on the boat is watertight, making upkeep painless. The decks feature molded-in, diamond nonskid surfaces that resist ground-in dirt while providing sure footing. A unique bilge system keeps the engine compartment powder dry, so the mechanical and hydraulic systems stay clean and free of salt.

The company embraces new technology and expects to see more changes in electronics and engine refinements. “With the new electronic engine controls that are coming on board, I see engines that run more economically, quietly and dependably,” Privott says.

In the quest for more speed, the company expects to use more powerful engines down the road. But to compensate for more power, the hulls must become even tougher. “The faster we go, the stronger the hull needs to be,” says Privott. “As we get faster, we look for ways to make them stronger, not lighter. That means aesthetics mean a lot, but the first objective has to be strength.”

For more information, contact Carolina Classic Boats of Edenton, North Carolina, at 252-482-3699, or visit

Next: Davis Yachts

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Davis Yachts

Buddy Davis built over 300 sport-fishers in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, each one a delicate balance between performance and the tantalizing Carolina style. In 2003, in an effort to capture some of that North Carolina magic, E.H. Yachts purchased Davis Yachts, including molds ranging in size from 48 to 70 feet. Davis Yachts promptly christened its new offerings with the apt description, “the most beautiful ride on the ocean.”

According to Bob Hazard, vice president of sales and marketing for Davis Yachts, “It’s the look and ride of the Davis that sells the boat. Buddy has always been an excellent designer, so the transition was very easy for us. We moved everything up here to New Jersey and were building boats in a matter of months,” says Hazard. “We also retained a lot of Nick Boksa’s engineering work that he did for Davis, which also smoothed out the conversion immensely.”

**At a Glance: **-Lovely lines -Express experts -Plenty of speed

Davis Yachts recently launched its new 52 in both express and flybridge models and is presently building a 70-footer. “Our next new model will be a 58 express,” says Hazard, “to complete the natural progression from the 48, to the 52, to the 58. We find a lot of fishermen are hungry for the big express and we are reaching a whole new group of buyers with this line.”

“Davis’ customers aren’t usually first-time buyers, so they come to us with high expectations. We try very hard to fulfill these expectations in every aspect of our construction. The future captain of the boat often plays a huge part in the building process and we encourage this participation,” says Hazard. “The customer should enjoy the boatbuilding process. Even though these men are usually quite busy, you can tell they love to spend time at the factory watching the boat go through the process.”

To keep up with the ever-increasing demand for more speed, Davis modified its bottom and reworked some of the shafts and engine supports to secure the big power plants going below these days. “If you don’t have at least a
30-knot cruise, nobody is going to look at the boat,” says Hazard. “Our buyers aren’t worried too much about fuel consumption, so we give them what they want in terms of speed and power.”

For more information, contact Davis Yachts of Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, at 609-965-2300, or visit

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