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Old 05-03-2013, 05:35 PM   #21
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In thinking about it a bit, IF a builder can keep their fixed costs low, it may make sense to have the flexibility to offer multiple models to allow customization for each customer.

As you said, cars are built on a production basis, basically, "on spec". They sit in dealer's lots until a buyer comes along. That may also be the case in some senses in a seller's boat market, when economic conditions are good. In today's constricted buyer's market for boats, perhaps almost any new boat with a six-figure price is effectively built to order. I have heard several boatbuilders tell me that they can't afford to sink that kind of money into building a boat unless they have a buyer for it, both because they can't tie up that much cash, nor take the risk that it won't be what the next buyer wants.

If a company can keep its fixed costs low, and has the flexibility and responsiveness to be nimble and custom-tailor a boat to a buyer's specific specs and desires, as AT was willing to do with me, it could be a recipe for getting every possible sale. ATs willingness to essentially custom-build a 395 for me to my exact specifications, mechanical and cosmetic, was a huge factor in enticing me to buy it.

That mindset may be common to new boat buyers in general in this market - if you can't get exactly what you want, you might not buy it. That would have been the case with me. In our case, the cost of the boat was very significant - it definitely was not a casual 'impulse buy'. If I couldn't have had it built exactly the way I wanted it, I probably would not have spent anywhere near that much money on a new boat, and would have bought a much less expensive used boat instead (that was one of the things my wife and I repeatedly said to each other in rationalizing stretching to buy it, "but it's exactly the way we want it").

If the manufacturers were cranking out all these boats like donuts to sit in dealer inventory, it would probably be financially ruinous for them in this market. Even Bayliner and Mainship, the poster children for production boats, haven't made it in their original forms. But, this kind of 'each one is unique' approach might be just what is needed in a very competitive, and shrunken, new boat market today.
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Old 05-03-2013, 06:18 PM   #22
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Nick,

That caught my interest. What were the changes for your semi custom build was the yard able to do for you? When you said mechanical, could you elaborate?
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Old 05-03-2013, 06:40 PM   #23
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There product support should be mentioned as well. My AT is a 2002 vintage and I am the 3rd owner. The factory treat me as if I bought it new. GREAT customer service goes along way.
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Old 05-03-2013, 07:17 PM   #24
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Nick-I think there is more if a difference between cars and boats in that most of the "options" available on a car are ones that are either (1) done in the normal course of the production line (engines, etc) and thus carry little additional cost or (2) dealer-installed (sound systems, etc) that increase dealer margins. On a boat, the "production line" is the separate molded pieces necessary to construct the base boat including modular interiors. Once past that point, everything else is hand labor and fairly easily customized if the customer is willing to pay. And, as you said, at the much higher cost of a boat, more customers are willing and able to pay.
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Old 05-03-2013, 08:56 PM   #25
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Bob, it's easy to have a boat 'custom built', there is no shortage of yards who would be happy to do it - for a price. From some casual chats I had with a few yards, the cost of a true full custom 38-40 ft boat (of the type I wanted) was well into seven figures, which was WAY out of my price range. The trick is to have customization (within the fixed parameters of the existing molds) for a 'production boat' price. It was in this regard that American Tug was extraordinarily accommodating.

What I wanted filled a page, and manifested in dozens of e-mails and phone calls. It basically fell into three areas - mechanical, structural, and cosmetic.

The biggest mechanical change I wanted was more power to be able to exceed 20 kts and cruise at 17-18 kts. This is much more than just stuffing a more powerful engine into the hull, but much time spent evaluating engine options, reduction gearing, transmissions, props (diameter and pitch). They did a lot of analysis of how to maximize the performance out of the hull cost-effectively and without overdoing it (it's semi-displacement so has limits and point of diminishing returns). The standard power is a 380 hp Cummins; in my boat we went with a 480 hp Cummins and a different size and pitch prop. In the sea trial the boat hit 20.9 kts (and I think there is still another 1-1.5 kts to be had by adding 1/2-3/4" more pitch).

Structurally, AT uses mostly NidaCore in the superstructure, unlike many builders that make extensive use of balsa. The hull is already solid glass, and vinylester resin is used in both the hull and superstructure, so no changes were needed there. I personally hate balsa with a religious fervor, I just don't want it anywhere in a boat (don't want to risk moisture intrusion). AT uses some balsa in the forward and side decks, and one house bulkhead. Analysis of the structural requirements showed that it could be and was replaced by Airex C70, so a totally balsa-free build.

There were many cosmetic preferences which most builders would likely acommodate. But, my most persnickety request was for some type of floor material that would look like wood but be maintenance-free. Teak & holly is the standard 'wood' choice that most builders will do, but at this point in my life, I'm done re-urethaning every year. I drove them nuts going through about a dozen 'synthetic teak' alternatives, most of which looked like crap. Kurt Dilworth searched and found a Portugese company, Wicanders, that made a cork-based flooring that looks like burled walnut, but is warrantied for 15 years to be maintenance-free, waterproof, solvent-proof, and impact-resistant.

As Juksey said, ATs customer service is phenomenal. They didn't just take what I gave them but invested a lot of time doing R&D and finding solutions and coming up with ideas for the best choices for what I wanted. With my last AT, even after 4 years they continued to treat me as though I just bought it. That kind of support really does go a long way.
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Old 05-03-2013, 09:01 PM   #26
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Welcome aboard Endurance! It is nice to have another AT owner with so much knowledge and experience.

Here is how I see the AT line-up.

In terms of the comparison between NT and AT, we looked at the NT 32 and the AT 34. We found the AT 34 considerably more spacious and livable. It is longer and has a greater beam, so you gain things like dual galley sinks, stand up refrigerator/freezer, walk around queen, and enclosed shower, and much more storage etc. We concluded the NT 32 was more suited to weekend cruising, where the AT 34 is capable of long term cruising.

The AT 41 is essentially an enlargement of the AT 34 in all dimensions, like blowing up a balloon. This allowed the addition of a U shaped galley, a reclining chair, and a second stateroom and head. It is certainly a boat you can live comfortably on. Of course, one of the expected penalties is a deeper draft.

The AT 395 turns out to be a good compromise. It has a lengthwise stretched version of the AT 34 hull, keeping the same profile and beam, and that gets you a small second stateroom, an easy chair, and a bit more cockpit room. These were the primary things the AT 34 lovers wished for without having to go to the much larger AT 41. The factory listened if it weren't for the economy, I think this boat would rapidly replace the AT 34 as the most popular AT.

I agree with previous statements regarding the quality of construction and attention to excellence in the AT design and buildup. Much of the mechanics/electrics reflect commercial practices and is unusual to find in a coastal cruiser. It is also interesting that AT uses essentially the same mechanics/electrics, and hardware in all the models. There is no "upgrading" of quality from the smallest to the largest boats. I have studied the AT 34 in detail and when I get into an AT 41, I find the same equipment installed with the same design. I could move up with almost no maintenance learning curve.

I won't get into a discussion of which company is better, as they both build great quality and seaworthy boats, and there are many very satisfied customers of both. I will note that AT had the advantage of starting a company with all the knowledge and experience NT had gained over the years, and this certainly gave them a fast running start to success.

We are currently docked in Norfolk, VA, and are on Day 197 and 4,200 miles into our 6,500 Great Loop journey on our AT 34, and loving every minute.

adventuresofgreatlaker.blogspot.com
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Old 05-03-2013, 09:12 PM   #27
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Nick,

Thanks for the excellent post, you are one knowledgeable boater along with Larry. I'm considering changes to a production boat that would also be repowering, but in my case to a lighter and much less hp engine.
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Old 05-04-2013, 10:11 AM   #28
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You'll have to get a different boat if you do. Reverse-slant pilothouse windows don't work up here.
LOL. Couldn't help but check out the difference it would make, though.
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Old 05-04-2013, 11:17 AM   #29
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Larry, your 'like blowing up a balloon' comment is great! I can imagine Kurt drawing a 34 onto a balloon and inflating it, and presto!, the 41 design is done.

The 41 was very tempting (especially for the wider side decks and bigger pilhothouse), but a new one was far more than we could afford, and we rarely have overnight guests and the big guest cabin would have been empty and deadweight most of the time. If the 395 wasn't available we probably would have gone for a used 41.
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Old 05-04-2013, 12:20 PM   #30
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You'll have to get a different boat if you do. Reverse-slant pilothouse windows don't work up here.
Just curious why "wanna Be" windows ( aka West Coast Windows) don't work "up here"?
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Old 05-04-2013, 05:10 PM   #31
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Just curious why "wanna Be" windows ( aka West Coast Windows) don't work "up here"?
Because they are butt-ugly and we try to prevent the importation of ugly boats to the area. So far we've been relatively successful although the occasional ugly boat does manage to slip through the filter every now and then.
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Old 05-04-2013, 07:34 PM   #32
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Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. Some of us think reverse rake windows are the epitome of beauty in a boat, and wouldn't have it any other way.
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Old 05-04-2013, 08:21 PM   #33
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Some of us think reverse rake windows are the epitome of beauty in a boat....
That's fine. Just keep it out of the PNW and we'll all be happy. People up here tend to laugh and point and make snide comments when they see some poor sod driving a boat with wannabe windows.

That happened to the guy I mentioned earlier who bought one of the first ATs and gave me and my friend a tour of the boat when he showed up at Sucia Island marine park dock with it. He ended up being laughed off the dock (not by me and my friend, though. We wouldn't do that.) So about dusk he slipped his lines and slunk out of the bay.

We heard later that he'd traded in the AT for an NT but we haven't seen him since to confirm that.

I hate to see people subjected to that sort of thing.





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Old 05-04-2013, 08:57 PM   #34
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Sounds like the dock mice in the PNW haven't graduated past the school yard bully stage. I sure don't understand the division of forward vs aft slant of the bridge windows. The smallest vessel I served on was a break bulk at 499' and our bridge windows were vertical, so I guess I wouldn't be accepted by either camp.
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Old 05-04-2013, 09:27 PM   #35
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Don't get caught up in the debate about wannabe windows, youz guys. I have the purest example of wannabe windows on this forum. They are unnecessary, grossly oversized, extreme in their angle, but so helpful in our style of cruising. We love 'em. The inspiration for them came from a guy standing on the dock in Seattle and watching all the boats trying to wipe the bird crap off their windshields. The style originated there and were called PiNWinds (presumably short for Pacific Northwest windows).
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Old 05-04-2013, 09:36 PM   #36
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"Wannabe windows"? It's such a small thing that is mostly a personal aesthetic taste, which many boats have - not only American Tug, but Selene, Helmsman, Sundowner, and others. I trust you're joking, both about the hypothetical small-mindedness of people who would poke fun of others over something as irrelevant as windows, and about someone who would do something as drastic as sell a boat just because some insecure morons made immature comments at a dock. I would hope people left any nonsense like that behind in grade school.

Boats, and boat styles, are very personal. Everyone has their own tastes, with few absolute 'rights' or 'wrongs'. Being out on the water in any boat should be celebrated, and accepted by everyone as part of the brotherhood of the sea.
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Old 05-04-2013, 09:41 PM   #37
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Sorry, Nick. The subject of forward raked windows has been a thing of real entertainment for a couple of years....that is, quite polarized opinions on the advantages and disadvantages of both. It's just foolishness going on, and lets face it,...ya gotta be part foolish to have a boat.

As for me, I think your windows are great, and go perfectly with the boat.
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Old 05-04-2013, 09:50 PM   #38
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Boats, and boat styles, are very personal. Everyone has their own tastes, with few absolute 'rights' or 'wrongs'. Being out on the water in any boat should be celebrated, and accepted by everyone as part of the brotherhood of the sea.
Nick, of course, you are 100% correct. This comes from a "wannabe" Sabre driver. There will never be everyone that likes anything. All boats are a compromise. You give and you get. The wannabe stuff has turned into an inside joke on TF. Some don't appreciate the dark humor, but it's part of it.

You have a great boat, and I for one would be proud to own and cruise it. There is no reason to take a back seat with that boat. You will get years of enjoyment. Welcome to the forum, and please keep us up on your cruising.

Hope to see you on the Chesapeake. We have it on the schedule for the 2015 season.
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Old 05-04-2013, 09:53 PM   #39
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The smallest vessel I served on was a break bulk at 499' and our bridge windows were vertical, so I guess I wouldn't be accepted by either camp.
You'd be accepted in mine. Vertical pilothouse/helm station windows look great on the right style of vessel.
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Old 05-04-2013, 10:42 PM   #40
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Hello from another newbie in Florida
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