During my recent cruise in Maine I was fortunate to go with members of The Corinthians on a tour of the Hinckley boat building company a “marque” long seen as defining the ultimate in fine boat building.
It was interesting that our guide, the director of sales, told us “we don’t do tours”. I expect that this comment was designed to telegraph that “we don’t do tours unless we think that someone in your group might buy a Hinckley”. The Corinthians are a pretty well heeled group and I expect that’s why they decided to make an exception, just this once…
The factory, more of a large, shop, gave us a good first hand understanding for the kind of quality that sets Hinckley apart from other production boat manufacturers.
The front of the building is certainly more understated than the products that they produce. There is an amazing amount of hand labor that goes into one of their boats. Each little piece of fiberglass is hand cut and put into place. Interestingly, they don’t steam bend any materials, even the most complex curves. This was our guide explaining the way that they form the most demanding shapes using very thin veneer type “flitches” with glue between each “slice” and then they clamp the glued up part into a special form and left there until the epoxy sets. Don’t try this at home. Well, you could actually. The concept is simple, but like much in life, complicated to do when you get right down to it. Many of the most complex assemblies are cut out on a computer controlled milling machine. This is a remarkable piece of work, the dashboard to go into a Picnic Boat.
And, speaking of Picnic Boats, and they coined the name, even Martha Stewart has one. Reportedly, this is a shot of her cockpit. Her boat is a lovely tasteful light green. Would you expect anything less from the “queen of style”? Personally, I was hoping for a more “stylish” photo from Martha herself. I snagged this from a 2010 post on a blog that she keeps. I wonder if she employs someone to write her blog. Anyway, I digress. Back to how they make these beautiful boats. Where was I? Oh yeah, about making parts with a computer controlled milling machine. As I was saying, even parts with very complicated compound curves are possible. It would take days to carve something like this out by hand. And they can make a shape like this out of most any material, granite, plastic and metal along with wood. These are port hole trim pieces. There is no way that an owner would be capable of maintaining a boat with this much wood unless they never used the boat and kept it under cover all of the time. Even then, I doubt that anyone would be willing to take the time to keep it just so.
Even keeping the cabin sole in this sort of perfect condition would be tough.
I don’t know how many coats of varnish they use. Our guide described the number of coats of varnish needed as “enough”. These doors clearly don’t have enough quite yet. Notice the sign on this boat under construction.. “no shoes on board”. For some reason, even when I ask, most guests aboard Pandora seem to forget that street shoes are for streets. To me, boat shoes don’t belong on Pandora if they have been worn on shore. Perhaps Pandora just doesn’t look yachty enough. This one clearly does or at least the Hinckley folks think so. I expect part of it is that if things get messed up they have to fix it themselves. Perhaps I should hand a vacuum cleaner to anyone that tries to come aboard with shoes. Each job has to begin somewhere. The interior panels are composite materials to keep weight low. Pandora’s interior is constructed in the very same way. It makes a very sturdy, light but very expensive boat.
Then all of the interior is put together and finished prior to the deck being put on. That makes sense as it makes moving things around much easier than having to cram everything in through the cabin door or through a hatch. They also make sure that there is a way to get every piece of equipment out of the boat for repair down the road. I recall trying to get an old water heater out of my Tartan 37 and having to cut the tank up to get it through the aft hatch. Ditto for fixing a leaky water tank. I had to cut the bunk open with a saw. Not a very elegant process on a “yacht”.
They swear by the water jet propulsion system. It’s a hallmark of Hinckley. Certainly in Maine, with all those lobster pot buoys, it’s good to avoid the exposed propeller. Their “jet” propulsion is made by Hamilton Standard. I can only imagine what these cost.
Curious how one of these pumps work? Hamilton Standard, the author of this video, is happy to share. The entire video may be more than you want to know? It’s probably better for inquiring minds, like mine. Some remarkably beautiful engineering goes into the boats. I don’t know how this swim platform/boat lift, works but it sure looks complicated. I think it folds onto the upper platform with the steps in the inset section. You tell me.
When it’s all done and finished with it’s sea trials, the boat goes back into the shop for a final “million dollar paint job” as they call it. I wonder how long it takes for a new owner to give it a first scratch. Alas, not to worry, if you can afford a Hinkley, you can afford to have it fixed.
And if you want your boat to always look like this, where you can see your face in her paint, fix you must…On the last night of our cruise, we enjoyed a jacket and tie affair. I was ready to go and sporting one of my favorite bow ties as documented by my crew Rodney. Don’t I look like a guy who should have a Hinckley? Never mind, Pandora can outrun most any of them. Well, not every one. This new Hinckley 50 design would certainly leave me in her wake. Sadly, in spite of many boats under construction at the shop, every last one was a powerboat.
Oh well, sail or power, I guess that I’ll just have to be satisfied with Pandora for now. Besides, her interior is nicer and I am sticking with that.
Don’t worry Brenda, Pandora’s good enough for me. And, not exterior varnish work, ever.
That makes her a keeper.
And, speaking of keepers, I had better break and get to work on the bathroom. Time’s speeding by. I’m on it. Well, will be soon…