Our RV travels have brought us up to the northern coast of Maine on Mount Desert island (pronounced “dessert” despite the spelling!), home of rich forests, rich seas and rich people. While driving down the road the other day, we noticed two big trucks pulling yachts out of a driveway. Then we noticed a sign:
Hinckley Yachts – Now Hiring!
We did a quick U-turn and decided to have a look. Not because we need a job, but because Hinckley Yachts are among the finest yachts built — and we had just driven right past their factory! We stopped inside and asked if we could take a tour. Within minutes a really nice young fellow named Chris, who’s been with the company for 12 years, handed us safety glasses and off we went!
His enthusiasm for the company was infectious, and as we saw how these phenomenal boats are made, and the energetic environment they are made in, we could understand why.
Hinckley Yachts was founded by Benjamin Hinckley in 1928, and Hinckley has long been one of the highest end custom yacht builders around. Once the dream boat of sailors in every yacht club, almost all Hinckleys being built today are powerboats ranging from 29 to 55 feet (and from half a mil to several million dollars apiece. Ahem!).
Hinckleys are assembled using modern nautical engineering techniques, forging three separate fiberglass pieces together: the hull, the cabin (which Chris referred to as the “pan”) and the deck. Our Hunter 44DS sailboat was assembled the same way, as are most modern production sailboats, and the finished product is a stiffer and more resilient hull than the old fashioned method of using “stringers” (like floor joists) as ribs in the hull.
Many boating traditionalists were skeptical of this business of building the cabin separately and then lowering the cabin “pan” into the hull back when the lower end boat builders like Hunter and Beneteau started doing it, but if Hinckley is doing it now, then it must be the best way to go!
All Hinckleys are built with kevlar along the entire length and breadth of the hull, from the waterline down. By comparison, our Hunter had a kevlar reinforced hull from the waterline down in the forward section from the keel to the bow, which is unusual for a cruising sailboat in its class.
When we visited the Hunter factory before buying our sailboat Groovy, we learned that they test their new models by driving them into the beach at top speed while engineers with probes, sensors and clipboards take notes, look for leaks after impact, and refine their designs.
Chris didn’t say that Hinckley crash tests their new boat designs, but these boats are built to go anywhere and do anything, and they can be found all over the world.
Once the pan is situated in the hull, then the deck is lowered onto the whole thing and sealed with 3M 5200 and other sealants.
What Hinckley is known for is the gorgeous fitting out that each boat receives.
Hinckley builds boats strictly to order, so every one of the 30+ boats that are in production at any one time have been purchased by an individual. Lower end production boats are built 95% of the way at the factory and then commissioned the last little bit by the dealership.
On our sailboat, the AGM batteries, and engine alternator were upgraded by the dealership for the owner that commissioned the boat. Most sailboat buyers have a dodger made locally as well, rather than going with a factory dodger.
Not so with Hinckley. The wealthy folks that buy these boats can request anything they want, from specific navigation electronics, to different woods and interior layouts, and on an on. Most of the buyers are repeat customers who are upgrading or just need another boat.
Many of the buyers are celebrities, so it’s not uncommon for the factory workers to see a famous person arrive with their entourage. Sometimes the celebs send representatives instead, and frequently an interior designer or other consultant will show up to specify how the boat should be outfitted.
All boat builders (and RV manufacturers) had a terrible time with the financial collapse of 2008, and Hinckley sharnk to just 40 employees and 4-5 boats on the production line at the time. Now they employ 265 people and they are going gang busters.
What put Hinckley on the map in the last two decades wasn’t their gorgeous Sou’wester sailboats that sent their reputation soaring in the latter half of the 1900’s. Hinckley’s modern essence is power boats!
Back in 1998, they started putting jet drive engines into their power boats. These engines similar to the ones used on jet skis, and they Hinckley’s boats completely. Without a prop, a Hinckley poweryacht of 40 to 55 feet can float in just 2 to 3 feet of water — ideal for the Bahamas where every bay is super shallow — and they can cruise at 30 to 40 knots easily!!
Wouldn’t it be fun to step off the swim platform into waist deep water and walk onto a deserted palm tree studded white sand beach?!!
So, with your deluxe Hinckley poweryacht you can jump from Ft. Lauderdale to the westernmost island in the Bahamas in a little over an hour, and you can spend the winter season anchoring in bays that few other boats can get into, all while enjoying the sheer luxury and space and amenities of a 55 foot top-of-the-line yacht that was built just for you.
What a way to go!!
But how much diesel fuel does it take to power twin Yanmar 260 horse power engines at cruising speed? Oh, somewhere on the order of 23 gallons per hour per engine.
That’s chump change for the folks that can buy these boats, but if you want the wind to power your boat instead, Hinckley still makes stunningly beautiful sailboats. While we were there, a 42′ day-sailer was on the line. What makes such a big yacht just a day-sailer? The mini cuddy cabin is very small.
Rather than going out for a daysail in a little Sunfish or Hobie cat, why not take your 42′ yacht?
Now, these wonderful boats are not megayachts like we saw all through our cruise in Mexico. Our British yachtworker friend Derren has the unique dream job of flying all over the world to the most exclusive and fanciest marinas on every coast to do warranty work on British Sunseeker megayachts. Hinckley yachts are of the same caliber but max out at a half or a third of the length of Sunseekers.
We were amazed to learn that many Hinckley poweryachts are actually used as tenders to megayachts. Chris said it’s not uncommon for their customers to pick up a 43′ Hinckley to be a tender to a 200′ megayacht. They even had one customer who found that one 29′ Hinckley runabout wasn’t enough for his megayacht, so he had them build a second one. But 29′ was too long for the spot he wanted to stow it on deck, so he had them make new molds and redesign the 29′ runabout to a shorter 26′ version, just for him.
If you are in the class that can buy two Hinckleys and have the second one be a total redesign of the standard fare, then you aren’t really watching your wallet when it comes to repairing these things down the road.
However, for luxury yacht owners on a budget, it turns out that the warranty on Hinckley yachts is lifelong, and we chatted with one fellow on the line who has done warranty work on boats that are decades old, all at no cost to the owner, even the current owner didn’t buy the boat new from Hinckley. No need for a third party RV warranty on these babies!
An hour after we drove off from this really fun tour, we were prowling around the cute town of Northeast Harbor when we looked out on the water and saw a familiar shape — a Hinckley powerboat! The captain swung it around in an expert maneuver and backed it into the slip effortlessly. Then he calmly stepped off the boat himself to cleat the docklines — without any assistance from anyone. Wow. These yachts and that kind of seamanship are the stuff boating dreams are made of.
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Other fun posts from factory tours we’ve taken:
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