The recession was looming but builders were being advised to follow the auto industry by consolidating brands, streamlining production and improving or refining proven models. Then the economy went into reverse and the leisure boat market evaporated.
Many big name builders were left ‘high and dry’ with their now efficient mass production lines. However, there were still signs of life in some smaller custom and semi-custom boat yards which, by being smaller, normally did not run with a high level of debt. These smaller shops also have the versatility, tools and skills to be able to build to a clients’ ambitions.
The quick thinking and versatility that helps these shops survive in hard times also renders them as development grounds for new techniques and products. In fact, most of the successfully mass produced elements of boat builds evolved out of these smaller businesses building custom boats for both the commercial and recreational markets.
These independent boat yards can be a little single-minded but they are where interesting designers and clients go to try new ideas long before tooling or production runs are thought about.
It is great that this industry still has space for independent minds and skills to enable it to keep plugging along even when times are hard. Builders who can take a design and refine or improve it to suit a customer who is willing to pay a fair price are the cornerstone of the boat building industry.