WOODEN IT BE LOVELY
Hacker-Craft, the world’s oldest maker of wooden motor boats, uses authentic timbers to create high-end, stylish, bespoke seacraft for an elite market
Hacker-Craft had already been in existence for more than 50 years when other boat manufacturers started to use fibreglass rather than wood to make their craft. Hacker-Craft, though, decided to continue with the traditional ways, and as a result of that display of dedication and integrity is now the world’s largest builder of mahogany motor boats.
“It’s a unique space we have created for ourselves,” says Erin Badcock, the company’s Chief Operating Officer. “There are not a lot of wood boat companies. While we are very proud of our legacy, we are continuously reinventing ourselves and our brand, with a unique ability to adapt when our clients ask for new or different models and equipment.”
Hacker-Craft was founded in 1908 near Detroit, Michigan, by John Hacker, who was a naval architect and intimately connected with some of the pioneers of 20th century transport. He was a friend of Henry Ford and built a floating biplane for the Wright Brothers. Indeed, the first Hacker Boat Company was founded on the same day Ford produced the very first Model T Ford. John Hacker’s drive and invention transformed naval architecture, and he built some of the fastest and most stylish boats of the era, with Hacker boats winning numerous competitions and world records.
In the 1970s, the company moved to New York and now tests most new boats on Lake George, halfway between Manhattan and Montreal. But the company still draws on that rich heritage. Of Hacker-Craft’s 40 staff, almost 30 are boatbuilders and craftspeople, specialists in carpentry and naval architecture but also experts in varnishing, upholstery and metalworking. Some of them have been with the company for decades, while others are following in the footsteps of their parents, who also worked for Hacker-Craft. Their specialized skills are part of what makes Hacker-Craft boats so desirable.
“We are a global company but we are a small business,” says Erin. “Many of our clients wish to engage in the build process. Out team embraces their interaction and we provide an intimate experience. Our owners often visit during the build and work closely with the naval architect.”
The beautiful and distinctive Hacker-Craft boats are found all over the world but particularly in North America, Europe and Asia. During the design and build process, craft can be adapted for different usage – whether they are for deep or shallow water; whether they are going to be stored on a superyacht; whether they are going to be used for water-skiing or for taking gentle cruises to dinner engagements. The company builds boats that are sized between 21 and 40 feet, with most coming in the 25-33 foot range, and construction levels vary depending on the complexity of each bespoke build. From start to finish, the process can take anything from six to 18 months.
“Because we continue to build our boats in wood, we are able to customize or semi-customize every boat we build, so no two Hacker-Craft boats are exactly alike,” explains Erin. “We don’t build out of moulds, it’s crafted from hand and that means that we are able to adapt and modify designs within traditional and classic lines but with the latest technology and modern luxuries.”