To mark Maritimo’s first decade, Boatpoint http://www.boatpoint.com.au/news/2013/maritimo%e2%80%99s-10th-anniversary-36631 conducted this exclusive interview with founding boat builder and doyen, Bill Barry-Cotter.
For anybody that doesn’t know, Barry-Cotter, is the granddaddy of Australian boat building, having started and sold marques such as Mariner & Riviera. He has been doing it for around 50 years so he really knows a thing or two about what buyers want and “the Business”
Here is the article from Boatpoint.
Q. Looking back at the first Maritimo you launched, the 60 with or without walkthrough flying bridge, back in Sydney a decade ago — did you ever imagine then that you would be in the position you are today, building the kinds of boats you are now, so well established and with a strong following?
A. No. I really didn’t envisage we would grow as we have. I thought we’d build a few boats and built them properly. That got out of hand and we were making too many before the GFC came along.
The public received our boats really well. The early Maritimo was a practical cruising boat. Good performance. Reasonably fuel efficient. Well built. And well finished.
It was modelled to some degree on the Riviera 46. I had a couple of them myself and I always liked the boat. I also had the last 52 Hatteras we built [under licence]. The thing I missed with that Hatteras was the walkaround decks. So I included those and added features of the Hatteras to make the Maritimo 60.
There was also a restraint of trade with Riviera, after I sold the company, that meant I couldn’t build anything that they had or hadn’t built for seven years so I deliberately picked that kind of boat because they didn’t build one.
The name Maritimo known came about after [wife] Lesley and I were away, we were staying in the Maritim hotel in Germany and then we went to Portugal to the Maritim railway station. We chucked that name around, in Spanish and Italian it means “at sea” and is actually pronounced Ma-rit-imo.
Like most boat builders, the market was flying along till the GFC in say 2008. In the previous boom time, how many boats were you building a year, what percentage were exports, how many people did you have working for you?
The best we did was 78 boats a year. We had 480 people working for us (Riviera had 1200 at the same time). Then after the GFC hit 1600 people disappeared from the Coomera Marine Precinct. That’s direct employed people. Media and government weren’t interested in the problem. No-one cared.
But things are starting pick up again. We were exporting the same percentage then as now — about 55-65 per cent.
How many Maritimo boats have you built all told up until now? What is the current annual target and is Maritimo profitable operating on that basis?
All told, as a close guess, just under or just over 500. Current target now is to try and do 22-25 Maritimos a year. As it picks up I just want to keep it at that. I want to build boats the best we can build them. It’s just not worth the drama of cranking it all up again. Oh, and to that you can add another dozen or so Mustangs.
What’s the all-time best-seller?
The 48. We did 108 of them. And it arrived towards the end of the boom. The 48 has always been a best seller. It will become a classic Maritimo. I did a lot of work on that. I looked at second-hand prices and did a lot of work on trade-in price before our new M50 is released (this week). The 48 is holding its value well. We’ve sold a couple of late-model ones, the Sky Lounge ones, for up to $980K and another one went for same kind of money.
How has the new-boat buyer changed in the new market, ever since the GFC?
The interesting thing with that is there were two distinct markets for boats: old customer who I sold [Mariner] Pacers to 35-40 years ago who had a lot of boats. They know what they want, they are very conservative people and well informed. In boom days that was half our market.
Then you had the stock broker, the property developer who made a lot of money quickly. They would buy the Cabriolets and all the sporty stuff but really didn’t know anything about boating and were more interested in price than quality and boat.
The old customer that we’ve had forever represent 60 to 65 per cent of boats we now sell. I’m happy building for those old customers because you know the people and know what they want.
We just sold a 53 to a good old customer. This is his third Maritimo, he had two 60s before and bought a 53 Cabriolet because he lives beyond a [low] bridge. He came in every Friday afternoon to go through the boat.
He then came on a Saturday morning and he’d arrive at 8am and leave 30 minutes later than rest of the gang in the afternoon and was here for the whole build of his boat. He’s really happy and we’ll have less problem with him that anyone.
What is the single biggest change you’ve seen to the luxury motorcruiser or powerboat market in the last decade?
What has happened, and it is really now starting to help us, particularly with the US, is that buyers are no longer asking “can we get a bigger engine?”
Now they ask how much fuel does it use? All the focus and research is into fuel use. We’re very fuel efficient and that has helped us and got us going to make our boats more and more fuel efficient. It’s a work in progress.
In almost any boat we’re better than pod drives or IPS with our conventional shafts. Now what I’m doing, a lot of work with Volvo, is to drive that further to make our boats even more efficient.
If you can pick up two per cent there’s a huge gain… we’ve been picking that up each year and will keep driving that forward. I look forward to fiddling with some hulls to see if we can get a break through.
In the 50-odd years (apprentice shipwright in 1960, built first Mariner in 1966) or so that you’ve been building boats, is the current climate as tough as you’ve ever seen it?
It is actually. There was a period with Gough Whitlam in ’74. He destroyed the export market. It was tough but nowhere near as tough and as long as this time.
How do you think you can attract future boaters to the Maritimo brand?
The only way I think of doing this is to follow the old customers over those 50 years and see if I can sell them a Maritimo. I had lunch with a customer today who had bought two or three boats off me. I personally sold him his first boat, a Mariner 30, and he gave me a photo of me launching that old boat behind my Falcon GT.
He got out of boating for a few years and now he’s talking about buying a boat and using it for cruising up and down the coast… exactly what Maritimos are good for.
What are your boats’ most significant points of difference compared with your competitors?
To me, it’s the concept of the boat, the enclosed flybridge, the whole boat is designed around cruising and living aboard, it’s easier to get around, they’re walkaround boats with internal stairs that make it practical, and the engineering gear you can get to. I try and keep the simplicity, too. Then there is the fuel efficiency.
Clearly, some big European companies are able to build boats a lot cheaper than we can these days. But are they better? What would you say to local boat buyers shopping on price alone?
The best answer to that is that we sold a Maritimo 48 to a customer in the Seychelles and we flew over for the handover on the boat and the bloke doing the handover explained that the European boats in the Seychelles, the things just fall apart in 18 months. A bit of rough water and the humidity and they just rot away.
Riviera and Maritimo are good tough, long lasting boats.
My answer with anybody with that big, cheap, imported stuff is we can’t even trade it. We can’t get a wholesaler who will buy it.
But if it’s a Caribbean, a Riviera or a Maritimo we can get a price on it. In four to six weeks it’s gone.
So some of this stuff just isn’t cheap when you look at their resale or trade-in price if they can get it. Some owners are getting between half and one-third what they paid for almost-new boats.
And there’s the issue on noncompliance with engines and unsaleable boats that arrive here and can’t be sold back overseas.
Do you see demand for your boats and exports picking up in the near future given the currency correction? What percentage of your production do you hope to export in general in the coming years?
It’s tough on the export front but the US is still our best export market. Where we used to be cheap we’re now very expensive. But again we’re getting the buyer who wants to go cruising and he gets what he wants. We even change layouts, it’s difficult, but that’s what you have to do, and everyone’s happy.
How have you improved the quality of your boats in recent years?
We use independent surveyors. That has worked better than anything. We had internal QC people and a qualified engineer working on all the compliance. Because of the downturn we had to let go all of those people. So I got outside surveyors.
This cost me less money but it is the best thing I’ve ever done. The two surveyors we are working with now are doing a fantastic job. They are uncompromising and just don’t let boats go unless they are fixed properly before leaving the factory.
It really has saved us money, made a better product, and made even happier customers.
Do you see the new cruiser market ever getting back to where it was pre-GFC?
No. I think that was a once-in-a-lifetime period. Today you can’t give away a new game-fishing boat. We sold a 470 Convertible a few weeks ago but the whole game fishing thing is very slow and it’s more to cruising these days.
Even in the U.S. it’s that way. An American said to me in his broad accent the other day, he said, the customer would rather spend three weeks in the Bahamas cruising than have his friends turn his nose up at him for going fishing.
Although your bid for Riviera a year or so ago wasn’t accepted, do you think there’s still room for both boat builders and brands in Australia?
It’s probably good for the customer but from a business point of view…
But some say I should be glad I didn’t get it as the market turned down even more. I’ve even been congratulated for not getting it. Three months later I was glad I didn’t get it.
In the U.S., in the hey day, we [Riviera at the time] were building more fish boats than Ocean, Hatteras and Viking combined. That market has gone.
Do you foresee a time when you retire from boat building and, if so, what are the plans for Maritimo in the future.
I’ve had a few people falling off around me and you have to think about it. What I’ll do in the next three, four or five years is probably do a deal with some guys internally and probably give them a share and build the transition that way.
But for now I’m sticking with it. And our new M50 and S50 are great boats and part of the current evolution to build better and better boats.
Thanks for your time and all the very best for Maritimo in the next decade…
Here is a photo below of the beautiful Maritimo 48 that I bought from him way back in 2006, Hull Number M48/16.
Great boat & Great times !