They’re slick, shiny and built for speed. Today’s boats have high powered engines that transport them over the ocean’s currents, from local waters to distant shores.
Though their numbers have dwindled over the years, there are still a few boat builders on Long Island who have honed their skills crafting the ultimate watercraft for fishing and pleasure.
Classic Boats for Staying Power
At CH Marine, the boatbuilding division of Coecles Harbor Marina & Boatyard on Shelter Island, they’re still building classic “Runabout” boats.
“People are looking for speed, easy replaceability and the wow factor,” says Peter Needham, co-owner of the company that from the late 1980s to 2005 built four Runabouts for Billy Joel, after he commissioned the original design. (Coecles Harbor Marina & Boatyard has been family owned and operated since 1973.)
The trend is a switch from a combination of inboard/outboard motors to exclusively outboard power on vessels predominantly 35 feet and less.
“Now they’ve come out with bigger and bigger engines, so we’re seeing them on boats up to 60, 65 feet,” says Needham.
A top Runabout model goes up to 740 horsepower, a notion that was unheard-of just a few years ago. “They put two, three or five of them on the back of the boat,” Needham says. “The part for us that’s really attractive is they’re really quiet compared to the diesel motors we were using.”
In the last decade or so, builders have been using better fiberglass, cloth, and resin materials, as well as improved construction techniques.
“The boats are more engineered than they were in the past, so they’re stronger and lighter,” says Needham. Some builders are emulating the slick European style popularized by Van Dutch boats, but Needham says there’s still a market for more traditional boats.
“Some people aren’t into the modern design look,” he says.
Greater Comfort at Sea
Over the half-century Steiger Craft has been in business in Bellport, boats have evolved from commercial to sports fishing to family/cruising boats, but the pilothouse style has remained the same.
“There’s nothing new or cutting edge about our designs,” says George Yurcak, vice president, who notes that they have countless East End customers, particularly in Montauk and the North Fork, including the peripatetic Piano Man himself. “Our innovations are really in creature comforts and features for guys that fish and families.”
Recently, Steiger Craft has been including a Seakeeper in their design: a gyroscopic stabilizer which stops the boat from rocking. Other changes are in seating configurations for people who cruise more, including dinettes, hybrid pedestal couches, and comfortable drop-down seating in the stern.
“The fit and finish has changed over time to be more feature friendly,” says Yurcak.
Years ago, boatbuilders, who built fishing boats for fishermen and clammers, weren’t thinking about how families would be utilizing the boats.
“But now we realize a lot of the market has got to be a split: It’s got to be half family, half fishing. That’s the way a guy can spend anywhere between $100,000 and $300,000 and still get the okay from his wife,” quips Yurcak.
Crafting about 100 boats each year, Steiger gel-coats each boat in a variety of colors.
“White’s really popular now, because we don’t charge anything for it,” says Yurcak. “When they want light blue, light yellow, light green, they’ll pay an extra cost for that. And if they want dark colors, there’s double the extra charge for that.”
Consoles at the Center
Superboat, based in Lindenhurst and Copiague, builds high performance sports and race boats to order.
Trending now are center consoles, with a stand or sit console in the middle of the boat, says Superboat owner John Coen, who’s been in business since 1970 and served numerous East End boaters.
“It doesn’t have a cabin in the bow and you walk right up to the bow,” explains Coen.
What started out as fishing boats have, for the most part, transformed into high performance 45-foot vessels that have plush upholstery and four to six outboard motors, reaching speeds of 90 mph, notes Coen.
Starting at 16 or 18 feet and going up to 55 feet, center console boats range from $25,000 to $10 million.
“If you’d said that back 20 years ago, you would have never believed it: A center console boat was basically a barebones boat made for fishing,” says Coen.
Also trending are aluminum deck/pontoon boats, mostly in the 20- to 26-foot range, notes Coen.
“It’s like having a big patio on the water,” Coen says. “You don’t see them too much here, because the bays are rough here. But in the lakes and in calm places: thousands of them.”
The deck features lounge chairs and a steering console on the side.
“They’re made for just hanging around,” says Coen.