These photographs first appeared May 14, 2000. Send your photographs for inclusion in this rotating gallery!
Pictures and narrative from a tour of the Whaler factory on Thursday, April 6, 2000 by Jim Hooper:
"Things are busy at 100 Whaler Way in Edgewater, Florida. A canvas sign announces "Now Hiring" at the intersection of Highway 1 and Whaler Way, which is about 4 miles south of Edgewater. Turning onto Whaler Way, I saw a Boston Whaler sign on the left while over to the right there were big earth moving tractors and graders rumbling past shrink-wrapped Whalers. The parking lot was overflowing with cars. I drove first to the main building looking for non-existent empty visitor spaces. With none to be had, I turned around and drove back to find a spot on a make-shift parking lot on adjacent county-owned land that is currently being leased, I learned later, to accommodate the overflow.
Florida Spawning Grounds
The entrance to the Whaler Factory.
PhotoCredit: Jim Hooper
"Skies were blue, with soft white clouds, and air temperatures were in the high 60's under a friendly sun as I walked into the small main lobby. A large black and white photo of Dick Fisher hung on the walls; a rack of product fliers, 8 chairs, and 3 small tables were squeezed into the small bedroom-sized lobby. A busy receptionist was doing triple duty behind a low counter: she was checking off names on the tour list, handing out employment application forms, and answering the main phone line and announcing pages over the PA system.
A group waits for the once-a-week opportunity to witness the birth of Whale(r)s.
PhotoCredit: Jim Hooper
"At about 1:00 p.m., a trim, graying, and bearded Chuck Bennett, Boston Whaler Customer Care representative, announced that there were so many who had signed up for tours that there would be two tours that day. I left with the first--the better one, I'm sure--which Chuck led. After distributing safety glasses to the few who were not already wearing glasses, Chuck led the ten of us back outside and down along the long building.
"Facts and figures seemed to spew from Chuck's mouth as I maneuvered to get close enough to hear him; he joked that he sometimes babbles, but he's the "real deal." He's been with Boston Whaler since 1975 and you can tell he loves his job. I could have listened to him all day, I think. He never repeated himself.
"The Boston Whaler Edgewater plant currently has about 260,000 square-feet under one roof, and it was first built in 1987 when they had 3 other plants up north. The other plants were closed in 1994. Back then Boston Whaler had 400 employees; now they have 700 and run three shifts. And they are hiring. The construction going on will probably double their current space.
"We walked past three club boats for employees: a late-model Outrage 17, a Montauk, and a 13 footer with a push-pole platform mounted over the outboard.
"Chuck described the three basic processes for molding fiberglass. The cold press process seems to be used for larger parts and hulls; molds are sprayed with gelcoat, lined with sprayed on fiberglass strands, reinforced with fiberglass stringers, then clamped together. Foam encapsulated hulls are filled with expanding foam; pressure is applied on other parts from an inflatable air bag. Vacuum press process is used for medium sized parts; pressure comes from a vacuum formed by air pumps. And hand layup is used for the smallest parts. I hope I am remembering this correctly.
"Chuck took us through the wood shop that fabricates the transom panels. We saw stacks of marine plywood along with balsa and foam sheets. This was a real tour; we were out on the shop floor and had to walk around some of the aforementioned molds.
"The inside of the molds is deep forest green in color. Between uses, the molds are cleaned to perfection and as many as 6 coats of wax are hand-applied.
"Every hull still is tracked meticulously, though manually, with hull identification numbers, referencing dates, batches, etc. I glanced at the hull paper work, secured in a plastic sleeve taped to the side of one of the hulls. The collection of 8 1/2- by 11-inch pages were color coded, orange, blue, and white. The check lists were all hand completed.
"Boston Whaler employees still test each hull by tapping and listening for voids. Glassed-in mounting backing boards these days are typically "whale board", though marine grade plywood is still used in the transom.
"There was activity everywhere. We walked from the recreational boating side to the commercial side, and I spotted first one Dauntless 15, and then several more, their commercial gray hulls all being outfitted with black powder coated rails and a bracket for a flashing light on top of the console. (I'm a Dauntless 15 owner; I feel somewhat better knowing that Dauntless 15's are still in production, albeit on the commercial side.) We walked past an Impact, a true Whaler design which looks more like an RIB than a Whaler. Then we walked past a black-hulled 21-foot Guardian, with twin olive-green outboards, being outfitted for the Peruvian navy.
"We walked past one commercial boat fitted with a dive door. Chuck observed that, many years ago, he used to spend two days cutting and finishing an opening in the hull; today they put a special aluminum form into the original mold, reducing finishing time to just a few hours.
"Then we walked up a set of stairs and onto a platform where we could gaze into the open, uncovered interior of a new 34, the deck and superstructure sitting off to the side. Twin Yanmar diesels, with a small generator wedged between, were apparent in the stern. Cabinet makers worked their magic up forward.
"Most apparent throughout the plant were the new models: the new 13 footer and the 16 and 18 footers, especially. It sounds like they are very popular.
"The new 13 footer looks pretty sharp. The margin is probably pretty low on them, because they are priced pretty aggressively ($7995 with trailer and motor). They seem to be selling like crazy. This new 13 footer was designed by some of the old timers who were challenged to create a better 13. This new design, Chuck said, will plane faster and with less horsepower than the previous model. With a 30 hp 2-stroke it will get up to 31 MPH; the previous model, which was more expensive to build, required a 40 hp 2-stroke to get to 33 MPH.
Stacks and Stacks
Completed Whalers are "stacked up like cordwood." It appears that cordwood is also stacked like cordwood (lower left).
PhotoCredit: Jim Hooper
"Just outside, there were shrink wrapped hulls everywhere, stacked 3-high in some places, all ready and waiting for shipment to their new owners.
"Oh, if you would like one of those nifty 28 footers, better get in line now. Boston Whaler is taking orders for 2001 delivery.
"Tours are every Thursday at 1:00 pm. Call 1-800-Whaler9 to sign up. Or send email from the Boston Whaler web site."
1976 Whaler 15 Sport CONTINUOUSWAVE
Here I am enjoying some rare warm April boating on SE Michigan's Orchard Lake. The 1976 MERC 500 is still running strong, which accounts for the smile.
PhotoCredit: Kim Culhan
1999 Whaler 18 Dauntless TRANSFORMER
The Accu-Track hull shows its classic heritage while taking Bob Johnson and daughter out fishing in Lewisville, Texas. With 150 horses of Mercury Opti-Max on the transom, and both optional fishing and ski packages, this boat can be easily transformed for either fishing or water sport use, and thus the name: TRANSFORMER.
PhotoCredit: Robert Johnson
In a Lone Star State of Mind
This Whaler Outrage Cuddy 22 looks a little lonely sitting out in the marina storage yard down in Texas. All that beautiful wood trim (still glowing) means this is a c.1984 boat. That's a 200 HP Merc on the transom. Console, seating, and transom choices were all selectable, creating many unique configurations.
PhotoCredit: Robert Johnson
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