Boating has always been in his blood. Mike Cantor, who grew up in New Jersey and spent many summers cruising offshore, still remembers the conversations he had as a boy with his grand-father, who had a passion for motoryachts, having owned an Elco, a Trumpy and a Chris-Craft built in the 1950s.
Cantor’s father loved the water, too. He had his son on a racing sailboat when he was just a baby. Then, as the family real estate development/construction business grew, so did the number of boats at the Cantors’ dock. The father-son duo cruised, fished and explored together, enjoying a bond with the sea and an affinity for building new boats. They collaborated on a few elaborate projects, including the refit of a 192-footer that was chartered by celebrities such as Oprah. But while yachts were exciting, Cantor found more enjoyment building and running fishing boats.
Over the years, he’s owned a total of 30 boats, and at times he’s had several models in his personal fleet. For a while, he ran a 68-foot Hatteras, but when he tired of climbing up and down the flybridge ladder, he sold it and bought a couple of dayboats: center console models and a 40-foot catamaran equipped for fishing. Many boats were powered by big outboards, which he’d grown fond of. But over time, Cantor started to miss comfort amenities, such as a head, Seakeeper gyro and air-conditioned cabin, so he went hunting for a bigger boat.
He found it at the Fort Lauderdale Boat show, where one model caught Cantor’s eye: the 53
Sueños from Hydra-Sports Custom Boats (HCB). A large “luxury” center console with sophisticated design and four outboards on the transom, the 53-footer was designed for anglers in search of a fishboat with creature comforts, or yacht owners after a large tender with great looks.
When Cantor saw the boat, he liked the comfortable cabin and spacious helm. In addition, the Sueños met his needs for a robust boat with an offshore-ready deep-V hull that could handle rough seas.
Cantor also liked the Sueños because it reminded him of a Hydra-Sports model he had owned in the 1970s. (In 2018, Hydra-Sports was rebranded under the name HCB, to emphasize the company’s new focus on customization.)
At the boat show, Cantor met HCB CEO Elias De La Torre III, who started Plantation Boat Mart with his family in the Florida Keys. He built it into the largest dealer for Hydra-Sports and eventually bought the boat company in 2012. In Cantor, De La Torre recognized a knowledgeable customer. “If I can please a guy like Mike Cantor, that’s an accomplishment,” he says. “He’s an overachiever, so we don’t use the words ‘no’ or ‘can’t.’”
Cantor had specific ideas for his personal 53-foot Sueños and knew exactly what he wanted. The easiest way for HCB to make the deal was to offer Cantor a 2019 stock boat from the show, which he could use as a test platform and generate a list of what he wanted to modify. Then, HCB would build a new boat from the 2020 lineup with all of the features Cantor requested.
Among the changes Cantor wanted to see were the addition of a water maker and icemaker. “Mike was the first to request those things on a 53,” said Matt Huyge, HCB’s director of technical sales and a naval architect. “He uses a lot of fresh water and he’s always got that hose going, cleaning fish blood from the deck.” Because of Cantor’s suggestion, HCB now offers that equipment as an option; a half dozen owners have ordered it to date. “Often times, we learn from our customers,” Huyge notes.
Cantor never used the concealed grill in the cockpit, as that back counter was set up primarily for cutting bait. As for the live wells, rod holders, outriggers and freezer/refrigerator, all were adequate, but Cantor made plans to install custom tuna tubes, 14 swivel rod holders, multiple electrical outlets for deep-dropping and kite fishing, and the relocation of the shore power line.
While the fishing setup worked in many ways, he was adamant about having an open bow without lounges and table, so a group of anglers could maneuver in the space. That change required mold modifications; HCB had to devise inserts and modify the stringer system.
While the stringer system is designed to accommodate changes without sacrificing the overall integrity of the boat, creating the open bow was time-consuming. “It required new engineering and analysis,” said Huyge. “It’s a global system, made to work together, so deck changes involve a lot of people and work.”
When the lounges were removed from the bow, so were the built-in stowage compartments. As a result, the builder had to find another location for a ditch bag, life raft and cleaning supplies. Eventually, HCB created more stowage in the cabin and on deck.
Cantor had requested a few other modifications, including an upgraded outrigger system and increased power with quad Yamaha 425-hp outboards on the transom. He also asked HCB to make changes in the head, where the rain showerhead was centered and the faucet in the tiny sink was shortened to keep the floor dry.
“These are the things you notice when you use the boat,” Cantor says “Builders don’t always get to use their own boats enough to feel how they run, live and fish. I know Elias does, but some of my items weren’t on the company’s checklist.”
It was easy for Cantor to choose cabinetry, countertops and flooring, since he has an eye for décor and simplicity. He is a stickler for details, though. He wanted chill plates for the fish boxes, an upgraded 25-kW open-array Garmin radar, dual 2-kW Chirp transducers, SiriusXM marine weather, dual VHF radios, a cellular power booster, two ACR spotlights and a 50-inch light bar for nighttime swordfishing.
Cantor also asked for Awlgrip paint rather than HCB’s standard gelcoat finish. HCB agreed to all of the upgrades.
“We want to give the customer what he wants,” says Huyge. “For a guy like Mike, it’s as much about the experience of building a boat as it is about the finished product. Working through and debating the changes made it pleasurable for all of us.”
Cantor is pleased with his new 53, which launched in the fall of 2020 and now sits on a lift at his home in Manalapan, Florida. He’s looking forward to cruising the Atlantic coastal area with friends and fishing in the Keys and the Bahamas. “HCB was easy to work with on changes, and the service was fantastic, from delivery on,” he says. “The whole team was on board for discussion, and while I’ve enjoyed the first boat, I’m really looking forward to spending time on this second one.”
Draft (engines up): 2’8”
Weight: 31,500 lbs.
Power: (4) 425-hp Yamaha XTO outboards
Fuel: 1,000 gals.
Water: 60 gals.
This article was originally published in the February 2021 issue.