The Miami builder has branched out with new concepts set forth by three friends who bought the company in 1994
When Ariel Pared bought a 31-foot SeaVee in 1993, he loved the boat so much he wound up buying the company.
“I visited the factory regularly when they were building my boat,” says Pared, president of SeaVee Boats and its chief of sales and marketing. “I had so much influence over the final outcome and that really impressed me.”
SeaVee’s owner and founder, Don McGee, was ready to retire, and Pared, an ambitious 26-year-old entrepreneur at the time, was hungry for a new challenge. Pared, now 44, and two friends from his Miami childhood — Ralph Torres and Moises Rodriguez — purchased SeaVee in 1994.
They’ve established the brand as a major player in the fishing boat market. It offers 18 models from 29 to 43 feet. Additionally, the company, especially during the last four years, has been a leader in bringing new propulsion technologies to powerboats. SeaVee Boats and ZF Marine introduced a 34-foot center console with single-pod propulsion at the 2010 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, a first for the recreational marine market, according to the companies.
“The idea is to provide the customer with the ability to get into a single inboard boat with a single pod without having to go through the expense of getting into a bigger boat with twin engines,” says Torres, 43, vice president and head of production and product development for Miami-based SeaVee.
In addition, the boat’s single 480-hp CMD diesel with pod gets better fuel economy and is more maneuverable than a conventional inboard boat, single or twin, Torres says. The setup incorporates ZF Marine’s Joystick Maneuvering System.
Always pushing new and innovative boats and engines, the company recently introduced a 43 Express with twin Volvo Penta IPS 600 pods. “Nowadays you can’t sit back; you can’t rest,” Torres says. “As new products become available and they’re better than what was available before, you have to adopt them, you have to modify, you have to do whatever you have to do to keep up with the times.”
Up next is a 43-foot Fisharound, a crossover between a walkaround express and a center console. It has the raised helm, full superstructure and wraparound windshield of a walkaround express and the single-level deck (outside the helm area) and open layout of a center console. “It should be done in about a year,” Pared says. “The drawings are done. All the engineering is done. We’ve started to build parts for it. A lot of builders have done this [style of boat] in the 35- to 37-foot range with a narrower beam. We have actually done it with a 13-1/2-foot beam.”
The Fisharound will be the company’s second-largest project financially, next to the 43 Sport Express, Pared says. It will have an air-conditioned bridge deck, a full-size tuna tower (without obstructing the main deck’s fishing sightlines) and multiple live wells. The 43 Fisharound will be available with outboards, pods or inboards, and the design includes a cabin capable of sleeping four comfortably, Pared says. There also will be room for a head and a small galley, he says.
“We’re doing all this for [a price] in the mid- to low-$600,000 range, while others are offering $1 million-plus custom boats,” Pared says. “We’re really targeting that premium, hard-core sailfish market. We’re going after the 50- and 60-footers. We think we can do it better in 43 feet.”
Pared fishes the company’s 43-foot Express (with twin pods) in sailfish tournaments, so he knows how his boat stacks up against larger vessels. The SeaVee anglers rack up fast fish-release times because of how maneuverable the boat is and its open layout, Pared says.
Prior to running the 43 Express, Pared logged 600 hours on the company’s 390 IPS, fishing in tournaments in Florida, Mexico and the Keys. He also fishes with some of his customers. “One of the big advantages in being a factory-direct company is we spend a lot of time with our customers,” says Pared, 43. “The guys we’ve been fishing with for three years now are three customers. Now they’re also friends, but I met them as customers.”
All three of the company owners enjoy boating and fishing. “We live and breathe this stuff,” Pared says. At boat shows, the three often brainstorm about new boats and designs. “That is how our 34 LE came about,” Pared says, referring to the luxury edition of the 34-footer, which is packed with seating for family-oriented boating. “We were sitting at the Fort Lauderdale boat show and Ralph says, ‘I have this idea,’ and he goes ahead and designs an entire boat at the boat show. Six months later, it’s in production.”
The ability to consistently innovate may be attributable, in part, to the company being relatively small, Pared says. “The smaller builders are able to design and innovate with a six-month turnaround,” he says. “With a lot of these larger companies, by the time the idea runs through engineering and all the departments, the design becomes watered down because so many people are adding their two cents.”
When Pared, Torres and Rodriguez, 46, SeaVee’s treasurer and head of administration and financing, took over the company, SeaVee had seven employees and was building about 15 to 20 boats a year. Today, the company employs more than 100, and this year it expects to build 85 boats. “We’ve grown the business substantially, but our goal is not to grow it to a point where we cannot continue with our business plan to keep it a factory-direct operation,” Torres says. “We are able to treat each of these boats as a semicustom boat and give it the attention it needs to make sure it represents us well.”
Perfect launch partner
You need patience when you’re designing and building on the cutting edge. The introduction of the single-pod 34-footer generated a flood of press when it was introduced. Two years later, the boat is still being fine-tuned. Pared and his partners have used the boat sparingly — maybe 25 hours or so. “But it’s understandable that it takes time, because [the single pod] was so far ahead of its time,” he says. “We really have made a commitment to the pods; they are the future of inboard power.”
SeaVee began offering pod power in 2007 with its 39 and then its 43. Both were twin-pod installations. “We’re looking for something we could use in the 32- to 34-foot range,” Pared says. “We never really thought about a single pod, but when ZF approached us we were interested right away.”
ZF Marine, based in Miramar, Fla., chose SeaVee because of its previous innovations, says A.J. Halavacs, ZF Marine’s pleasure boat segment manager. “Even in this tough economic climate, they continue to produce boats and look for ways to further technology in the center console market,” Halavacs says. “This made them a perfect launch partner for ZF’s unique propulsion application.”
A Cummins MerCruiser Diesel QSB5.9-480 connects via jackshaft to a ZF Marine 2800 Series pod. Both, in turn, are linked to ZF Marine’s SmartCommand controls with Joystick Maneuvering System and a bow thruster, the ZF 185 AC. “While under way, the pod will turn 30 degrees in both directions,” Halavacs says. “Approaching the dock, the operator will touch the Easidock button on the SmartCommand control head. This will activate the joystick control and will simultaneously increase the turning angle of the pod to 90 degrees in either direction from the center point. Total movement is 180 degrees.”
Activating Easidock also will bring the ZF 185 AC thruster online, Halavacs says. The control system will activate the pod and the bow thruster simultaneously to produce the desired movement, given the joystick input, he says.
ZF Marine’s bow thruster is a proportionally controlled unit that can vary the amount of thrust necessary. “Traditional bow thrusters are solenoid-activated and are either on or off,” Halavacs says. “The proportionally controlled bow thruster, combined with the use of an electronic compass, will ensure the boat does not yaw during sideways movement.” The ZF 185 AC thruster is also designed for as much as 30 minutes of continuous operation, Halavacs adds.
The single-pod boat, which will be called the SeaVee 340i pod (inboard pod), is based on the company’s 340, which is currently powered either with single or twin inboards or twin or triple outboards. The 340i pod’s estimated price is $207,000. The 340 with a single 540-hp CMD diesel is $182,000; with triple Mercury Verado 4-strokes, it’s $184,400. The pod installation required a flat spot on the hull bottom to accept the drive and some slight modifications to the hull liner.
ZF Marine is using the boat to fish some of the tournaments in Florida, ZF marketing manager Martin Meissner says. “Fuel-burn numbers are excellent, and the joystick control and iAnchor feature allow us to put the boat alongside kelp beds and fish underneath them. This is just unparalleled, compared to traditional center console boats in the market.”
ZF plans to have the boat back on display at this year’s Fort Lauderdale show. “Single-pod propulsion has garnered serious interest in the industry, and we are actively working with other boatbuilders on single-pod projects, but I can’t reveal their names at this time,” Meissner says.
The 43 Express IPS has improved the performance and fuel efficiency of this model, which had only been sold with triple or quad outboards. In addition, the IPS installation allowed SeaVee to stretch out the cockpit. “Since we no longer need a motor well for the engines, that whole stern gets pushed back another 24 inches, and that adds about 23 square feet of aft cockpit space,” Torres says. SeaVee customers will appreciate the extra fish-fighting real estate. The MSRP for the 43 Express IPS is $636,250.
The first-ever SeaVee was built to fish but not with rod and reel. McGee established SeaVee in the early 1960s out of necessity. “I worked for a company that made molds for plastic signs, and they went bankrupt,” says McGee, now 82 and living in Tavernier in the Florida Keys. “And I was getting hungry.”
So he built a 25-foot deep-vee dive boat that could handle rough water and used it to spearfish and lobster for a living. “I would catch 300-, 400-pound [goliath grouper], and people would say, ‘Wow, where did you catch that fish?’ And then they’d say, ‘Gee, that’s a nice boat. Can you build me one?’ And that’s how it all started.”
McGee built three center console models — a 25, a 28 and a 31. He designed the first boat, the 25, by studying photos in a brochure for a well-respected deep-vee performance boat, he says. McGee’s SeaVee built 322 boats from 1962 to 1994. Most were 25-footers with single gasoline inboards.
McGee has watched Pared and his partners grow the company through the years. “They’ve done a fantastic job,” he says. “They’ve built some damn good boats.” The three men have found success because they will build whatever the customer wants, McGee says. “I like their inventive nature. They listen to their customers and try to do what they want.”
This is true, says Robbie Buckley of Pompano Beach, Fla., who has bought four SeaVees, including the first 390 IPS, built in 2007. Buckley now has a 2010 390 IPS with a tuna tower. “On this new 39, I wanted a transom door because we do a lot of wahoo fishing,” says Buckley, who has also owned two outboard-powered 34 Open SeaVees. “Well, they don’t come with a transom door, but they cut me a transom door, anyway. They didn’t say, ‘No, we don’t do that.’ They’ll work with you.”
The 390 IPS is $367,000, with twin 480-hp Yanmar diesels it’s $355,000, and with triple Yamaha F350s it’s $272,000.
SeaVee also shines when it comes to service and follow-up, Buckley says. “You can actually call up and speak to one of the owners,” says Buckley, who owns a door and window company in Fort Lauderdale. “It’s not like they put you on the back burner. The service is right away and no questions asked.”
Prompt follow-up makes good business sense, Pared says. “It leads to repeat business, and that’s critical for us,” he says.
SeaVee, of course, wants to attract new customers as well. To do that, the company plans to push the Southeast region even harder for sales, Pared says. “We have a pretty good market in the Southeast,” he says. “We have our factory in Miami and we have an office in West Palm Beach, which is just an hour and a half away, but it’s a totally different market. We’re in the process of opening another office in the Keys, so we’re going to saturate our market in our area.”
For information, contact SeaVee Boats, (305) 759-6419, www.seavee boats.com; ZF Marine, (954) 441-4040, www.zf.com.
This article originally appeared in the Southern Waters section of the November 2011 issue.