BUILDER: SeaVee Boats, Miami. Phone: (305) 759-6419. www.seaveeboats.com
LINE: semicustom offshore sportfishing boats from 29 to 34 feet (outboard or inboard), and ranging from around $110,000 to $280,000 (depending on options and power)
OWNERS: Ariel Pared, Ralph Torres, Moises Rodriguez
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 125
BEST KNOWN FOR: solid construction, attention to detail
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT BUILDING BOATS IN FLORIDA: “Culture of boatbuilding, understanding of the required craftsmanship in the work force, the climate, and the business-friendly infrastructure.”
THE FLIP SIDE: “Congestion in urban areas, cost of real estate and insurance.”
When three high school buddies fall in love with boating, the infatuation can lead to joint ownership of a boatbuilding business. That’s what has happened to SeaVee, a company that was started in the late 1970s by Don McGee and has built a reputation for solid and highly customizable center console offshore fishing boats. Today, around 120 of these boats from 29 to 34 feet leave the shop in Miami every year. SeaVee has opted for a business model that calls for factory-direct sales, which will require aggressive steps to tap into new markets. Florida, however, remains home base.
“Where we build our boats is less important than skilled people, solid design and good company management,” says marketing director John Calavero. Because SeaVee offers a lot of custom features, he says, the company needs to be close to the customer.
To a large degree the buyers’ intended style of fishing or boating determines how the boats are outfitted: side-entry tuna towers, more bait wells, outlets for electric reels, more seating or an enclosed head in the bow — these are but a few of the possible options. Calavero concedes that the Florida mindset has played a role in the design of the SeaVee boats.
“Center console boats are typical for the southeastern U.S., where the weather is nice and the water is warm,” he says. “These vessels are practical, offer lots of space for fishing, cruising or diving, and are easy to maintain.”
SeaVee’s yard, which had outgrown the original facility and relocated to Glenvar Heights, a few miles west of the waterfront, is open to the public. There, customers can check out the hand-laid lamination of hulls, the multistringer backbones, and the hull/deck joints, which are chemically bonded and through-bolted. The production site is good for 230 boats per year, about twice the number currently being built. SeaVee plans to reach out to other East Coast markets, as well as California and the Pacific Northwest. Calavero also says the upper end of the model line will be expanded, with a 39-footer to be introduced in early 2007 and a 42-footer on the drawing boards. SeaVee’s new location south of downtown Miami is not a hotbed for boatbuilders — yet. Still, Calavero is happy where SeaVee is. “Even if we had an offer to move to a 100,000-square-foot facility in another state and only pay $1 rent per year, we would have to look past the fiscal incentives,” Calavero says. “Location is not everything. The question becomes how many of the current employees would agree to move, and could we find equally qualified workers elsewhere?”