Business South May 2021

46 | MANUFACTURING Alexcraft Boats Boom time for boutique boat builder T T Russell Fredric Alexcraft Boats produces both bare hulls and complete turn-key boat packages. M osgiel jet boat manufacturer Alexcraft Boats is the busiest it has ever been as people increasingly see the value in investing in an exciting lifestyle option. Owned by husband-and-wife team Wayne and Sally Cooper, the company has steadily grown year-on-year over the past decade through word-of-mouth referrals by satisfied customers, who are its best advertisers. Since last year’s Covid lockdown, the busi- ness has been exceptionally busy, a situation which is the same for other boat builders, creating some challenges in sourcing parts and materials from aluminium to engines and jet units, Wayne says. Meeting this demand has also necessitated Alexcraft Boats to invest strongly in training staff from scratch as it has been difficult to recruit and train people to adapt to the mul- ti-skilled nature of boat building from other industries. Alexcraft Boats now has three boat builders comprising Wayne, plus a soon-to-be qualified apprentice and a new apprentice. While the company is a boat builder, repairs – including insurance work, servicing, and maintenance - form a large part of its business. To assist this side of the business, the com- pany has invested significantly in equipment upgrades to streamline its repair processes. Wayne’s background in panel beating and nearly 20 years’ experience as a boat builder lends itself well to doing complex repairs to a high standard without compromising, and often enhancing the performance of a boat. Repairs can be anything from a damaged engine or jet unit, to replacing the whole side of a boat. “In the last year we engineered a massive press for pushing out dents in boat hulls and trailers. “We can fit a whole boat in it and press all the damage out reducing the need for cutting and welding, making the repair more cost effective,” Wayne says. “We also put in a car hoist that we modified to handle the boats making it safer and easier to work on the underside of a hull.” Alexcraft Boats is something of a boutique boat builder, producing bare hulls and turn- key boat packages. Each turn-key boat is manufactured to the customers individual requirements making every build unique. Its 4.4 metre and 4.8 metre models feature a hull design so successful it has remained largely unchanged, except for the develop- “One of the things that we think sets us apart is our quality of finish and the performance and handling of the boats. Part of that comes down to a very stringent build process which guarantees the hull will handle the way we say that it will.” ment of the Alexcraft Highside 4400 to match the free-board height of the 4800 model and the deck now includes a bow hatch; these are the standard production boats today. “One of the things that we think sets us apart is our quality of finish and the perfor - mance and handling of the boats. “Part of that comes down to a very stringent build process which guarantees the hull will handle the way we say that it will.” The boats are fitted with engines to each client’s specifications, typically Chevrolet LS marine V8’s, with a turn-key package starting from around $70,000. Alexcraft Boats is also the Otago dealer for Kodiak Marine engines and parts which is a superior new engine option. For second hand engines, Wayne says that his preference for the Chevrolet LS engines is based on his positive experience with them and the fact they are readily available, as are their parts. As part of its service, Alexcraft Boats also stocks a wide range of boat chandlery and has recently become the Otago stockist of the New Zealand manufactured Kiwi Waders range which includes boating waders con- structed from high quality natural-based, Nam Liong neoprene. While each type of boat has its place, jet boats are unmatched for their versatility and ability to navigate rivers and shallow water- ways, including into wilderness areas. Wayne encourages membership in Jet Boating New Zealand, a family-oriented 2000 member association which promotes the responsible, safe use of jet boats, including knowledge of regulations, etiquette related to their use and jet boating events.