Boat building, especially in the sport fishing industry, has changed drastically over the last fifty years. There was once a time when boat builders chopped down their own trees, shaped their own wood, and carved each piece of timber into a hull that suited their needs on the water. During these years, boat builders scratched measurements and simple calculations onto a piece of scrap paper, and built off “gut feelings.” Much of the boat building process was driven by their intuition and hands-on experience. If it looked right, build it. If that piece fit nicely there, nail it in. Boats during this era tended to be extremely heavy and cumbersome. Many boats could not withstand stormy weather, or rough seas. These facts were all common knowledge, and most people were satisfied with these standards because the industry was growing slowly, and they were content with the product that was offered.
In 1948, Merritt’s Boat and Engine Works set out to revolutionize the boat building industry. The Merritt family had a rich history of love for the ocean and fishing. The family moved to Pompano Beach, Florida and bought a small piece of land on the Intracoastal Waterway that would serve as their boat yard. Since 1948, Merritt’s has established themselves as the finest sport fishing boat manufacturer in the world. Their family traditions have remained the same, but the innovative technologies and practices they have brought to the industry have set a standard of excellence that competitors struggle to match. Their boats now range up to 86 feet, and have an expensive price tag of $12 million. Instead of your standard boat, theirs should be thought of more as a floating, luxurious mansion that has been designed to fish around the world. The Merritt family has successfully combined the most innovative technologies with fine craftsmanship to build a vessel that allows fisherman to travel the world in comfort. Regardless of which country or ocean they are in, the equipment and amenities on a Merritt boat allows crews to be connected and well prepared at all times.
Modern Merritt boats are equipped with some of the finest technology in the world. This transition in boat building occurred to better meet the needs of customers, who wished for a boat that could allow them to fish comfortably, and stay connected to the outside world. Merritt boats cruise to some of the most isolated places in the world, but they are never ill prepared. They have been designed to be self sufficient, and have just about every piece of machinery you could think of.
Every boat is molded and built by the layering of several coats of Kevlar and fiberglass to ensure unmatched strength. A machine that uses a powerful laser to precisely form the hull calculates the curves and cuts without error. Custom made 4,000-gallon fuel tanks are then placed inside the hull and balanced by a machine that positions the tanks strategically. The largest boats are powered by MTU 3,500 horsepower engines, which allow the 86-foot boats to reach speeds of 48 knots. At the helm, the captain has a wide variety of electronics at his disposal. It is standard for every boat to have a satellite phone, a depth recorder and radar, night vision monitors, engine room control sensors, auto-pilot and steering modes, radio, Wi-Fi, and much more. Each boat even has a machine that converts salt water into fresh, drinkable water. The boats are self-sufficient, and include more amenities than most houses. Ice machines, washers and driers, elaborate kitchens, generators, air conditioning, flat screen TVs, and entertainment devices are just standards on each vessel. It is not uncommon for some boats to have retractable dining tables and pop-up plasma TVs in the living room. Each of the five bedrooms look like rooms you’d see on the MTV show, Cribs, and the spacious inside quarters of the boat give people plenty of room to live comfortably.
Perhaps the most innovative and incredible new addition to Merritt boats are devices called SeaKeepers. They are anti-roll gyros that are designed to eliminate boat roll even in rough seas. Inside the gyro, a flywheel spins at 575 mph and generates enough force to counter the waves, and stop a boat from rolling. The technology gauges the effects of the sea, and reacts instantaneously to combat the effects of instability. This device works at all speeds, and makes passengers more comfortable, especially the ones who get seasick.
Another interesting movement within the Merritt’s community is a trend for each boat to have social media profile. As many captains and crews fish around the world, they stay connected to the fishing community through social media. Merritt’s has also created social media accounts to cover all of the boats they have built. As each one gets highlighted and talked about on social media, their brand awareness and popularity increases. Many people in the sport fishing community love how Merritt crewmembers have created boat accounts, because they get to keep up with the best fisherman in the industry. When a mate or captain posts a fishing report, or checks in on social media, Internet activity swells, and an interactive user base is formed.
There are a few industries that we tend to suspect less social media presence and implementation of innovative technologies, but for Merritt’s, this is how they have successfully operated for many years. They will continue to implement technology and raise awareness through social media outlets, and will strive for excellence. As they continue to transform the boat building industry, they will be “first movers” in every aspect of the building process. They have teams and processes in place to work ahead of competitors, and are expected to look to the future as they create a legacy. I am excited to see what their next steps will be…