The Hinckley Company Blends Tradition with Technology To Build World-Class Sailing Yachts and Jet Boats
When The Hinckley Company introduced its revolutionary jet-powered Picnic Boat® in 1994, many considered the move to powerboats a surprising departure for the Maine boat builder. Hinckley, after all, had become synonymous with impeccably crafted sailboats for discerning yachtsmen from around the world.
What most people failed to remember was that the first Hinckleys were actually motorboats. What’s more, innovative designs like the Picnic Boat® are precisely what has kept the company on the cutting edge of boat building for more than seven decades.
Established in 1928 by Henry R. Hinckley in Southwest Harbor, Maine, the company originally built wooden workboats designed to endure the rigors of Down East fishing, lobstering and cruising. The company later played an important role in World War II, building more than 500 picket boats, towboats and yawls for U.S. forces.
By the 1950s, however, Hinckley had turned its attention to pleasure boats and soon became America’s leading producer of wooden sailboats. The company pioneered the use of fiberglass in hulls in the mid-50s and launched its first Bermuda 40 yacht in 1960. The B40, as it became known, was revered for its masterful marriage of the new fiberglass technology with the fine wood joinery for which Hinckleys had always been known. Liberal use of teak, mahogany, cherry and other woods set the yacht apart from hundreds of other inexpensive fiberglass boats that were soon coming off assembly lines, void of quality detail and woodwork.
The company’s commitment to advancing boat-building technology, while preserving its tradition of fine craftsmanship, continued during the 1970s and 1980s when it introduced its line of Hinckley and Sou’wester® sailboats. In 1990, Hinckley became the first American builder to convert entirely to Kevlar® hybrid composites for both hulls and decks.
A few years later, the company was also the first to adopt the SCRIMP® process and DualGuard® composite construction in which outer layers of Kevlar/E-glass are bonded to an inner skin of high-strength carbon fiber. The result is a fully integrated hull system that is stronger, stiffer and more resistant to impact, yet weighs 14% less than conventional laminates. The process also reduces environmental emissions by 98%.
Hinckley’s high-tech wizardry may have reached a zenith when it introduced the Picnic Boat® in 1994. Although jet drives had been tested and proven on military boats, commercial ferries and fishing vessels, the company was the first to successfully incorporate jet propulsion into a semi-custom luxury yacht. The two-year research and development project paid off: the Picnic Boat® proved extremely popular and soon created a whole new class of yachts, with imitators scrambling to keep up.
Breaking even more new ground, the company developed and introduced JetStick® in 1998. The computerized maneuvering system – which operates much like a joystick -- allows intuitive, highly accurate control of the jet boats with a single hand. JetStick immediately became the standard on the Picnic Boat®, and is also used on the company’s new Talaria® 40 Jet and Talaria 44 Jet.
Due in large part to the success of its jet boats, Hinckley recently built a new multi-million dollar manufacturing facility in Maine and more than doubled its workforce to help meet demand for the yachts. The company also expanded its apprentice program to train a new generation of workers in the exacting "art and science" of building a Hinckley.
While the company’s new line of jet boats has been taking off, Hinckley’s traditional sailing yachts have continued to attract discriminating buyers from around the world. The company is currently building numerous semi-custom sailboats, including three of its Bruce King-designed Sou’wester 70s. In addition, Hinckley recently opened sales and service centers in West Palm Beach, Florida and Kappeln, Germany and announced plans to extend its service network in Europe. Hinckley Service is legendary for the high degree of customer service it provides.
Today, The Hinckley Company is recognized as one of the world’s premier builders of semi-custom sailboats and jet boats. Hinckley yachts, which are marketed under the Sou’wester and Talaria brand names, range in length from 29 to 70 feet. In addition to its boat building operations, Hinckley provides maintenance, repair and storage services, and operates a yacht brokerage, charter service and retail store.
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