Hatteras demonstrates that production yachts need not have assembly-line looks. 

When Richard Tranchida went to Hatteras for this fourth motor yacht in eight years, he thought he knew what to expect. He assumed that his 70 Cockpit Motor Yacht Linie would be decorated and equipped as he wanted, but that the interior arrangement would have already been determined by the builder. After all, this was to be a production, not a custom, yacht.

Yet Tranchida left the plant with one of the most highly customized yachts to date from Hatteras.

"They listened," said the Avon, Connecticut, yachtsman, who stepped up to the 70 through 53, 56 and 61 Hatterases. "The last lime, they weren't interested in making changes. I don't think they were set up to make changes. It seemed that they wanted to build a boat, sell a boat, and get on to the next guy. But this time, when it came to customizing, I never heard 'no.' And so I was like a kid in a candy store. I kept asking for more."

He requested dramatic changes in the saloon, the master and guest quarters, and even the engineroom. And Hatteras was happy to comply.

This is a significant shift for a builder whose name long has been synonymous with the term "production motor yachts." In the past, Hatteras, like most production builders, didn't want to take customizing much beyond cabinetry and other cosmetics that could be added once the basic boat was completed. Major alterations were foreign to a company accustomed to production-line efficiencies and the quality control such an approach permits. Buyers who wanted their boats done differently went to dealers specializing in that sort of work, such as Hatteras of Lauderdale.

But now, Hatteras is pursuing that market, particularly with its new series of contemporary styled Jack Hargrave-designed motor yachts ranging from 60' to 70'. These yachts have standard layouts, but should buyers, such as Tranchida, want something else, Hatteras has the ability and attitude to do it.

"We can't yet put a sign out in front of the company saying 'All Custom Work Done Here', said Kenneth G. Kranz, director of market planning and development at Hatteras. "But we have a lot more latitude and flexibility."

The company confines most of its customizing to the interior, and even there is not willing to start from a clean sheet of paper and move major components such as structural bulkheads. Nonetheless, this is an important step that reflects a growing and increasingly competitive motor yacht market.

Dozens of production builders, both foreign and domestic, have entered the field with yachts 60' and up. Many of the world's custom yards also realistically can vie for orders in this size range. By customizing, Hatteras becomes an even stronger competitor, while at the same time preparing for its entry into mega-yachts with a series of fiberglass 92-, 102- and 112-footers. These big boats promise to be some of the most customized "production" yachts afloat.

The saloon of the Hatteras 70 CMY Linie is highly customized. A stairway to the master stateroom lies behind the cabinetry. This alteration meant moving the bar and entertainment center to port. The decor is custom, and so is the woodwork, with a yellow-tinted oak finish on ash.

Central to their customizing is, however, a changing buyer. Once, motor yachts were purchased by senior yachtsmen with staid lifestyles and conservative tastes in looks and layout. Their requirements often could be met with a fairly standard boat. But today, the buyer is just as likely to be a young, active family man who has achieved business success through bold innovations. Such a yachtsman is reluctant to be fettered by standard procedure. He wants his yacht to reflect his individuality, his lifestyle and his ideas, which can come from sources as varied as other yachts and contemporary shoreside architecture.

Take Richard Tranchida, for example.

This 41-year-old entrepreneur with photo shops and film-processing interests has always run his own boat. And when shopping for his latest motor yacht he wanted to keep that arrangement. With his wife Linda ("Linie," for whom the 70 was named) and their sons aged 12 and 7, Tranchida spends virtually every summer weekend aboard and takes the boat south for the winier.

He looked at several large custom aluminum yachts, and he liked the big boats' approach to decor and layout. But he didn't find one he could maintain and run without a crew. The familiarity and low maintenance of the Hatteras' fiberglass appealed to him, as did the builder's solid construction and legendary systems and deck arrangements that simplify shorthanded cruising and maintenance.

Tranchida was impressed with the exterior look and features of this 70-footer. The large cockpit not only serves well for the family's Jet Skis, 13' Boston Whaler and other water toys, but it also makes docking and line-handling a lot easier for a small, amateur crew.

On the interior, however, the Tranchidas had their own ideas. Some came from what they had seen on the larger yachts. The interior wood, for instance. They didn't want Hatteras' usual teak or even the naturally finished ash. Instead, they asked for a yellow-tinted oak finish on the ash, which provides a light, modern look typically seen only in the custom field.

The master stateroom, which is aft, beneath the saloon, has a private entrance. There is a walk-in closet to starboard and a head with Jacuzzi to port. Here, as throughout this 70-footer, the decor is contemporary and very individualized. "On a yacht like this, there is no standard decor," says Kenneth G. Kranz of Hatteras. "Buyers can come in, room the decorating studio and get anything they like". In terms of the arrangement plan, Hatteras may not be able to provide a completely custom yacht, but as Linie shows, this builder is remarkably flexible.

The interior decor, by Linda Tranchida and Hatteras's in-house designers, also takes its cue from contemporary big-boat thinking, with home-sized furniture and an untraditional purple and gray theme.

They carried large-yacht ideas into the layout, as well. They liked the way big boats gave the master stateroom a private entrance, unlike the 70's standard layout. A traditional and well-proven arrangement, the standard plan has a hallway running to the owner's suite aft, past the guest quarters and between the engines. To give the Tranchidas their wish required that a separate stairway be installed to starboard forward in the saloon.

This radically altered the master stateroom's usual layout, moving the head (with its linen locker and Jacuzzi tub) to port, and opening up space to starboard in which a huge walk-in locker was built. The Tranchidas specified everything from where clothes would hang to the size of shelves.

In the saloon, this new arrangement meant new cabinetry, as the bar and entertainment center had to go to the forward bulkhead to make room for the stairway.

There were ramifications elsewhere in the yacht. The stairway obviated the hallway between the engines. This gave Tranchida the single, large, ship-like engineroom he wanted. Access is superb, and with both powerplants in one space, Tranchida finds maintenance easier on the 870-hp. Detroit Diesel 12V-71TAs.

Removing the hallway also meant that the guest stateroom forward of the engineroom no longer had to be separated from its head. This made what would normally be comfortable quarters with two single berths into an impressive "VIP suite," with queen-size berth and adjoining head. Again, a feature inspired by large custom yachts, where guests may gel staterooms that rival the owner's.

The remainder of the living quarters, as well as the wheelhouse and galley, largely follow Hatteras' standard plan.

OF PEOPLE AND COMPUTERS

Integrating such extensive changes into the standard boat requires teamwork. The custom department at Hatteras is headed by engineer Ward Setzer, and on the production side, a special crew representing carpentry, electrical and mechanical skills works exclusively on custom yachts. Dozens of other people throughout the company also contribute to these projects. But key members of the team are the prospective owners, who get involved in the very early stages.

"By working with the buyer sooner, we can plan early on and make changes deeper in the boat - they are not just add-ons," Kranz points out.

From the very concept of Linie, the Tranchidas worked closely with the people at the plant. And while she was under construction there were numerous visits to the New Bern, North Carolina, facility. Throughout, their personal guide and sounding board was Don Farlow (then manager of sales at New Bern, now the plant's director of operations).

"With a boat like this, it really becomes a one-on-one business, so much more than ii was in the past," says Kranz. "Practically every buyer comes to the factory. Normally, it takes about six months to build a boat from the time the first fiberglass is laid up, and typically we get three or four visits from the buyers."

The arrangement of Linie was inspired by large yachts and the owners' requirement that she remain capable of shorthanded cruising. The full-beam guest stateroom with adjoining head is right out of a big boat. The galley is home-style, with a dinette to starboard. The wheelhouse is ideal for heading out with a small crew, and has a ladder to the flying bridge and doors on each side. On the outside, the foredeck is well set up, and to make line-handling easier, there's the cockpit, as well as sidedecks on the side of the house.

Backing up this human effort is a half-million-dollar computer-aided design (CAD) system. With it, rearranging layouts becomes a sophisticated video game. The computer knows the size and shape of all components and structures, and it works with such precision and detail that it takes into account even the location of electrical outlets and changes in laminate schedules throughout the yacht.

The machine is instrumental not only in planning, but also in building. It can provide information for drawing patterns so that craftsmen can cut custom parts, or it can provide data for computer-controlled routers to do the job. All major interior wood parts, including bunk pieces and most cabinetry, are cut with these routers. The cut is extremely fine, which helps both in matching the grain for appearances, and in meeting strict tolerances for a precise fit. In this way, the people at Hatteras believe they can incorporate a new idea into a boat without jeopardizing the finish and structural integrity for which the marque is famous.

THE LIMITS

Of course, many of the custom requests are not new to Hatteras. For instance, the basic arrangement for Linie's full-beam engineroom and VIP stateroom were already in the system, since these features are standard on another member of the builder's line. To some degree, it was simply a matter of exchanging these compartments for the standard ones.

"We usually can give the buyer what he wants by interchanging compartments among boats," says Chuck Kauth, Hatteras' vice president of marketing, "and then custom designing the contents of these compartments.''

While most custom projects involve wood components willing to do small-scale one-off fiberglass, such as the electronics pod on Linie's flying bridge. Of course, the company would prefer to work with existing tooling.

Linie's custom plan has a full-width engineroom, VIP stateroom and stairs to master.

Nonetheless, alterations to major fiberglass components are possible. The shape of the hull, the sheerline and the shape of the house are fixed, but exterior bulkheads can be moved with surprising results.

"We can vary the length of the house, the length of the afterdeck and even the size of the cockpit," says Kauth. "We have inserts we put in the molds, and we can, for instance, take an afterdeck that is 4' long and extend it to 12'."

Although exterior modifications were not made to Linie, her interior work was quite ambitious. The price - in both time and money - was not extravagant. "This kind of customizing may require an additional 30 days in the planning stage and 30 to 60 days in the building stage," says Kranz. "But then it may not stretch out at all."

Hatteras 70 CMY's standard plan was the grist.

As for cost, the addition of the master suite's stairs and the changes to the two staterooms, saloon and engineroom aboard Linie totaLled $50,000 - just a small fraction of the approximately $1.2 million base price for the 70 Cockpit Motor Yacht.

"Unless you go wild, you probably could get anything you want in the custom area for $20,000 to $50,000," says Kranz.