3 FISHING MACHINES WITH CREATURE COMFORT: Egg Harbor 48, Jersey 48, and Post 42.
When it comes to luxury interiors, these custom-care traditionalists from the Garden State are in the business of wish-fulfillment.
Fred McCarthy has two distinctions. His company, New Jersey Boat Works, Inc., is the oldest boatbuilding company in the state of New Jersey still operating under the same ownership. And he is probably the happiest, most relaxed boatbuilder in New Jersey or any other state you care to mention.
The first impression you get upon meeting McCarthy is his love of a good story. Get him started and he'll bend your ear for hours with tales of derring-do from his experiences as a New York tugboat captain. A chance remark will remind him of his early days in boatbuilding and, before you know it, he's taken you through his ups and downs in the business, right up to the present. Along the way he'll inject a quick tale, such as the time he and a pal launched a 28-foot cruiser in a swimming pool and rode out a hurricane.
By the time you're ready to leave you are aware of one fact: nobody knows more about building boats or has more fun doing it than one Fred McCarthy. He's done the whole nine yards, as they say, from building rowing prams in his garage to a volume of 2,000 yachts a year and back to a semi-custom operation that better suits his style.
McCarthy's first venture in the boat building industry came early when, as a junior high school student, he designed and built a small boat as a class project. It was enough to instill in young Fred McCarthy a life-long love of boats and the sea. By the time he was in his mid-twenties, McCarthy was a tugboat skipper in New York Harbor, an occupation that brought him into contact with a bunch of characters and events that Fred loves to reminisce about to this day. After a falling out with his union, McCarthy found himself out of work, newly married and in need of way to earn a living without turning his back on the water.
Luckily, his bride encouraged him to go into boatbuilding. "You've always wanted to build boats, haven't you?" she asked. "Now's the time to do it. After all, what can you lose?" McCarthy began his career by renting a two-car garage, buying some lumber and tools and declaring himself the builder of small rowing prams. According to Fred, "I spent the weekdays building these little boats and then piled them into a pickup truck on Saturday morning and spent the weekend selling them. I couldn't go home until they were gone because I needed the money to buy more lumber."
By the end of the first year he counted up his winnings and discovered he had made a handsome profit of $72! But he was hooked and more determined than ever to make it as a boatbuilder. He gambled everything he owned by renting a 4,000 square foot building and went into the production of wooden power cruisers.
Within nine years his company was producing 2,000 boats a year; he had a company plane, a Madison Avenue ad agency and the beginnings of a nervous breakdown. So, what did he do? He told his wife, Etta, "I've had enough of this rat race. From now on I'm building fewer boats, for nice people only and we're going to start having fun in this business." In typical McCarthy fashion, he had soon divested himself of the plane, the big buildings, the high-priced agency and the headaches that went with them. Starting in 1961, he devoted his efforts to building fewer boats in a limited range of sizes. He began turning out 28-footers at the rate of eight per month, a far cry from his previous production level.
Long gone is the concept of hard benches and Spartan accommodations in a classic sportfishing boat. The main saloon, dining area, forepeak berth and twin-bunk stateroom are all examples of the new lifestyle thinking. From Architectural Interiors, Jersey’s design firm.
Little by little, McCarthy moved towards even more limited production and concentrated on fishing yachts of 40, 44, and 48 feet. He now limits his output o 24 boats per year, allowing him to devote more time to each customer and to personally supervise the construction of every yacht that leaves the yard. Gregarious by nature, McCarthy enjoys the close contact he now has with his customers.
“Most of our business comes from one owner recommending our boats to a friend. So, it’s important to us to make every customer a satisfied owner,” McCarthy explains. “We don’t want to get big. We went that route once and didn’t like it. Now we just want to turn out a really fine boat and sell it at a fair price. We keep the prices low by running a very tight ship. We have no deadwood. There’s just myself and one girl in the office. Most of my men have been with me for 25 years and a man is a newcomer until he‘s hit the ten year mark. That means low overhead and, when you combine that with a need for minimum profit per boat, you end up with a darn good value. And value is what built our success.”
This is vintage McCarthy – matter-of-fact, straight to the point. “There’s no question that our boats are solid, because we are still a small, quality workshop. We feel it is impossible to build a quality yacht on a mass production basis,” he explains.
“Everything glued or screwed – there are no dry fits. The glass layup is heavy duty. We use only plywood – no balsa. Every wire is numbered. The top deck is pure polyurethane. The whole hull is lined with a quarter inch of foam. All bronze components are treated with a special paint to keep them from corroding. Everything is taken apart, painted and put back together. Even the stuffing boxes are painted. Wherever you can fit a drawer or a locker, we’ve done it.”
McCarthy calls his boats “Sedans” and says Midwesterners buy them strictly for cruising. He’s been building the 48 since 1973. “But you’ll never see two interiors the same,” he boasts. From lay-out to paneling to fabrics to carpets to sound systems – the choice is yours. “Jersey will make changes, improvements, additions, subtractions – whatever it takes to bring out exactly what you have in mind,” is the promise that Fred McCarthy has prospered with.
The successful marriage of hard-nosed, brass-screw craftsmanship with microwave-stereo-penthouse décor speaks to the state of the art of gold-plate sportfishing boat design in 1982. New Jersey Boat Works will give you a terrific foundation; you take it from there – fresh out your fantasy however you like. Fred McCarthy will guarantee performance, whatever your taste in sofa and drapes.
The construction details of the 48 – as well as the 40 and 44 – back up the impression of integrity that Fred McCarthy gives personally. The hull’s four massive stingers run transom to bow. The inevitable Detroit Diesels (6-71TIs from Johnson & Towers) are the engines of choice as far as McCarthy is concerned. “Best weight to horsepower ratio we’ve found.” As for the installation, you can stand on the outboard side of each engine, and each can be fully over-hauled without being taken off its mounts. There’s an oil changing system, a fresh water backup system and hot water washdown in the engine room, which, by the way, is gel coated.
From the bridge the helmsman has full view of the bow and the cockpit and can back down on a fish from the steering station without losing sight of the angler. The ingenious ramp on the fish door makes the gin pole obsolete.
Adhering to the theory that the quieter the boast the more fish it will raise, the Jersey's shaft logs and rudder ports are bedded in neoprene to quell vibration transfer. Over the prop tips the hull is two inches thick - added stiffness to stop prop chatter and keep the hull from resonating.
Color TV, garbage disposal, washer-dryer, hydraulic steering, heavy-duty struts, electric toilets and cedar lockers are all standard. As is a “steam bath" nozzle in the shower.
Unlike most builders, Fred McCarthy encourages his customers to come in often and check on the progress of their boats. He says he gets some of his best ideas that way. As he puts it, "Our customers watch their boats being built and that avoids problems later on. I'll tell you something building boats is the best business in the world because boating people are the best in the world.”
In reply, if you can judge a boat by the man who builds it, the Jersey is a winner.