Manufacturing operations are in the process of being moved to Kenway’s Augusta, Maine facility and the boats will be manufactured in parallel with the company’s smaller, more utilitarian line of Maritime and Maritime Skiff family fishing boats (maritimeboats.com). Sales and marketing will be conducted by Kenway’s sister company Maritime Marine, LLC, though the Southport brand will remain independent in the marketplace.
“Late last fall our partner, Tom Johnson of RothBiltBoats (rothbiltboats.com), came to us with the opportunity to purchase Southport”, recalls Kenway Vice President and Maritime President Ian Kopp. “Southport’s reputation for high-quality construction with exceptional performance captured our interest immediately. After that first ride on the legendary Hunt4 Southport hull, I was convinced we had to make this deal work.” Several months have gone by since that first meeting, but thanks to close collaboration with Southport founders, Kenway’s principals have reached an agreement that allows Southport to start anew, this time in Maine, a suitable location given the state’s heritage of world-class boatbuilding.
Asked how Southport Boats will change moving from North Carolina to Maine, Kenway President Kenneth Priest responded, “Not much. The original Southport founders know this business well and with the guidance of Hunt Yacht Design they crafted a truly exceptional product, which has a great reputation. Our focus will be to build on the established standards of excellence the Southport brand represents, by elevating the production quality and efficiency.” Priest further explains, “At Kenway we are focused on high-value-added manufacturing. So for instance, we will immediately transition the Southport hull from traditional open-molding to advanced vacuum infusion closed-molding techniques.” This change not only increases the quality of the hull construction, making it stronger than before, but also makes the manufacturing process more environmentally friendly.
Further discussion with Ian Kopp revealed a few more changes to the Southport line. He explains, “Our intent is to reintroduce the models as the Southport 27 and the Southport 29 for a variety of reasons. Primarily, we intend to draw a clear distinction between the “old” Southport and the “new” Southport. That is important.” Kopp explains that this decision is more than just about drawing a distinction. “As we reviewed the boats with Hunt designers, we acknowledged that the overall length, the class-leading beam and interior space compels this relabeling,” Kopp continues, “At the end of the day, the new Southport owners are not just buying a typical production boat, they are investing in what we believe to be a pure blend of world-class craftsmanship and ultimate performance. They deserve to have that value reflected accurately.”
While Priest and Kopp will be transitioning the manufacturing, with new boats becoming available in early May, Tom Johnson will be partnering with Southport as the face of the company in the marketplace as Director of Sales & Dealer Relations. He is clearly enthusiastic to get going. “The passion for these boats at all levels is what truly impresses me,” comments Johnson. “Talking with former Southport dealers, there was clearly a void in the marketplace while Southport was in limited production. But to source why Southport is special, you really need to talk with a Southport boat owner, to go for a ride. It is underway in a sea you will immediately appreciate the attributes of a Southport.” Johnson explains that he plans to continue reaching out to existing owners, to learn what they appreciate about their boats and to learn areas that can be improved for the future. “We’re going to move very slowly with changes,” Johnson elaborates, “But keep in mind that Kenway is experienced in semi-custom production boatbuilding having collaborated with some of the finest boat builders in Maine for decades.” This highlights one important area where the new Southport will be different from the old. Prospective owners can now customize their boats, adding their own personal touches to their boats. If an owner wants varnished rails, custom helm seating, teak decking, custom rails or systems and various T-top configurations to accommodate their specific needs, the new Southport will be able to accommodate. “With RothBiltBoats, we had great success with this philosophy, but now will be able to deliver on a much broader basis with Kenway as a partner,” says Johnson, but then adds, “Of course, the standard Southport 27 and Southport 29 are a high standard compared to any other boat of its size.”
Finally, we are pleased to announce the first dealer commitment. Smith Yacht Sales of Hingham, MA will be servicing the state of Massachusetts as their geographic territory. You can contact Smith Yacht Sales at smithyacht.com or call (781) 749-9989. See Smith Yacht Sales is at the New England Boat Show in booth #141, this week through 3/6/2011 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
For more information about the new Southport Boats, please contact Tom Johnson by phone at (207) 458-6309 or by email. The factory always can be reached at (207) 620-7998 and will be posting transition updates online at southport-boats.com, including the dealers and brokers where you can find the new Southport models.