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Yes, you read that headline right: Burger Boat Company, which has delivered numerous classic-looking motoryachts over the years, is partnering with the design team at Sparkman & Stephens to build custom aluminum motorsailers.
Why motorsailers? Well, for one thing, despite the prevalence of power-driven craft in the megayacht market, there’s actually a growing number of yacht owners who want something more environmentally friendly. It’s not a huge number in the sense that Burger–or other yards offering similar craft–is abandoning traditionally powered boats, but it is significant enough for the yard to consider offering an alternative. Another reason is the cost of diesel fuel. Despite news headlines of late heralding 50-cent and larger drops at local gas stations, marine fuel is still expensive. By harnessing the power of the wind, there’s an increased savings.
The profile you see above is one of three new motorsailer designs Sparkman & Stephens has developed for Burger. This one measures 150 feet, while the smallest is 90 feet. All will be built of Alustar, a lightweight, high-strength aluminum. While specifics haven’t been released yet, the yachts will additionally feature environmentally friendly systems and incorporate the latest advances in rig design and materials.
Interesting enough, this isn’t the first time Burger will have built a sailing yacht. In fact, between 1866 and 1869, Henry Burger, the yard’s founder, built two schooners, Fleet Wing and S.A. Wood. In 1870, after merging his yard with another to form Greene Rand Burger Shipyard, he and his team built two more schooners: City of Manitowoc and J.I. Case. A few more followed, until 1889, when Burger launched the last full-rigged schooner built on the Great Lakes, Cora A.
It’s also not the first time Burger has worked with Sparkman & Stephens–on a motorsailer, no less. The two collaborated on an all-aluminum yawl in 1957. And of course, the design firm has a storied history when it comes to sailing yachts in general. Spanning a 78-year period starting in 1933, Sparkman & Stephens designed more than 50 motorsailers. Some of the names are as famous as the firm itself: Osprey, Sea Angel, Freedom, Galileo, Astral, and Timoneer.
The news about this project broke the day before the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show began, and coincidentally enough, just an hour or so after the announcement, I ran into Jim Ruffolo, Burger’s president. He was quite excited by the prospect of embarking on these new designs.
And why not? Things seem to be moving in a positive direction for the yard. Just a few months ago, the governor of Wisconsin announced that Burger would receive $2.3 million from the state’s Harbor Assistance Program, to rehabilitate its docks, dredge the waterway, and pave the boatyard to provide safe access to a launch well that had been installed. The overall goal for Burger in using these funds is to keep up with delivery demands.
The coming months should prove to be interesting times, as the motorsailer projects are further developed and more news emerges. Stay tuned.