Northern Marine: New Contracts, New Expansion Plans

When Northern Marine shuts its doors in 2009, it was an early victim of the economic slowdown that became the global recession. It hasn’t remained that way, however. Not only is the Washington State yard back in business, but the new plans it has reflect a strong focus on a niche few large-yacht yards are addressing.

Northern Marine actually reopened shortly after its owners filed for bankruptcy and shut down operations. A craftsman who had worked for Northern Marine, Andy McDonald, formed New World Yacht Builders. The goal was to keep fellow craftsmen employed, including ones laid off from other area builders. With the blessing of the owners of Northern Marine, New World Yacht Builders started doing business as Northern Marine in September 2009. Then last year, Bud LeMieux, who founded Northern Marine, came back onboard. He had sold his interests in the yard in 2006. A recent addition to the team is Randy Cowley, another marine-industry veteran who serves as vice president of sales and marketing, Among other things, Cowley founded the brokerage firm Venwest Yachts about 30 years ago.

Together, the management team is overseeing about 60 craftsmen, with lamination, carpentry, and painting all performed in house. Crowley says that Northern Marine anticipates having 100 employees by the end of the year. In addition, and equally important, while the yard previously built up to 151 feet LOA, Northern Marine is remaining focused on the smaller end of the spectrum. In fact, it’s returned to its roots, building trawler-style, long-range cruisers. The size range starts at 54 feet and extends to 118 feet.

Northern Marine currently has three yachts in its build shed, each under contract. The smallest is a 64-foot trawler yacht being built to U.S. Coast Guard subchapter T class. (The class governs small passenger vessel safety and stability.) The other two projects are megayachts: an 80- and a 95-footer. Both are what Northern Marine calls a Long Range Expedition (LRE) cruisers, emphasizing rugged looks and oceangoing abilities. The 80 was commissioned for a couple from the East Coast stepping up from a yacht in the 50-foot range. The raised-pilothouse design has quite an unexpected layout on the lower and main decks. The master is the sole stateroom below, with a VIP and a guest stateroom located forward on the main deck. A captain’s cabin is just aft of the pilothouse. In addition, the 80 LRE is powered by a single diesel, for fuel efficiency. When the owners take delivery next spring, they’ll embark on extended cruises.

As for the 95 (pictured at top), she was commissioned by yet another experienced owner who anticipates traveling around the world. Even with the hard-charging looks, she’ll feature the niceties of a typical luxury yacht, including a hot tub forward on the flying bridge. A large bar aft, fitted with a dumbwaiter, will keep guests in the tub and seated on the port and starboard lounges satisfied. The owners’ stateroom is forward on the main deck, with three guest staterooms and a crew cabin below decks. Similar to the 80 LRE, the 95 LRE will feature single-diesel propulsion.

A few new designs are on the boards, too. There’s an Aft Pilot House 80 LRC (above), featuring tender stowage on the foredeck. She emphasizes the rugged looks you’d expect of a long-range yacht. There’s also an 80 Tri Deck, with a main-deck master and a lounge below decks accompanying two guest staterooms. The lounge can convert to an extra stateroom when needed. In addition, the flying bridge can be configured different ways. The standard layout features dual helm seats forward, with a bar and large circular seating and dining area just aft, followed fully aft by RIB stowage. Alternately, owners can request three helm seats, with an observation settee just aft to port and the bar pushed a bit farther aft of that. Either way, the bridge deck, just below it, contains a captain’s stateroom tucked to starboard and alfresco seating and a bar fully aft.

The combination of go-anywhere styling and luxury touches is in response to what Crowley says is an emphasis on travel as a lifestyle. He explains that the buyers and potential buyers that Northern Marine is meeting “don’t just want a weekend platform.” Rather, they’re family-oriented and want to truly travel aboard their yachts. Plus, “you don’t need a 150-footer to do it,” he adds.

Northern Marine isn’t done yet. It also has a facilities expansion in the works. It recently broke ground on a new waterfront site for refit and repair, across the street from its present shed. Crowley says Northern Marine is looking to purchase a 300- to 500-ton TraveLift, so that it can attract large megayachts to 200 feet. It’s a wise move, as nearly all motor- and sailing yachts in that size range head to yards in San Diego for this work. Northern Marine expects the new site to be operational by summer 2013.

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