Looking back at 2014, Peter Hledin, the founder and owner of legendary catamaran builder Douglas Marine/Skater Powerboats in Douglas, Mich., describes the year as “rewarding.” Yet delighted as he was with the company’s orders for larger models this year, he was even more satisfied with the upturn in sales of entry-level—at least for Skater—30- and 32-foot outboard and stern drive catamarans. Says Hledin on the smaller-boat buyers on which he started and initially built Skater’s remarkable following, “Those guys are always so grateful when they get one.” (Our question, of course: Who wouldn’t be?)
Ron Szolack, Peter Hledin and Hledin’s son, Michael, share a laugh at Saturday’s lunch stop—Pepper Joe’s in St. Clair, Mich., during Flight Club Skaterfest earlier this year. Photo courtesy Yvonne Aleman
What do you see happening in the custom high-performance catamaran market next year?
(Laughs) If I could tell you what was going to happen in 2015 I would be playing the stock market. I don’t know. I know that it doesn’t take much to screw up the industry. Even for people who have money, it depends on how people are feeling about the economy and who’s in office. I know that in 2012 things picked up in the summer and then got quiet after the elections. But who knows? I wish I could predict it.
So far we have good orders for the upcoming year. We have lots of projects to finish, from small detail projects to boats like Pure Platinum. I’ll be interested to see how it runs with the new (Goodwin Competition) engines. I’m interested to see how those engines do. We do have a lot of new product coming out next year like the 438, which is basically a 388 on steriods (read the story). We also have a new 31-1/2 cat primarily designed for I/Os. Both of those models are available to order now.