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Hatteras Yachts

A long with Bertram and Hinckley, Hatteras has the distinction of being one of the first three production fiberglass boat builders to start up in around 1960. Oddly enough all three survive today, although Bertram may yet go by the wayside. The company was started in 1959 by North Carolina knitting mill owner Willis Slane who, as word has it, just wanted to build a good strong boat for himself for fishing the outer banks. What followed is one of the unparalleled success stories of the fiberglass boat building industry. 

Oddly enough, of the three major startups in around 1960 - Bertram, Hinckely and Hatteras - the former are know for producing boat hulls that almost never blister. Hatteras should have applied for a patent on the blistering process, for they were one of the worst offenders. Most likely this is because Hatteras has always painted their boats and has used low quality gelcoats that are prone to blistering, as well as lower quality resins, for gel coat alone does not account for the problem. 

For the most part, Hatteras built balsa cored boats. In earlier years, up through about 1980, the hulls were solid glass, and then cored hull sides appeared. Decks and house tops have always been balsa cored. In fact, were it not for Hatteras, Baltec would probably not be in business today. If you want to know how good balsa is as a core material, try to find a Hatteras with a core problem. Out of thousands of boats produced, there are only a few. And speaking of balsa, if you've ever noticed that Hatteras yachts are notably quieter inside than most others, that's because of the wonderful acoustic properties of balsa. 

When it comes to building good quality, consistent and reasonably priced motor yachts, no one had been able to hold a candle to Hatteras. Unlike Bertram, Hatteras recognized that wives often controlled the checkbook in the family, and didn't make the mistake of forgetting this important marketing factor like Bertram did. Thus, when the recession of '89 struck, Hatteras was at least poised to survive it, whereas Bertram had locked themselves into the sport fishing market exclusively, with their ugly formica interiors, and manly appointments. Thus, they went down with the end of the free-spending era of the 1980's. But were it not for the parent company's deep pockets, even Hatteras probably wouldn't have survived, for large boat sales were almost nonexistent for three long years. 

Yet Hatteras has since abandoned a major part of the market that they had filled for so long, the medium size sport fisherman and motor yachts of a type that was renowned for their sea keeping abilities, having been designed by the famous designer Jack Hargrave. Two prominent examples of which are the 45 Convertible and 43 motor yacht. Today, the smallest boat they make is a fifty footer priced at well over one million dollars. And with Bertram not gaining much attention in the mid size range either, the days when we had a few good quality, rugged offshore type boats to choose from are over. All we are left with is an aging fleet of older Hatterai and Bertrams. The Bertram fleet once consisted of 21, 25, 26, 28, 30, 31, 33, 35, 37, 38, 42, 43, and 46 foot models. All that's left is are outrageously priced 36 and 39 footers which are rarely seen on the waterfront these days.

Unfortunately, no one has rushed in to fill the void created by the withdrawal of these two companies. Oh, sure a few have tried, but the most recent offerings don't even come close to duplicating these legends. So why did Hatteras abandon this market? Or why isn't Bertram doing well with their three boats under 50 feet? In a word, cost and lower profit margins.

To produce boats of this quality today simply costs more than the market will bear. Plus, they probably can't compete with the lower cost price leaders since fewer and fewer people are willing to pay the freight for better quality. Boats have gotten too fancy as people demand more and more amenities, more plush interiors, more appliances, electronics and whatnot. When you add up the cost of all this, and factor in the additional cost factor of substantially higher quality structures and systems, it's not hard to see how good quality boats quickly exceed the reach of most of those who desire them.

But, there is an additional factor as well, which is that the design of a good sea boat is not amenable to the creation of the vast interior spaces that people want today. Boat owners willingly sacrifice sea keeping ability for interior space. Mom takes one look at any good sea boat and says, "But it's so small inside! That Sea Ray was twice as big." Yeah, Mom, it is. but you can't shove a wide flat surface against an oncoming wave and not end up getting splattered against a bulkhead. There's no way you're going to take a Sea Ray to sea as you would a Hatteras.  Mom doesn't want to go to sea anyway. She'd prefer to stay lashed to the dock, close to the swimming pool and tennis courts. And that's why we don't have any more 32, 34, 36, 37, 38, 53, 43, 45, 46, or 48 foot Hatterases anymore. People want floating condos, and the market will always give them what they want so long as enough of them want it. But there aren't enough people that want good sea boats.

So, until people decide either that they're tired of beating their brains out in floating condos, or get tired of staying tied to the dock, or just puttering around in protected waters, or they stop demanding the utmost in luxury, (I'm not holding my breath) the days of the middle class Hatteras are over.

Sad, but very true.

Hatteras 36 Convertible  |  Hatteras 38 Convertible  |  Hatteras 38 Convertible: Updated Review | Hatteras 39 Sport Express | Hatteras 45 Convertible52 Hatteras Convertible | Hatteras 53 Motor Yacht & Convertible Hatteras 61 Motor Yacht

Posted January 13, 1998, Updated September 04, 2000

David Pascoe Power Boat Books

Buyers' Guide to Outboard Boats Surveying Fiberglass Power Boats (2E)

David Pascoe Power Boat Books Visit for his power boat books

David Pascoe - Biography

David Pascoe is a second generation marine surveyor in his family who began his surveying career at age 16 as an apprentice in 1965 as the era of wooden boats was drawing to a close.

Certified by the National Association of Marine Surveyors in 1972, he has conducted over 5,000 pre purchase surveys in addition to having conducted hundreds of boating accident investigations, including fires, sinkings, hull failures and machinery failure analysis.

Over forty years of knowledge and experience are brought to bear in following books. David Pascoe is the author of:

In addition to readers in the United States, boaters and boat industry professionals worldwide from nearly 80 countries have purchased David Pascoe's books, since introduction of his first book in 2001.

In 2012, David Pascoe has retired from marine surveying business at age 65.

On November 23rd, 2018, David Pascoe has passed away at age 71.

Biography - Long version


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