TELL TALES: FOLLOW YOUR HEART
2 February 2022
Looking back at Baltic Yachts history and going trough the files and statistics of all the project that has been executed during these years the list is staggering. I must admit that going through some of the historical statistics I personally get surprised of the fact that we have accomplished all this.
Looking at the historical statistics it also becomes clear that at the first half of our history the serial production yachts played a decisive role. If we look at the statistics of the serial production models the numbers look as follows.
In other words, the number of serial production yachts produced from 1973 to 2018 is all in all 509 number of projects. It goes without saying that these yachts did build the foundation of what Baltic Yachts is today. It gave us a name and created contact with a large number of international clients of which a substantial number, to our satisfaction, has come back for more projects and in some case moved into larger custom projects.
During our “serial production era” we came into contact with several well-known yacht designers and these contacts also created a foundation for some of the larger custom yachts that we have produced. Naval architects that we cooperated on the serial production models are as follows.
Baltic 46 Our first.
If we look at number of custom projects delivered until 2019 the number is 55 yachts so in other words the vast majority, in number of yachts, is the serial production models. If we would look at numbers in financial turnover the picture is naturally the opposite.
Baltic 51 no 1. First test sailing in Kiel late autumn 1979. I don’t exactly remember all who participated but I recall that Walter Meier-Kothe, Rolf Vrolijk and Rob Ball was involved. It was cold and no heater installed. This was one of our successful models 1979 – 1988 with a total of 24 (a good number for us at the time) yachts produced.
Baltic 33. Our smallest. 42 of them built 1975 – 1984.
Baltic 43. 47 units produced 1986 – 2001. Very successful model for us at the time.
There are a large number of serial production models so I will not even make an attempt to go through all of them here. Information regarding all these models is available at Baltic Yachts web page.
From the start we wanted to have the bulk of the production consisting of serial production, but we also had plans to do some custom work alongside. The first Custom projects we did was actually based on the C&C Designed Baltic 42. There were a couple of racing yachts built using the 42-hull mold but for the rest everything was custom made. The first real custom yacht, starting from scratch, was a 45-footer Douglas Peterson design delivered 1980 to a central European client.
The basic idea we had was to use higher technology than other yards but also allow for more flexibility, optimizing the yachts, at least to some extent, to suite each individual clients’ requirements. This was our philosophy and the kind of yacht building we wanted to do.
This philosophy worked fine for many years but as we all know, the world tends to change with time. What happened was that cost levels riced but probably the most influential change, that had substantial effect on our activities, was that there was a number of serial production yards that increased in size, was organized for large, cost effective, serial production. We had been more expensive that other yards in the past but for the knowledgeable byer the difference had been acceptable, and we had good reputation and a good segment of the market. With the new mass-produced yacht, the price difference between us and others increased, and this made our market segment substantially smaller resulting in that our focus more and more went into the fully custom segment.
I still remember a discussion I had during a Central European Boat Show. A group of Yachting people got together at a dinner. An agent for one of the “extreme yacht builder” complained. They had a new model, approx. 50 FT, (large for serial production those days) and their agent complained loudly to me. He had clients that wanted some personal modifications plus that they wanted to visit the yard to discuss and see their yacht being built. His yard did not accept this. This was unacceptable to him, and he wanted my support to his opinion. My answer to him was:
If I would be responsible for a yard selling their products for the price tag your 50-footer have I would insist on every yacht being as identical as possible and no visit and client-Yard discussions to take place, at least not at the yard. Extra installations would be at the responsibility of the agent (after delivery from the yard). But I would never take on a job like that because it would eliminate one thing that gives me a lot of pleasure. The possibility to get to get to know many clients, and have the possibility to, together with them, create something that fulfills their dreams and hopefully experience their satisfaction at the end of the project. A substantial part of that positive experience would be lost. But on the other hand, you can offer a lot of yacht for the money.
I think he did not like my answer.
However, we had to face the facts. The difference between our prices and those by the extreme serial production yards had dramatically increased resulting in a shrinking market segment for us.
This was naturally not a process that happened over night and there were still clients that could see and appreciate what we could offer, but unfortunately they got less and less with time. We had to choose, stay with high quality, high technology and high individuality resulting in less of the standard model activities and more 100 percent custom projects or go for a more serial type of production.
If we would have decided for a more extreme serial production it would have involved substantial investment and reorganization plus, at least a slight, reduction of quality and the technical level we previously had. I remember that I also expressed my personal opinion that if we would go in the “serial production” direction, we would face the following problems:
- We would need a new yard
- New and different in-house designers if any at all.
- Totally change and replacement of the people we had on the sales, marketing and agent organization.
- New boatbuilders because the ones we have were too good and proud for this purpose.
Basically, the organization we had and the people we were was perfect for the present products but not suitable for the alternative. We all enjoyed and had too much heart and passion in what we were doing hence not suitable and good for the other alternative. OK I admit that the above comments might be slightly excessive and provocative but to this date I maintain that opinion and, we really had no alternative.
I would like to ad that personally I am very much aware that the serial production models we had are what put Baltic Yachts on the Worlds yachting map. Without them Baltic Yachts would not exist today. Also, many of the large custom yachts we have built originates from clients we had on the serial models.
For us that were involved in the company from the beginning, the serial models will always have a special position in or hearts, we miss them.
The serial models we did, in the earlier days, created the name Baltic Yachts and today’s company owes a lot to those models but I also know that todays exciting, complex, large custom projects also will reflex positively on these earlier models, its all in the same process.
We have had a number of people, during the later years, asking us why we don’t make smaller yachts, for a larger public. The above is an attempt to explain the reasons why.
You can build good yachts in many ways but in my book your heart and feelings and compassion for what you do must play a substantial part in the reason why you are doing it. If we would have had to compromise on this the fun would have been gone and I, for one, would probably have moved into doing something completely different.
I still love and is extremely proud of the early standard models we made; those were good days.
There can be few yacht builders like PG Johansson, who can boast an unbroken career with the company he co-founded almost 50 years ago. In that time PG Johansson has witnessed every twist and turn of a colourful, exciting and technically pioneering industry accumulating a wealth of fascinating stories, some familiar, some still untold. In this blog PG will be recalling his experiences of the yachts he has built, the people he has met and some of the more unusual events on the journey to turning clients’ dreams into reality.
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