Specialty Yachts rendezvous 2016
It was three days of Hunter love on Thetis Island, courtesy of Specialty Yachts. Fifty-five Hunters converged on Telegraph Harbor Marina, most arriving in time for the 8PM “Beer and Smokies” dinner on Thursday 9 June, and staying through the aptly-named “breakfast bonanza” on Sunday 12 June. There were six American Hunters, four of them HAPS members: Dulcinea, with David and Mary Weale aboard; Earrame, with Fred and Carolyne Marcinek; Aloha Makai, with Blain Nelson and Melissa Blankenship; and Selah, with Stuart and Linda Scadron-Wattles aboard. We also counted two other American boats sailed by Nyhmbers (“Not Yet HAPS Members”): Jim and Cathy Green, aboard their H33 Morning Star, and a new sailor named Keirin, who was single-handing his new-to-him Hunter 356 Boatisattva.
The other 50 boats were a wide variety of Hunter and Marlow Hunter boats registered in Canada. This was our first Specialty Yachts rendezvous, and it certainly lived up to its billing.
As Selah eased into her slip on Thursday, the familiar face of Blain Nelson greeted us on the dock alongside those of the Telegraph Harbor staff, as they helped to moor the boat. (Blain later commented that he had requested additional employment. This became a theme with Aloha Makai, when Melissa Blankenship co-presented the seminar on making candied salmon, alongside the staff from Specialty Yachts.
An immediately noticeable feature was the love that exists between the staff at Specialty (who all pitched in to make this event and all of its details work) and the Hunter owners who had purchased their boats there. In many ways, it reminded us of the relationship that some HAPSters still have with staff at Signature Yachts. Greg Emerson, director of sales at Marlow Hunter, who has been at Hunter since 1973, brought his wife Susan, and he and Susan also pitched in to make the rendezvous happen.
The recent marriage of Kim and Lawrence Fronzcek was a much-commented-upon item. Kim organized a happy birthday surprise for Lawrence, and one of the Canadian yachters baked cinnamon rolls for the entire rendezvous in his honor. At one point, Lawrence told their marriage proposal story to the assembled group. I will not attempt to repeat it here, but it involved a message in a bottle, a nosy dog, and an unimpressed park ranger, and was received with great delight.
Greg Emerson was given some time to speak to all of the attendees, and as he developed his theme, it became clear that those of us who own Hunters (as opposed to Marlow Hunters) are witnessing the end of an era. David Marlow is building the Marlow Hunter sailboats in the best way he knows, using the best materials he can gather, and personally ensuring that the best methods are used. Under Warren Luhrs, the founder of Hunter, the philosophy was to get new people sailing in an affordable, well-built boat that can stay in the family and continue to be upgraded. At its peak, Hunter was turning out 800 sailboats a year, sending them out to dealers to sell. Marlow Hunter, by contrast, is focusing on building 100 sailboats a year, and building each one to order.
When he was asked what new things Marlow Hunter had going, Greg smiled to himself and confined his reply to “there are always exciting ideas that we are looking at,” adding that the MH 47, which will be introduced at the 2016 Annapolis Boat Show, will have been worth waiting for.
One of us asked Greg privately what Marlow Hunter was doing in the way of making a new boat that ”middle-class, retired people could afford.” His response was that the value of the Hunters built from the 1980s to the early 2000s will continue to hold firm, essentially admitting that Marlow Hunter is no longer making such boats and has no immediate plans to do so. The Luhrs vision was to get people sailing and owning Hunter boats. The Marlow vision is to make the Hunters better. People who want affordable Hunters will have to purchase them from previous owners.
The seminars were largely given by suppliers to, and staff of, Specialty Yachts. They included the aforementioned candied salmon demonstration and a North Sails demonstration on the new Selden furling system for asymmetrical foresails, including a discussion on sail handling for cruisers, which could have been entitled “how to get performance out of your boat without spilling your wine.” There was another seminar on solar panels (concentrating on flexible panels).
Another seminar on the new EFOY methelene fuel cells from Germany introduced an electrical generation technology that is being used widely in Europe and has now been spreading throughout Canada. Fisheries Supply in Seattle has just started carrying the product. The generating unit is slightly larger than a briefcase, and is virtually silent with two moving parts: a fan and a pump. Set-up cost ranges about $5,000, and fuel arrives in specially purposed plastic “cells” that retail for around $80 each. Installation is simple and requires basic electrical knowledge and no special tools. The technology is being used as a back-up energy generation source for both commercial and recreational applications.
A diesel motor seminar with Ben Cross included answers to highly detailed individual questions, and two admonitions, the first of which was simple: keep an engine maintenance and repair log (“It will help with troubleshooting and increase the resale value of your boat.”). The second focused on engine technique: run your engine at 80% of the rated maximum engine revolutions for 30 minutes every time you take the boat out, preferably at the beginning or the end of the day’s run. Diesel engines are manufactured to run hot. Constant running at low revs builds up “gunk” that burns off at higher revs, and problems surface at the 80% mark that will not show until it is too late.
Previous attendees have commented most favorably on the quality and quantity of the food, which, they noted, could alone provide enough value for the required registration fee. They understated the case. Specialty Yachts staff were joined by the staff of a Greek restaurant, and every dinner and the Sunday morning breakfast was catered. A “wine tasting” happy hour with light munchies poured into dinner on both Friday and Saturday nights. Plates were piled high, and some skippers were seen leaving with their seconds tucked into Tupperware for their post-rendezvous enjoyment!
The next time you see Linda, you can ask her about the pie.
As encouragement to balance this excess with exercise and fellowship, two fun activities were planned and hosted by Specialty staff: the “ever popular blind dinghy race,” and a pick-up team competition that involved knot tying, trivia responses, and a scavenger hunt. Hilarity ensued.
On Saturday night, prizes were awarded to the winners, but then it seemed that everyone became a winner. Lawrence drew boat names out and every boat in attendance received not one, but two prizes each from supplier donations ranging from cleaning products to handheld VHF units.
The boats in attendance included first-time attendees (about 1/3), repeat attendees (“I couldn’t come last year, but..”), and “never miss one of these” returnees.
HAPsters took a lot of time to mingle with Canadian owners, many of whom professed surprise that such an association existed, and disappointment that Canadians did not have one. With that in mind, Fred and Carolyne Marcinek and Stuart and Linda Scadron-Wattles are going to propose a HAPS Southern Gulf Islands cruise for August 2017, which will specifically aim at including and involving Canadian Hunter owners.
Lawrence went out of his way to express his gratitude to each HAPSter who attended, and his hope that they would return the following year.