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Feature: New Generation at Northern Marine

Discussion in 'Northern Marine Yacht' started by YachtForums, Jun 22, 2011.

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  1. New Generation at Northern Marine
    New Owner is Former Employee and Protégé of Founder

    When Northern Marine’s 2007 84-foot expedition yacht 'Spellbound' was awarded
    the “People’s Choice Award” at this year’s Trawler Fest, the new owner of Northern Marine
    was so busy networking, he was barely aware that one of his boats had just taken top honors.​

    That’s not surprising. Andy McDonald, the new president and owner of Northern Marine, is not a man to rest on his laurels. When asked what he does for a living, his response is simply that he is a boat-builder. But such a humble reply belies the fact that at 31-years of age, Andy McDonald is perhaps not only the youngest owner of a company building premier expedition style luxury yachts, but rapidly growing into the most knowledgeable.

    McDonald’s expertise and passion for boat-building can largely be attributed to his long-time mentor, “Bud” LeMieux, the man who founded Northern Marine in 1995 after spending more than 20 years with Delta Marine in Seattle, WA. LeMieux is renown in the yachting industry for his mastery in custom creating commercial-grade, long-range luxury cruisers for a discerning and distinguished group of owners -- a knowledge that he has been passing on to McDonald for nearly 10 years, seemingly grooming him to take over ownership of Northern Marine.

    Photo: Andy McDonald (left) and Bud LeMieux (right)
  2. McDonald, who studied Manufacturing Engineering and Plastics at Western Washington University, worked twice for Northern Marine. He was originally hired as a designer, expanded his role to engineering, and eventually managed 7 of the company’s 12 departments. He was recruited by Freedom Yachts in Newport, Rhode Island, where he was in charge of production for the Legacy power boat line and applied lean manufacturing processes to increase output from one boat a month, to one boat every five days. After four years at Freedom Yachts, McDonald was lured back to Northern Marine, but ultimately it was not the Northern Marine he knew and loved. LeMieux, who had sold controlling interest to an investment group, was pushed out of the company, and it wasn’t long after McDonald’s return that Northern Marine filed for bankruptcy and he found himself out of a job.
  3. Interestingly, it was a partially built 64 sitting in Northern Marine’s facility and some strong encouragement from Bud LeMieux that put McDonald where he is today. LeMieux, who prefers these days to be cruising on his boat up the Inside Passage of the Pacific Northwest, convinced McDonald to pick up the pieces and restart Northern Marine. “I asked Bud ‘Why me?’ … and his response was ‘Who else?’,” McDonald explains. “His encouragement and promise to continue to serve as an advisor along the way, and ultimately my belief in the Northern Marine brand and passion to see it continue, convinced me to go for it.”
  4. And McDonald hasn’t had a minute to look back since. He convinced the owner of the 64 to let him finish the boat, which also happens to be the first Northern Marine built to US Coast Guard Subchapter T-class inspected standards for use in charter; the boat rolled out of the boat shed in May of this year and is expected to launch this June. Together with LeMieux, they acquired all of the assets of Northern Marine out of bankruptcy, providing a huge business advantage in a down economy, and Northern Marine already has three boats under construction. In addition to the 64, McDonald signed a contract in December with an east coast owner to build an 80-foot expedition yacht, and prior to that a 95-footer for the current owner of Atlas, a Northern Marine 76.
  5. With LeMieux as a mentor, McDonalds’s miraculous ability to bring Northern Marine back to life in such a short time frame has not gone unnoticed locally. In a region teeming with skilled craftsman with experience in building world-class boats, Northern Marine employs a growing team of 70 skilled artisans and tradesmen, occupying 56,000 square-feet of climate controlled manufacturing space in Anacortes, WA. His efforts were recognized this March when the Economic Development Association of Skagit County awarded him “Startup Business of the Year”.
  6. With ten years of experience at Northern Marine, McDonald was well aware that there are two key elements to achieving the fit, finish and superb build quality of a Northern Marine yacht: a meticulous combination of traditional boat building skills and state of the art technologies. Drawing from his base in Anacortes, WA, an area with a rich history in yacht construction, McDonald has hand-picked a world-class workforce of carpenters, cabinet makers, electricians, mechanics, plumbers, fabricators, polishers, painters, teak deck fabricators and installers, all gifted craftsmen who are well-versed in the art of boat building and many with past experience at Northern Marine. To help guide prospective owners in well-informed decisions throughout the build process, McDonald also has made sure that all Northern Marine project managers are experienced boat builders.
  7. “Our owners love to be part of the build process and we encourage them to come participate as often and as much as possible,” McDonald explains. “At the same time, it’s our job to use our expertise to provide the best possible advice every step of the way.” Following Northern Marine’s tradition, McDonald also subscribes to creativity and ingenuity in all aspects of production. The lines of a Northern Marine can be traced back to its heritage among heavy steel fishing boats, built for the most rugged conditions in the Bering Sea. But, when LeMieux built the first Northern Marine for veteran yachtsman Bruce Kessler back in 1995, and later pioneered the application of resin infused composite technology, he provided superior hull strength using fiberglass, at the same time reducing build time.
  8. Moving forward, McDonald says his vision for the company is to remain focused on building fully customized long-range luxury expedition yachts in the 57-to-164-foot range, filling what he perceives to be a void in the yachting industry. “We have a very defined target market. It’s the seasoned boat owner who wants to move up in quality and size, but after years of searching, can’t find exactly what he wants. Time and again, we hear this from customers. The appeal of Northern Marine is that you can build a boat to your exact specifications, and because it’s built in the U.S., customers can easily enjoy participating in the build process,” says McDonald. “How many builders can say that?”
  9. With a 64, 80 and 95 currently under construction, McDonald says his goal is to initially deliver 4-5 yachts a year, and longer term judiciously increase that number. He also expanded into the service, repair and refit business, and eventually has plans for moorage and haul-out for large vessels, a paint booth for vessels up to 180-feet, and final assembly bays for new construction. As for his mentor Bud LeMieux, McDonald says rarely a day goes by when they’re not in touch. “When it comes to assets at Northern Marine, I guess I’d probably put Bud at the top of the list.”
  10. Today, following in LeMieux’s footsteps, McDonald is doing some pioneering of his own using “Bead and Cove” construction, a new use of an old and inherently “green” technology. By not being restricted to using the same mold, Bead and Cove construction provides a cost effective way for Northern Marine to better customize its yachts to an owner’s exact specifications. A high degree of accuracy is maintained in both molds and other aspects of the design process using the latest 3D Unigraphics NX6 modeling software that translates designer visions into certified drawings.
  11. Since opening its doors in 1995, Northern Marine has delivered 30 yachts to a distinguished and seasoned group of owners who enjoy participating in the journey of the build. Drawing on talent from the Pacific Northwest, an area with a rich history in yacht building, Northern Marine exhibits a true passion for boat building through the skills and experience of its employees who work in the company’s in-house woodshop, metal shop, design department, and its lamination and manufacturing operations. Today, work is in full swing with several boats in build.
  12. Northern Marine, based in Anacortes, WA, has a heritage of building premier ocean-going expedition yachts ranging in length from 57’ to 151’. The company has built an award-winning reputation for combining rugged exterior design and commercial systems, with luxurious and refined interiors – all custom tailored to an owner’s exact specifications.

    For more information contact:

    Northern Marine
    310 34th Street
    Anacortes, WA 98221
    (360) 299-8400

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