(Aug. 2, 2019) While the hundreds of anglers navigating towards Ocean City to compete in the White Marlin Open next week will arrive in or eventually board a variety of vessels, the annual tournament is guaranteed to provide serious eye candy for those who aspire to a high-end ride out to the blue water.
John Bayliss, owner of Bayliss Boatworks in Wanchese, North Carolina, builds such vessels, and will be dropping his riggers some 70 miles out to sea in his custom 62-foot Tarheel.
Custom-built, at this level of sportfishing vessels, is the key, Bayliss said, because the majority of his clients want to have a hand in selecting details, especially the interior fit and finish.
“They want to execute a lot of their ideas,” he said. “All of them are looking for the highest quality, not only on the exterior finish but mechanical systems and electrical systems.”
Bayliss won’t, for reasons of client confidentiality, disclose what one of his creations costs, saying only that price tags can range from $5 million to $14 million. A check of the Bayliss Boatworks website, however, shows that anyone in the market for a lightly used 2018 64-foot sportfish that can do 43 knots (just a smidge down from 50 mph) has granite countertops and a better entertainment center than you have at home (where you can’t fish) can pick it up for just under $6 million. Or, there’s the 90-foot Singularis for just $5,000 less than $13 million.
“Thankfully a lot of customers are well funded,” Bayliss said, “and they’re just looking for something that is different from the norm,”
After years of building custom boats, Bayliss has come to appreciate every owner is different.
“There’s guys that have been doing this for a long time and we’ve worked for people that have never owned one before,” he said. “The one thing they have in common is they have the funding to be able to buy one of these things.”
Bayliss said the wide-spectrum of people seeking his company’s services makes each project compelling.
“It’s a very interesting business because you meet such a wide range of people,” he said. “They’ve all had different ways of getting to that position in life where they can afford one of these.”
Custom boat building times take up to two years, with a comparable length of time for the design phase, Bayliss said.
“It becomes almost like a marriage,” he said. “You and that owner are working together for a while.”
Typically, customers meet once with Bayliss’ team to kick off the design process and three to four years later their dream vessel is delivered.
“We really believe strongly that there’s a lot of planning for a project that big that has to be executed up front,” he said. “There’s a lot of fact- finding that goes on.”
Bayliss said crucial determinations include destinations, fisheries targeted and guest counts.
“That really drives the ultimate outcome of their vessel,” he said. “We’re definitely not a one-size-fits-all builder.”
Most of his customers approach the process with a wealth of specific concepts and preferences.
“The good thing about our team, we’ve all got a lot of experience doing it and we can help guide them through the process and wind up with a good boat in the air,” he said.
After initially being contacted regarding a boat project, Bayliss said the first step involves assessing the various options.
“We’ll start talking right away about what length … horsepower, speed their looking for, what kind of accommodations,” he said. “All those answers start driving the project and what it’s ultimately going to wind up as.”
After this, a series of design drawings are produced, which are continually tweaked until they reaching the result.
“Then we start narrowing down the scope of the project until we get down to where we know pretty much what we’re going to do,” he said. “We assign a price to it, we give them a delivery date and off we go.”
Bayliss said the wide-range of fishing enthusiasts provide a customer-base for boats of widely varying price points.
“We’re a microscopic portion of the market,” he said. “We’ll have typically three to four boats under production at one time and they’ll all be in varying stages. We’re actually putting in the water two boats a year probably on average.”
Bayliss said roughly 35,000 to 100,000 man hours are invested in building each of boat.
“There’s a number of custom builders out there that are very good, and I think each guy has a certain following of people that like their particular design styling, their fit and finish [or] price point,” he said. “There’s some variety to be had out there.”
Custom boat builders tend to hone in on their preferences from among the numerous styles and techniques and typically pursue methods they excel at executing, Bayliss said.
“It’s a pretty unique fraternity,” he said. “The relationship among the builders is generally very good.”
In addition to the Tarheel, Bayliss said two other of his company’s custom builds, the 73-foot Shark Byte and 65-foot Lights Out, will be among the roughly 400 vessels signed up to participate in the White Marlin Open.
“You’re going to see the good, the bad and the ugly in that tournament, as far as boats go,” he said. “It will almost be like a boat show on the water because they’ll be so many really nice boats there it will be pretty interesting to watch.”
Bayliss said his trio of boats entered in the White Marlin Open will be filled with a close group of cohorts, which is fairly standard during the annual event.
“That tournaments become more of a reunion. You see guys that you haven’t seen for a year,” he said. “Everybody gets together, fishes hard for a week, has a couple of beverages in the evening and trades stories.”
All in some exceptionally nice surroundings.