“The most valuable lesson I’ve learned has been to truly listen and understand the needs and wants of the customer.”
Jeff Rhodes, Founder of Coastal Craft Welded Aluminium Boats Ltd., has built much more than quality aluminum boats and yachts over the past couple of decades; he’s built one of the most admired boat-building businesses in North America.
Twenty years ago (1996), Jeff started Coastal Craft with the vision to “design strong, safe, and hardworking aluminum boats.” Based in British Columbia, Coastal Craft has won several awards and titles, including the 2014 AIM Editor’s Choice for Best Motoryacht in the 60-69’ category.
Yacht purchases are often in the millions and the buyers put a significant amount of time and care into their decision. When building a boat for the specific wants and needs of luxury customers, there are hundreds of moving parts and considerations. According to Jeff, the hardest and most important part of the process is going through the design phase of a project with the future owners. “Sometimes working with them through the education process is needed to make sure there is a solid understanding of what they want and how we can create that. Sometimes you’re debating constructively to make sure you won’t disappoint in the end,” says Jeff, who stresses going above and beyond for each customer.
Recently, Coastal Craft built a custom 65’ Concord that includes an interior elevator and exterior lifts, both of which the company had never done before. Jeff and his team worked to problem solve for the customer and researched how other yachts had incorporated elevators into their structure. After finding a local company that could provide the lifts and elevator, they worked with them to design the boat to ensure it could be fitted properly with these features that one of the owners needed to properly enjoy the vessel. “We work closely with partners and rely on vendors to participate in the design of the boat to meet the customer’s needs. The design and this process can’t be undervalued or rushed through,” Jeff said.
In addition to unique designs and features based on individual clients, Jeff says the industry has shifted significantly over the past 10 years. “We’re not building the same types of boats. What I am seeing in the last decade is more customization in boats that are under 100 feet or even under 70 feet than in previous decades.” This change has required Coastal Craft to remain flexible in the types of yachts they build and the customization options they have available.
Every aspect of the relationship between Jeff and the soon to be owners is important. While he knows his boats and the industry better than most buyers, in the end, the customer has to decide what will fit what they want. “I can’t tell someone how they are going to use their boat, but I can use their description to help guide them in this process. I need to understand how they plan on using the boat, and that is gained through having an open dialogue with them.”
Asked about the most important aspects of buying a boat as a consumer, Jeff said, “It’s hard to just walk through a boat show and know what you’re getting. You need to carefully go through specifications and what the boat (you’re considering) is intended to do.” Jeff recommends to “fully understand how you are going to use the boat,” which may include hiring a broker to help determine and match desired use tendencies with a boat that will perform in those conditions. Jeff also suggested to “take your time and research companies you’re considering. Do not rush the process of qualifying your builder. They may be a great builder with a great reputation, but (what they build) might not match what you’re looking for. Buyers will gravitate towards a great brand, but want something that doesn’t fit what the builder makes.”
Our biggest takeaway from the interview with Jeff Rhodes is the importance of defining exactly what you intend to use the boat for and research builders or available boats that may fit what you want. Buyers can avoid commonly made mistakes by hiring a certified professional yacht broker or speaking with others who have gone through the process from start to finish and are satisfied with their boat.
Did you enjoy this interview? Also read 8 Custom Boat Building Considerations: What Buyer’s Need to Know. To contact Jeff Rhodes and Coastal Craft, call 604-886-3004 or visit CoastalCraft.com.