Homebuilders, no matter how busy they are, often construct model homes just to show the world what they can do when there's no customer to constrain them. That's the idea behind Burger Boat Company's Advanced Construction Series (ACS), and the 106-foot raised-pilothouse motoryacht WOW is the program's latest issue.
Like its predecessor, WIMIL, a 90-foot ACS yacht, WOW was sold before she ever hit the market. Part of the reason may be the two guiding principles cited by Burger president David Ross as I discussed the ACS program with him.
First, the basic design of the yacht, in Ross's words, is "tried and true," aimed squarely at the middle of the bell curve of yacht buyers interested in this size range. Something more exotic might be fun for the builder, but that's not what most yachtsmen want for family cruising and charter, Burger's prime market.
Second, Ross does not view an ACS yacht as a spec build. Rather than completing the yacht to the 70 percent or 80 percent point and waiting for a customer to come along to specify the details of the interior finish and equipment, Ross insists on delivering a complete yacht, outfitted to a level higher than most custom clients would specify on their own.
According to Ross, many customers balk at the cost of certain accoutrements and then wish later that they'd included them. By eliminating the "line item veto" that is a normal part of contract negotiations for custom yachts, the ACS program delivers an extremely high-end yacht that can still be sold at a competitive price by taking advantage of the builder's standard procedures and materials.
That's the good news. The bad news is that because of the success of Burger's traditional business-full custom yachtbuilding-another ACS yacht will not be started until next year. That one, Ross says, will be in the 130- to 150-foot range. Clearly the center of the bell curve is moving upward in length worldwide, and Burger is no exception. While a few years ago Burger's average boat was 100 feet or so, that figure is now 142 feet and climbing. WOW, it seems, will be one of a kind.
The yard currently has seven yachts under contract and/or under construction. Concurrent with all this yachtbuilding activity is a reconstruction of the yard itself. "All the old buildings are coming down," says Ross, and not a moment too soon. Burger has been building vessels of various types and sizes on this site for most of its 100-plus years, so a renewal is due. But don't fret over lost architectural treasures; there were none. In addition to the larger construction halls already in use, a new joinery shop and design-engineering building will be completed in 2006. There's also a new 500-ton lift to handle the increasingly larger yachts in a manner less spectacular but far safer-for both yacht and personnel-than the yard's traditional side launchings or the more recent use of cranes.
While Ross looked to Burger tradition for WOW's profile and arrangement, Douglas Richey, Burger's interior designer, found inspiration for the yacht's woodwork in a single huge log of English brown oak. Veneers and solids from the log were used throughout the yacht, while burled sections were quartered and bookmatched for use as accents. The coffered overhead above the dining table and the bulkhead above the master berth are exceptional.
The selection of wood for the interior is a prime example of the ACS concept in action. Ross says that most yacht owners shy away from oak, fearing they'll end up with a yellowish hue. Even on those rare occasions when oak is specified, it is often bleached or limed to assure a near-white finish. English brown oak, by contrast, has distinctly brown overtones that enabled Richey to achieve an old world look.
The theme is highlighted by dark mocha wenge for specific areas of decking, and bronze is used for several prominent accent pieces. A bronze vessel sink is used in the day head, which has metallic tile overhead and a bronze glass mosaic countertop.
The pilothouse, while featuring the latest in "glass bridge" electronic technology, has a definite gentleman's club feel to it, with lots of oak and antiqued chocolate brown leather. Matching leather is used on both the STIDD helm chair and the spacious settee that surrounds a triangular emperador marble table.
Abaft the pilothouse is the aforementioned dining room with its impressive coffered overhead. The space opens to the saloon, which features sofas in cream chenille to complement and soften the look of the darker joinery. A highlight of the saloon is a pair of matching curved corner windows that extend full height, with motorized draperies that travel on curved traverse tracks to provide privacy when desired. A hinged glass door in the center of the aft bulkhead is flanked by large windows, also full height, and on the aft deck is a 54-inch-round granite table with bronze Klismos dining chairs.
Believing that many owners prefer to carry fewer guests but in greater comfort, Ross built WOW with just three staterooms, all below deck. The master suite spans the full beam immediately abaft the crew quarters. There is a tremendous amount of storage space in the cabinetry outboard of the berth and in the two spacious walk-in hanging lockers. His and hers heads forward of the berth share a large shower on centerline. The dining room's beams and coffering are echoed in the lighting panels above the head of the berth as well as in the oak beams that span the room from port to starboard.
The two guest staterooms are nearly identical in arrangement, differing only in dÈcor and in berthing. The starboard stateroom has fore-and-aft twins, while the port is fitted with an athwartship queen berth. Both have hanging lockers forward and en suite heads with showers aft. The lower foyer features a recessed niche for objets d'art, a nice touch I first admired several years ago on another Burger, Argyle, where it housed a statuette of what had to be the world's most aesthetically challenged bagpiper-and bagpipers are not generally an attractive lot to begin with.
Topside, WOW has a centerline helm on the flying bridge, with companion settees both port and starboard. A dinette is aft to port, with a large bar and four stools to starboard, all partially shaded by an extended radar arch. Tender stowage and a davit lie aft.
It is interesting to me that WOW, while clearly more modern in profile, hull form and equipment, is still evocative of the yachts built under the tutelage of Henry Burger years ago. These yachts are as popular and as in demand as ever, for the simple reason that good design and sound construction are qualities that, "tried and true," never go out of style. David Ross was adamant about building WOW his way and there is no reason to believe that will change with Burger's next ACS yacht. I also expect that the next one, whatever its length, will again sell before it's ever offered for sale.
Contact: Burger Boat Company, (920) 684-1600; www.burgerboat.com.