Producing more than 17,000 vessels over 50-plus years is no easy task, but Princess Yachts has turned the science of boatbuilding into an artfully choreographed dance. Whether it’s the company’s craftspeople looming 1,780 miles of wire (about the distance from Miami to Maine) per year or the lamination team infusing the builder’s 131-foot 40M hull (a seven-hour process), this yard makes efficiency and stringent attention to detail part of the construction plan.
The result is a fleet of yachts that consumers can count on to be predictable, something the Princess 68 illustrated for me during a late-afternoon sojourn on England’s Plymouth Sound. The hum of her 1,200 hp MAN diesels was barely noticeable in the salon as our captain pushed the throttles to the pins, taking her up to 32 knots. She turned as if on rails, and there was nary a creek or groan while the yacht carved S-turns like a slalom skier
As I looked around the 68’s aft-galley setup with pass-through and the U-shaped settee for six to eight guests to port, I found it hard to see even an inch of space that was wasted. The 68’s volume is optimized in part by the full-size mock-ups the builder creates for every new model, so the Princess team can see how CAD concepts work in the real world. During my time at the yard, I also got to see one of the builder’s future models in mock-up. While I can’t share exactly what I saw yet, the benefits of making the full-scale version allow the Princess team to create an aft-deck layout I’ve never seen. (Sorry about the tease, but stay tuned.)
I found it hard to see even an inch of space that was wasted. The 68’s volume is optimized in part by the full-size mock-ups the builder creates for every new model.
About 80 percent of each Princess Yachts vessel is built in-house, excluding such items as engines, air conditioning and the like, giving the builder a high level of quality control. It’s noticeable in such details as the Princess logo etched into cleats and those aforementioned seamless looms labeled for easy identification.
The precision is partially thanks to the company’s apprenticeship program, in which employees get trained on-site, both in a workshop environment and on the production floor. That investment leads to a well-trained workforce (about 2,500 employees producing almost 250-plus yachts from 39 feet to 131 feet per year), and the builder gives those employees materials, technology and testing ability in order to ensure the final products are the best they can be. To that end, Princess creates resin-infused hulls and other large parts (some smaller parts are still hand-laid), and uses carbon fiber in areas where strength with less weight is needed to optimize performance. A CNC router creates plugs to make molds that become new Princess models.
All of the builder’s yachts are also built to a precise schedule. Princess can tell an owner exactly what should (and is) happening on a particular day in the build cycle. Every yacht’s job book lists the number of days into the build, the approximate hours required for the build, and any job delays, keeping everyone accountable for quality and efficiency without sacrificing one for the other.
It didn’t look like there were many delays in any of the production lines I visited. They were buzzing like beehives. I’ve been visiting yacht builders for 18 years, and Princess had some of the most active yards I’ve seen, whether it was the company’s small-yacht yard (for hulls 39 to 48 feet) or the M-Class facility, where it builds the 30M, 35M and 40M mega-yachts.
The day I left the M-Class facility, Princess was giving its new 98-foot 30M her first dip in the salt before she would head to the Cannes Yachting Festival. The builder’s crew was smiling with accomplishment, and the sun, which had been hiding earlier that morning, came out to greet the yacht as the Travelift lowered her into the drink.
I looked over and noticed a covered slipway dated 1703. It’s still used. In fact, there was a boat in it. To my left was a rich history of British boatbuilding, and 200 yards to my right was the 30M showing off the country’s boatbuilding present.
If Princess Yachts keeps to the path I saw during my visit, the future there should be bright.