Winter Is Coming

The enormous size of Winters’ creation could very well spur the custom express sport-fish market into uncharted waters — literally and figuratively.

Sport Fishing, Winter Custom Yachts, North Carolina
Tim Winters constructs yachts out of Winter Custom Yachts in North Carolina.Jon Whittle

Deep in the heart of North Carolina, far from the fearsome shoals and hallowed boatyards that dot the Carolina coastline like rivets on a seam, works a man who is about to create a boat the likes of which the world has never seen. Tim Winters of Winter Custom Yachts is building a 65-foot express sport-fish for an ambitious Floridian and his young family. Once the boat hits the brine, she will be the largest Carolina custom express sport-fish ever built. The 33-year-old Winters and his full-time crew of 14 are determined to see the boat through with all the gusto — the expert fit and finish, the nearly unthinkable performance numbers and the quirkily ingenious design choices — that makes Carolina custom builds so singular, and so sought after. Come with Yachting as we get an inside look at the doing behind something that’s never been done before.

Sport Fishing, Winter Custom Yachts, North Carolina
The 65 was first sketched to be longer than a 2009 65-foot Lyman-Morse express, but Winters had to scale down a few inches due to Coast Guard regulations.Jon Whittle
Sport Fishing, Winter Custom Yachts, North Carolina
The 65-foot express sport fishing boat is a custom build for a family in Florida.Jon Whittle

According to Plan

Good design is everything. And this 65-foot express’ unparalleled size presented a unique challenge to the builder. “This is an extremely intricate boat because we are in rare territory — it’s the biggest express ever built in Carolina,” Winters says. “So as far as the design and planning, it has been extremely labor-intensive. There are so many details layered into it. It would have been impossible to build without 3-D modeling because you really need to be able to visualize the details.”

Luckily, Winters is nothing if not a man of vision. And he and his design team are putting every ounce of their talents, ocular and otherwise, to use with this 65. Case in point: the boat’s serpentine fuel tanks. “They’re extremely complex,” Winters says. “The owner wanted the boat to be able to hold 2,000 gallons of fuel for long-range trips. That’s a challenge for a boat like this. We ended up fitting the tanks in great detail to the bottom of the boat. They’re irregularly shaped and fit every nook and cranny. There’s absolutely nothing common about them.”

With such attention to design, it shouldn’t be surprising that the 65’s performance numbers will be laudable. With twin 1,550 hp MANs, she has a projected top end of 41 knots and a cruise of 35 — ideal speeds for a 65-foot fishing boat.

Sport Fishing, Winter Custom Yachts, North Carolina
Winters' 65-foot design is the biggest sport fishing boat is the biggest express ever built in Carolina.Jon Whittle

Decked Out

The 65’s bridge deck is a bit of a marvel. It has three separate levels, which was no easy trick for Winters and his team. However, for the amount of interior space the owner wanted down below (three staterooms and two heads, plus a salon), the levels were a necessity.

Sport Fishing, Winter Custom Yachts, North Carolina
The design called for a boat that could hold up to 2,000 gallons of fuel on long-range trips.Jon Whittle
Sport Fishing, Winter Custom Yachts, North Carolina
Three separate levels are included in the design of the boat.Jon Whittle

Getting It Done

The boat’s build process is underway, and Winters has devoted 14 of his 33 employees to the unprecedented project. “So far, everything is going good,” he says. “The hull laminate on the bottom is three layers of half-inch fir plywood. The side is three layers of quarter-inch plywood. The bottom is encapsulated in a fiberglass Kevlar cloth.” That’s Kevlar, as in bulletproof. This bottom is going to be strong as hell. But while the hull will be as sturdy as they come, that doesn’t mean this boat will be bulky. Weight was of particular concern for Winters. In fact, he says, it might have been the single biggest concern — what with the owner’s desire for both speed and efficiency. “We’ve done everything we can to keep this boat light,” he says. “We cored the bulkheads, all the decks and every bit of superstructure. We are looking to build this thing wet at 66,000 pounds. That’s the goal, and I feel like when all is said and done, that’s right about where she’s going to weigh in.”

Winters has two yards in inland North Carolina, one in Apex and the other in Swansboro. He believes that putting distance between himself and the builders closer to the Outer Banks provides him a niche, as well as enough head space to take on projects at which other builders might scoff.

So far, so good. This monster express sport-fish is scheduled for delivery in spring 2017. Her owner is prepared to fish her hard, far and wide, knowing that whichever port she enters, she’ll be the first of her kind to go there.

Sport Fishing, Winter Custom Yachts, North Carolina
The 38-foot Ricochet would be an ideal Florida sailfish boat, or she could serve as a tender.Jon Whittle

A Good Bounce

Ricochet (at left) is a pretty jewel of a boat that Winter Custom Yachts launched this past spring. At 38 feet long, the walkaround isn’t quite to the same scale as the 65-foot behemoth Winters is currently working on, but her sleek lines, high build quality and sporty performance numbers (twin 550 hp Cummins QSB6.7s push her to an upper-30-knot cruise) certainly bode well for her big sister.

Sport Fishing, Winter Custom Yachts, North Carolina
The owner of the custom yacht needed enough space for him and his family.Jon Whittle

The Magic Johnsons

Anthony Johnson is the owner of the 65 that Winter Custom Yachts has in build. He’s coming out of a 52-foot Cabo and wanted something bigger for himself and his family (two sons fish with him often). Cameron, 11, recently won an award from The Billfish Foundation, and Brady, at the tender age of 7, already has two billfish catches notched on his belt, including a white marlin he caught in Madeira, Portugal, last summer. A more traditional 65-foot convertible was out of the question for Johnson. “I like to be on the same level as the crew when I fish,” he says. “Otherwise I feel like I’m on a charter. Everybody else is having fun down below, and I’m by myself up on the flybridge.” Because Johnson has the family on board so much, he wanted a salon too. That forced him to go custom — nothing on the production express market fit his needs. Nobody builds expresses with a salon on the accommodations level. And that, friends, is precisely why the custom boatbuilding industry exists in the first place.