words - Kevin Poulter
TrailerBoat visits renowned Australian boatbuilder International Marine which, this year, is celebrating 50 years of manufacturing

Caribbean gold

International Marine, home of Caribbean boats, is celebrating their 50th year and 50,000 quality boats made to date. TrailerBoat visited this iconic boat building company to talk with Barry and Richard Spooner.

Barry Spooner's father always had boats in the family and found Glass Reinforced Plastics (GRP) in Great Britain in the early 1950s. Short Brothers, who made the Sunderland Flying Boats, were experimenting with this new material, as many British companies had to look for new products to survive after the war. At Short's it was the first time Barry's father had seen GRP being made into a little tray or a bowl - it wasn't a boat. He was quite amazed at this gooey, messy substance. Then they went out for lunch and on return, pulled it out of the mould, and there it was! It caught his imagination.

The economy was good in the late 1950s, so the boats were not hard to sell. Australia had quite high tariffs on imported boats, ensuring there were no imports.

Barry spoke of the early days with some fondness: "The original boats we built were English designs, which today wouldn't be highly regarded, however, by the standards of the day, like motor cars, they were as good as any were.

"Later on, we adopted American designs under various licencing agreements until, in more recent years, we commenced our own design work," he said.

When asked about the state of the current market, Richard was optimistic: "The bigger boat market is certainly more buoyant for us at this stage, but we are still going along with trailerboats.

"We've often agreed when we go to the Sanctuary Cove and Sydney boat shows, the customer has so much choice, he must walk away from the shows more confused than anyone," he said.

Barry then discussed their manufacturing techniques: "We've been fortunate, almost from day one, to enjoy some of the longest production runs in the world.

"Boats like the Bertram 25, 28 and 35. We built our first 35 - and it was a Bertram then - in 1970 and we still build them today.

"Many of the moulds are the original moulds that were made in 1970, as they stood the test of time," Barry said.

Barry and Richard then showed their production facilities, which cover many factories on one extensive site. All indications are International Marine boats will continue for many anniversaries to come.




Published : Thursday, 27 November 2008

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