By Craig Ritchie

Crescent prelaunchFollowing a 10-year hiatus, Richmond, BC-based Crescent Custom Yachts is once again launching new-build superyachts on Canada’s Pacific coast

Gord Downie may well have had Crescent Custom Yachts in mind when he wrote the lyrics to the Tragically Hip classic, Long Time Coming. It has been a long time coming indeed, but the Richmond, BC-based yacht builder is once again launching new-build superyachts on Canada’s Pacific coast following a 10-year hiatus.

The rebirth of the legendary yacht builder began in 2014, when Tim Charles, the grandson of Crescent Custom Yachts’ founder, Jack Charles, purchased the Crescent brand back from the U.S. investors who had owned it for the previous decade. Now operating from its original manufacturing facility in Richmond, Crescent Custom Yachts is nearing completion ofa Crescent 145 – a 44metre, Lloyds-classed, custom fibreglass yacht designed by Jonathan Quinn Barnett for a buyer located in the U.S. Launched in late October, completion of the vessel is expected soon. “We’ll have it reviewed, photographed, and we’ll shoot some videos around it,” says Charles. “That will give us something more tangiblefor prospective clients who prefer to wait and see what that first yacht looks like before making a deeper commitment.”

Crescent 1 long timeAs the Crescent 145 nears completion, the company is set to begin construction of a second new build– aCrescent 110 ordered by a California-based client. With an exterior designed by Luiz Debasto, this aluminum vessel will be the first all-metal yacht launched bythe builder.

A third new-build yacht – a Crescent 155 – is in the design stage and, like the 110, will be built from aluminum.

Finally, the hull of an expedition-style 115, also designed by Jonathan Quinn Barnett, is now ready for a prospective buyer.

From zero new builds in 10 years to multiple new yachts inproduction at once, thechange in ownership seems to have injected completely new life into the once-prolific Canadian yacht builder.


Yachtbuilding In The Blood
With such a strong start out of the gate, it is little wonder that Tim Charles is in such positive spirits these days. After all, he grew up in a boat-building family and the passion for building yachts runs in his blood.

Crescent Custom Yachts was originally launched in the 1980sas Crescent Beach Boatbuilders, named for its location on Boundary Bay, between Vancouver and the U.S. border. A successful businessman in the trucking industry, Jack Charles began producing yachts as a sideline project after purchasing a custom yacht of his own. Initially sourcing hulls from American shipyards and completing them in Canada on a custom-order basis, Crescent soon outgrew its original production space and moved to a state-of-the-art shipbuilding facility in Richmond, rebranding as Crescent Custom Yachts to better reflect the unique, high-end products it created.

Tim Charles joined the family business as a young man, quite literally bypushing a broom. Shortly after he graduated from business school, financial pressures from a soft market led the family to close the business in 2004. Charles was among those laid off, but his passion for boat building remained undiminished. “I really wanted to be in the yacht business, so I started Platinum Marine Services, specializing in yacht refits and transformational overhauls,” he says. “I immediatelyhired many of the former Crescent employees, who were exceptionally skilled and talented. I leased service bays from the new owner of the building that Crescent Marine had formerly occupied. Within a year I had the entire facility, and I have had it ever since.”

With the benefit of an experienced, skilled workforce able to handle projects in fibreglass, aluminum, and steel, Platinum Marine soon grew to more than 100 employees, operating a six-bay, fully enclosed shipbuilding facilitycomplete with a 330-ton Marine Travelift. Sister companieslaunched since include CCY Marine, a boathouse construction company also based in Richmond, and Milltown Marine Services, a full-service boat repair company located at Milltown Marina in Vancouver’s historic Marpole neighborhood.

Crescent Yacht 1 RolloutAll In The Family
As Tim Charles established himself in the marine industry, Crescent Custom Yachts was sold to WorldSpan Marine, a Florida-based investment group, which had previously acquired another Canadian yacht builder, Queenship Marine Industries. The group’s intent was to build yachts under the Crescent banner but,for a variety of reasons,none were ever launched. WorldSpanultimately filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011.

That event opened the door to Tim Charles. Once the smoke from the WorldSpan breakup cleared, he was able to re-acquire the Crescent brand and intellectual property, and bring it back to Richmond where it shares facilities withthe existing Platinum Marine operation. Today, the two businesses operate side-by-side from the same shipyard with the same employees – Crescent focusing on new builds, Platinum on refits.

“I saw an opportunity to bring Crescent Custom Yachts back to life by utilizing the capabilities of our exceptional craftsmen,” explains Charles. “Crescent is a collaboration of the talents of these people and others who have worked at some of BC’s best shipbuilders such as Rayburn Yachts, McQueen Yachts, Richmond Yachts, Queenship, and West Bay Yachts. We are fortunate to have the best craftsmen available in the Pacific Northwest and it shows in our work.People come to see Crescent and they’re not walking into a start-up operation, they’re meeting with an established, experienced company that isn’t rife with unknowns. We have established capabilities and a long history of managing major projects, and that instills a certain level of confidence in any buyer.”

It also provides the company with the benefit of being able to leverage existing relationships with major yacht brokers, a key consideration in an industry where word-of-mouth endorsement remains critically important. “Having Platinum Marine allowed us to walk before we ran,” explains Charles. “Our new 145 will go a long way towards demonstrating what we’re truly capable of today. We’re not sitting here waiting on an order; we have current work, a long history of strong customer relationships, and a track record of successful industry partnerships. That definitely helps.”


Enviable Timing
What helps even further is an incredible sense of timing. Charles acquired the Crescent nameplate just aseconomic recovery in the U.S. – oneof the world’s key yachting markets – beganto hit full stride. According to data from the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), sales of yachts larger than 40 feet remain one of the industry’s fastest-growing categories.

One effect of the strengthening U.S. dollar is that it now provides Crescent withthe benefit of an extraordinarily attractive currency exchange rate. With the Canadian dollar presently trading in the area of 73 cents U.S., the company enjoys a significant cost advantage when competing against U.S. or European yacht builders. That was not the case three years ago, when the Canadian dollar was trading at par with the U.S. dollar.

“The Canadian dollar has held long enough at a low enough position where a lot of U.S. dollar currency-based clients are now looking at this opportunity as exactly that – an opportunity to leverage the exchange rate and get more yacht for the same price,” says Charles. “We sell everything in Canadian dollars, so that represents a huge opportunity for a buyer. By operating in Canadian currency we obviously have to pay more money for some equipment, but the way we’ve structured it, materials are set-priced with minimal to no markup. We make our money in the labour rates. We’re very excited as we start the boat show season this year because it looks like the currency rate will remain at a fairly steady and consistent level for some time yet.”

Charles Crescent 1While the timing for the relaunch of Crescent Custom Yachts has been a bit of a happy accident, the same can be said for the company’s location. The entire British Columbia coast is a popular cruising route, and particularly so for the protected waters separating Vancouver Island from the mainland. Because the city of Vancouver is a cosmopolitan Pacific Rim city, Charles’ Platinum Marine operation deals with a diverse, global client group – many of whom elect to leave their boats in the Pacific Northwest year-round. This customer pool – half based in the U.S., perhaps a quarter located in Canada, and the balancesituated elsewhere in the world, are all prospective future customers for Crescent Custom Yachts, according to Charles. With such a large proportion of its client base located outside of Canada, the competitive advantage represented by Crescent’s currency exchange rate situation cannot be overstated.


The Best of Both Worlds
Today, Crescent Custom Yachts finds itself with the wind solidly at its back. Between economic recovery in key markets and the ability to leverage an attractive exchange rate, business for both new builds under the Crescent nameplate and refits under Platinum Marine is booming.With all the pieces now in place, the future for Crescent Custom Yachts should be busy – and profitable.

Gord Downie may well have had Crescent Custom Yachts in mind when he wrote the lyrics to the Tragically Hip classic, Long Time Coming. It has been a long time coming indeed, but the Richmond, BC-based yacht builder is once again launching new-build superyachts on Canada’s Pacific coast following a 10-year hiatus.

The rebirth of the legendary yacht builder began in 2014, when Tim Charles, the grandson of Crescent Custom Yachts’ founder, Jack Charles, purchased the Crescent brand back from the U.S. investors who had owned it for the previous decade. Now operating from its original manufacturing facility in Richmond, Crescent Custom Yachts is nearing completion ofa Crescent 145 – a 44metre, Lloyds-classed, custom fibreglass yacht designed by Jonathan Quinn Barnett for a buyer located in the U.S. Launched in late October, completion of the vessel is expected soon. “We’ll have it reviewed, photographed, and we’ll shoot some videos around it,” says Charles. “That will give us something more tangiblefor prospective clients who prefer to wait and see what that first yacht looks like before making a deeper commitment.”

As the Crescent 145 nears completion, the company is set to begin construction of a second new build– aCrescent 110 ordered by a California-based client. With an exterior designed by Luiz Debasto, this aluminum vessel will be the first all-metal yacht launched bythe builder.

A third new-build yacht – a Crescent 155 – is in the design stage and, like the 110, will be built from aluminum.

Finally, the hull of an expedition-style 115, also designed by Jonathan Quinn Barnett, is now ready for a prospective buyer.

From zero new builds in 10 years to multiple new yachts inproduction at once, thechange in ownership seems to have injected completely new life into the once-prolific Canadian yacht builder.



 

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