By George Otto ~ October 18th, 2013. Filed under: Current Issue.
Bob Chew, President of Albury Brothers
Albury Brothers Boats President
Bob Chew reveals what’s kept them
in business for over 60 years.
By Laura Dunn
Bob Chew, Albury Brothers Boats President since 2009, says he loves working there for numerous reasons. “Customers rave about the softness of ride. Our 20-footers are completely smooth; they don’t have lifting strakes.” The larger models have only one conservative sized strake per side. Chew also lauds their boat’s keel. “We have a small, minimal keel on our boats, which plays into how the boat handles, tracks, drifts, etc. It’s kinda magical.”
The Albury family started building boats in Man-O-War Cay, Abaco in 1952. Willard Albury started the business with his father and brother, but now works with his sons, Jamie and Don, who were instrumental in getting him to switch from wood to fiberglass in the 80s. Until 1985, Albury Brothers built their boats with Bahamian wood, but finally switched to fiberglass, when the Madera tree became depleted. The first fiberglass boat, an 18.5-footer, was lofted off the last wooden hull. It became very popular because of its simple design and affordability. But soon, customers wanted a bigger boat, which is why the Albury family added the 20′, 23′, and 27′. Soon, they will add yet another boat model—the 33′—to their brand.
SB: Why did Albury Brothers add its Riveria Beach, Florida location?
BC: Due to customer demand, the Albury family-owned company partnered with us in 2003 to establish a U.S.-based Albury Brothers Boats. The Albury family still supervises and controls all materials and construction from their Abaco office.
SB: Tell us about Albury Brothers boat models and what excites you most about them.
BC: Our boats are built for overall seaworthiness. A comfortable cruise speed is 28-35mph. I love that our boats are useable; when seas are rough, Albury boats can ride comfortably without falling off plane. Because our boats tend to push forward, they are essentially on plane at very low speeds, which allows them to ride with their proper attitude over a wide variety of speeds and sea conditions.
With 12 employees, we make 2 dozen boats a year of all 3 sizes combined: the 20′, 23′ and 27′. All three models run between 40-50 mph wide open:
20′ – low 40s
23′ – mid 40s
27′ – upper 40s to over 50
We emphasize simplicity and try not to lose sight of that when the customer orders a boat. However, our boats are sometimes very customized; more than was ever meant to be when Albury was just building a “crawfish” boat.
Sixty percent of our boats are towed behind bigger boats, which is a huge number. It goes back to our reputation of simplicity, structural integrity and seaworthiness – which means our boat will perform well under bad weather conditions, often experienced while being towed over hundreds of miles of open ocean over many years.
We use an old, old methodology. Albury isn’t fancy. We’re about simplicity of design. We’re a small company that builds boats that are built to last. Take our 20-foot boats for example; because of our particular building techniques, it takes us 230 man-hours of build time, unlike other companies that take 90-120 hours on a 20-footer. It takes us 300-plus hours to build our most popular model, the 23-footer (other companies usually take 135-150 hours). The same is true of our 27’ model.
SB: Tell us about the soon-to-be launched 33-footer.
BC: Right now, we’re developing a 33-footer. We actually started working on it five years ago, but put it on the back burner because of the recession. It’s a larger version of our current boats. We started back on it last year and will probably introduce it in the near future—probably in six months to a year. We’re a small company, which is why we can’t rush it to completion.
SB: What most draws customers to your boats?
BC: Our boats are unique and people buy them for three reasons: simplicity of design, smooth ride and structural integrity. Because of our Bahamas heritage, we wanted to keep things simple, which means using minimal hardware. We’ve always been about making a simple boat that doesn’t have a lot of parts that could break. The experienced boater enjoys simplicity; they’ve already been through the hassle of complicated boats. It’s a seasoned boater that comes back to “less is more.”
Our reputation for a smooth ride keeps ‘em coming back because our boats have a very sharp entry forward that tapers into a continuously rounded bottom. We don’t have any large, flat surfaces on our bottom like everyone else. Others have reverse chines and large, aggressive lifting strakes to offset their Deep-V hull. Our boats almost push forward when you apply throttle, almost like an inboard boat. As for structural integrity, we use materials and techniques that almost no one would use because it’s so time consuming. All our models are made to order. We don’t own a chop gun—which is a fast method used to lay up fiberglass and resin. Instead, we truly hand-laminate our boats.
A fourth reason that customers buy from us is that we’re not like anyone else. People don’t tend to ask how our boat compares to another brand, because we don’t compare!
SB: What are some challenges the company is facing in this economy? In this industry? What are you doing to face them, as well as your competitors, head on?
BC: The economy hasn’t affected us that much. We don’t advertise or introduce new models on a regular basis, so our challenges are different than others that many face. (We recently ran our first ad in five years.) Others are on a treadmill; we aren’t. We don’t advertise because our boats enjoy a strong word of mouth following. In our worst year, we built 16 boats; in our best year, we built 28. Those numbers vary as well, based on our model mix, in that a 27′ takes considerably longer to build than our 20′ and 23′.
SB: How often do you go boating? What kind of boat do you own?
BC: I’ve taken out my 20′ Albury a lot during the past three years; probably 60-70 days a year. Fifty of those days are in the Stuart area, where I indulge in my main hobby: fishing. Sometimes I’ll take it to the Keys for a week at a time.