Modern aluminum fishing boats are incredibly complex and sophisticated. Hulls utilize complex bends and curves that tame waves and deliver a soft, dry ride, while interiors are made to combine durability, comfort and practicality into a single, good-looking package that fully integrates the latest electronics, high-end live wells, rod storage and more.
Whether riveted or welded, all aluminum fishing boats begin life as massive, heavy rolls of raw aluminum plate that can weigh more than three tons. These rolls provide the aluminum plates of different thicknesses and textures, which are used to create the hull and other major components.
Rolled aluminum must first be decoiled, which involves a decoiling machine which straightens the rolled aluminum into straight, flat sheets, which are cut to length. The flat plates then move to a cutting room, where sophisticated CNC laser routers cut the flat blanks into carefully shaped pieces which will form the hull bottom, the side gunnels, the transom, and countless other components. The laser router allows incredibly precise cuts that reduce the incidence of sharp edges while substantially reducing the amount of finishing work later down the assembly process. It also allows multiple components to be cut simultaneously from the same aluminum blank, substantially reducing waste. From an aluminum sheet the size of a car, the amount of leftover scrap barely fills a bucket. Those pieces are collected and recycled.
While this takes place, another set of decoiling machines in another portion of the plant flatten and cut much narrower rolls of aluminum, which are subsequently formed into components like ribs and spray rails. The different components are then loaded onto carts and moved to the start of the assembly area. CNC equipment is also used to cut wooden components like deck panels, which will join up with the hull farther along in the assembly process.
The process of building a fishing boat starts when the heavy hull plates are loaded onto a wheeled cart, which will be used to move the boat sequentially from one workstation to the next. The first step in the assembly process it to attach the side gunnels, which are initially tacked into place. Internal bracing and transoms are fitted next. Starweld boats are fully welded, while our Starcraft and Smoker Craft hulls are assembled with rivets. In either case, the work is done entirely by hand, which provides an unsurpassed level of quality control as the technicians go over the boat literally inch-by-inch. If a piece of aluminum is even slightly misaligned, it can be addressed right then and there, so the boat is built correctly the first time.
With the heavy work on the outer hull done, the hull is now rotated so that work can commence on its inner structures. The first step it to install the interior ribs and bracing. Then, the hull goes into a water tank for testing. Two technicians climb inside and check the boat for any sign of leaks, misaligned rivets, or other potential defects. It’s another step in a constant process of quality control that exists at every step of production.
Once the hull is certified to be watertight, work can begin on installing interior components, like built-in fuel tanks, live wells, bilge pumps and electrical conduit. That step is followed by the installation of the wooden floor, and now the boat really begins to take shape. That step is followed by the installation of the vinyl or carpet floor covering, along with the interior side panels.
The boat comes together quickly now as major components like the helm console and the splash well, which have been pre-assembled elsewhere in the plant, are installed, along with the seats and other components.
At this stage the entire boat is thoroughly cleaned in preparation for painting. Working in a dust-free environment, dust, dirt, waxes and even fingerprints are carefully removed using a progressive rage of cleansers until the boat is almost sterile. Skilled workers then then begin the process of masking off the boat as required, including intricate taping work for what will become the final graphics. The masked boats then wait for their turn in the spray booth where a technician gives everything one last check before applying a primer coat, followed by a series of tough, urethane colour coats. After baking in an oven for a durable, smooth, hard finish, the boat emerges from the paint shop and the masking paper is carefully peeled away.
At this point the boat is almost ready to go. In the finishing area the final components like steering wheels and engine controls are installed. Some boats will then be shrink-wrapped and shipped to the dealer as bare boats, while others will have their outboard, electric motor and fish finder installed right at the factory – it all depends how the boat was ordered.