Crafting a Masterpiece


Thomas Jefferson described Lake George as “a gorgeous lake in the Adirondacks of New York State. It is famous for its crystal water and great beauty.”

The lake still is famous, for the same reasons. But there is a another reason it is renown, one relatively few know about; it’s the home to Hacker-Craft, a boat revered worldwide.

John L. Hacker was considered the most important naval architect of the last century. He started the Hacker Boat Company in 1908. By the 1930s, Hackers were the fastest boats in the world. But as the decades passed, they were purchased not for speed, but for the gorgeous lines and almost unbelievable quality. Or, as a Venetian water taxi captain said recently to a proud new Hacker owner: “Hacker-Craft. It is the best boat in the world.”

Hackers are built by hand. The wood is water resistant, strong and beautiful: Philippine, African, or Central American mahogany. Expertly cut, molded, sanded, varnished, and painted, each boat requires 1400 hours of labor by highly skilled craftspeople in woodworking, metal fabrication, propulsion, and electrical mechanics. Work is overseen by a master boat builder with 40 years’ experience. Fourteen coats of varnish are hand applied using Badger hair brushes. Trial runs on the water are computer monitored to assure the best possible ride and engine performance. The boat seemingly cuts through water, minimizing spray, assuring a gentle ride.

Hackers draw attention to themselves before they are even seen. They have a distinctive sound, like a subtle Harley-Davidson gargle. One owner admitted that he owns a Hacker so he can cruise to a waterfront restaurant and watch people stare at him.

The storied boats have…lots of stories. In the 1930s, the King of Siam (now Thailand) ordered a custom-designed model. It’s still in the possession of his son and the current king, Bhumibol Adulyadej. Bandleader Guy Lombardo cruised his 44-foot Tempo to the waterfront stage at Jones Beach, where he disembarked and lead his orchestra. Two Hackers adorn the decks of the 325-foot Christina O., still considered the world’s most famous yacht. A Hacker served John Paul Getty, Junior’s 262-foot Talitha G., named after the oil scion’s gorgeous wife. Donald Sutherland personally trailers his runabout to the Hacker Boat Company’s facilities. Neiman Marcus selected a custom designed Hacker as one of its “fantasy gifts” in the retailers’ famous Christmas Book. A Hacker was on The Today Show. The royal office of the United Arab Emirates calls the company when the sheik needs a cover for his 32-foot runabout. One CEO owner installed his new Hacker in his headquarters and never launched it—he just wanted to look at it. George Clooney’s former gal pal, Lisa Snowden, piloted one for the opening shot in a T.V. commercial. Lying out of sight on the floorboards underneath the bikini-clad beauty behind the wheel was a fortunate Hacker employee (in case she lost control of the boat). 

When people hear and see a Hacker they often mummer, with respect, “it’s a Hacker.” Considered the ne plus ultra of classic boats, owning one is the boating equivalent of cruising in a Rolls Royce. And, admit it or not, most of us think that is pretty cool.

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