It was 1891 when a 14-year-old named John Ludwig Hacker, a native of Detroit, set out to construct his first rowboat—entirely by hand. The rowboat was Hacker’s calling; luck and providence, it seemed, were with him. His interest in ships of all kinds led him to take night courses in the art and science of boat design, and he would soon go on to be a preeminent naval architect, eventually creating the Hacker Boat Company in 1908. He built for utility, and for style too, and for the glory of achieving something that’s never been achieved before. In 1911, Hacker designed the Kitty Hawk, a boat with a stepped-hydroplane hull that immediately set new speed records. He continued to innovate, and by the 1930s, Hackers were regularly purchased for their sleek aesthetic appeal and speed. Today, they continue to be loved by boating enthusiasts all over the world.
These pleasure crafts are the art forms of the boating industry, and the ingenuity of Hacker-Craft’s architects and master craftspeople is cherished, much like the tailors of Savile Row. The boats are entirely customized, the handmade virtue still beloved. In fact, it’s these time-honored rituals that make Hackers so desirable.
As with other luxury items whose appeal is their pristine one-of-a-kindness, Hackers are head-turners. A master boat builder with 40 years’ experience, who works with the production manager, helps oversee the quality of all the work—the construction, the sanding, the varnishing, the gilding. And the results are stunning. Who would ever imagine that a boat would show such beautiful colors? Or cut through the water so gracefully?
If these are some particular hooks for owning a Hacker, there are also the men and women behind the brand, those who work to keep their rare tradition alive. Erin Badcock, vice president of operations at Hacker-Craft, is particularly proud of the brand’s craftspeople. “An important part of our story is our legacy, and our team today.”
Badcock grew up spending summers on Lake George with her family. “Hacker-Craft boats were being built on the northern end of lake for as long as I can remember,” she recalls. Her father got involved in the business around 2008. When Badcock graduated college, she started working for him. “It seemed like a natural fit when I ended up here.”
Once she began work, she started to develop an appreciation for the building process and construction of the boats. She explained that the veteran craftspeople often train younger individuals in the art of boat building, a class not offered at many colleges or trade schools today. She also said that a Hacker-Craft naval architect could sit down with a client and design a boat from scratch. Then she added an insightful point: because Hacker-Craft builds wood boats, they don’t have the restrictive tooling needs most fiberglass boats require. “We’re able to get really creative.”
Today, Hacker-Craft’s boating facilities are located in Ticonderoga, New York. They have showrooms in Silver Bay, New York, and in Dania Beach in Florida. To help with domestic and international sales, they also showcase their boats at many South Florida yacht shows, like Yachts Miami Beach.
Lately, Hacker-Craft has worked with several superyacht owners to develop utility tenders, boats that allow passengers to easily travel from land to where their yachts are moored. Hacker-Craft has focused on that market over the last few years, and it’s paying off now. Indeed, Hackers offer a luxurious alternative to inflatable utility tenders, and, like other tenders, Hackers can be stored onboard the yachts. That’s helped build relationships with yacht brands. “We’ve been recognized by some of the superyacht builders and owners,” says Badcock of Hacker’s tenders, “and we’re gaining more market share there.”
“We have a great story to tell,” continues Badcock, “and certainly a tradition and a history that goes into each and every boat. We’re able to put out a top-notch, quality product that still lends itself to the traditions of the classic era.”
For more information, visit hackerboat.com.