Meet Barrett Howarth

Vice President of Mag Bay Yachts

IMG_5545There’s a chance Barrett Howarth could have done something besides build boats. A very, very small chance. See, Howarth grew up on the floor of the Cabo Yachts factory. His crib was a boat. He was pushing a broom at a year old. He was drawing boats in preschool. He prepared metal for the metal shop by seven years old. His weekends were spent driving tugs and moving overhead cranes, not playing video games. He tried every job in the factory and learned from the best. Eventually, as was expected, he wanted to start building boats for real.

Sea: How did the idea for Mag Bay Yachts crystallize?
Howarth: I had always wanted to build a center console-type boat. Shortly after we sold Cabo, I redid a 16-foot Boston Whaler and made it into a mini-center console. After learning a ton, I sold that boat and rebuilt a 21-foot Chris Craft Seahawk center console. That boat taught me even more and really added fuel for starting Mag Bay (magbayyachts.com). What ultimately pushed my dad and me over the edge was a little 13-foot Boston Whaler I redid for the son of a friend of mine. At the time, I was hanging cabinets in homes and my friend came to me and said, “Hey, let’s redo this boat and you can teach my son Riley how to build a boat over the summer.” I quit my job, and a few months later Riley and I completed the most custom 13-foot Whaler on the planet, hands down. My dad, initially against the project, looked through the boat once it was finished, looked at me and asked, “You sure this is what you want to do?” When I said yes, he said, “All right, let’s get going.” We contacted Michael Peters the next day and got started.

How many designs did you go through before landing on one you loved?
I probably drew well over 100 different variations of a center console coming up with ideas for our boat. When we got in touch with Michael Peters, we said the main priority was to be different than everyone else. I didn’t want to be building another boxy square boat. We sent him a package of drawings and pictures and let him work his magic. The first renderings from MPYD were of a 29-foot inboard diesel center console. I took the drawings to the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show and went to our old dealers and asked them what they thought. Everyone loved the boat but nobody wanted diesels.

The next design was a 32-foot twin-outboard center console with a cuddy. I went to Miami and did the same thing. Everyone loved the design but nobody wanted the cuddy. I spent a few days walking the show and asking random people what they thought and what they would want in a boat. After getting a lot of great input from our old dealers and various people, I booked a ticket to Sarasota and sat down with Bill Ganner and Michael Peters for a full day of designing. Before lunchtime, we had raised the floor height a few inches, raised the deck height a few inches and stretched the boat to 33 feet, 6 inches. During lunch, Mike paused and asked if I wanted steps in the hull. Having ridden in one of his stepped-hulled boats, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so as soon as we finished lunch we started over and added steps to the hull. It was one long day, but at the end we had the bones of the Mag Bay 33. Though we only went through three big variations with MPYD, we had hundreds of drawings of every aspect of the boat.

What’s been most fulfilling about starting the company?
The whole process has been really amazing for me. I remember the day the hull plug arrived, I unloaded and unwrapped it myself. I couldn’t wait to get started! Watching and experiencing the company grow has been awesome. When we started, it was three of us sanding the hull plug. Fast forward two years and we now have 15 guys. We have employees I have known since I was four or five years old. The most fulfilling part, though, is starting this company and working with my dad. We butt heads a bit in the shop, but I’m extremely fortunate to be able to work alongside him. Without him I would have never been able to do this.Hull 8

Why build in California?
Very simple: our employees. We have the best employees on the planet. They are the heart and soul of our operation, and without them we would never have a chance against the stiff competition. On paper, its nuts to build a boat in California. We’re on the opposite coast of 95 percent of our competition, and the state isn’t the most business friendly. With that said, we have lots of space up here in the desert, and we have a fantastic climate to do really good fiberglass work.

What are a few of the features you hope buyers appreciate most?
Besides the boat’s good looks, we get the most compliments on our attention to detail, fit and finish, impeccable wiring and just how clean everything is overall. I love asking people to take a look under the gunwales and check out how we finish everything off. People love opening the lazarette hatch and looking at a finished fiberglass floor. Our stainless splashwell plate with integrated outboard flush has been a big hit as well.

Have you made any design tweaks based on owner feedback?
We definitely have. We’ve adjusted console spacing and aft console seating height, we’ve added handrails, and adjusted the position of a few components throughout the boat. Customer feedback is extremely important to us, and when one of our dealers or customers gives us a suggestion we listen. It’s amazing what you can pick up and improve on from simple dockside chat with your customers.

What’s next for May Bay?
The next boat from us will be a larger center console in the high 30-foot to low 40-foot range. Our eventual goal is to get back into the twin diesel sportfisher market. We would absolutely love to do an updated version of the Cabo 35 flybridge at some point.

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