Predator Boats

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Aluminium boat builders come and go. Because many sheet-metal shops perceive that there is a ready market for alloy boats (they’re right), they get into the business of boat building. Sometimes they are around for a year or two, sometimes longer. Usually, they build a few boats, realise there’s more to it than they thought, then give it away. Most small scale alloy boat builders around today won’t be building boats ten years from now, or so the experience of the last ten years would suggest.

There are exceptions. Some of the larger production builders have been around more than ten years and a few smaller builders have also done their time. Predator Boats is one of them.

Predator Boats grew out of Triangle Marine, a company then making a range of boating accessories. Company Director, Doug Dingle, has a long history in the marine industry at every level, particularly boat building. They built their first aluminium Predator boat in 1990, the charter boat Earl Grey, to a design with many (then) unique features. The boat has worked constantly ever since, is still owned by the same people, and has proved to be ideally suited to the task for which it was designed.

With Earl Grey, Predator incorporated flooding ballast tanks to add stability at rest. It was to be a feature in all subsequent Predator boats and has since been adopted by numerous other alloy builders. The hull was also painted — again, an innovation soon taken up by other alloy builders and now so common it no longer elicits any comment and the finish and attention to detail set new standards.

In the ten years since Earl Grey, Predator Boats have crafted around 40 boats between 5.8 and 9m, not counting 18 Predator jet boats built for river racing and sprints, and repaired and modified numerous other aluminium boats. Repairing broken boats has reinforced the company’s understanding of the design and structural requirements of alloy powerboats.

Each Predator boat is unique; the company specialises in personalised, semi-custom boats based on well-proven hull designs built to exacting specifications. They’re not production boats and the standard of finish is second to none.

Doug has a passion for detailed finish. It’s evident at every stage of construction, from the drawings through to the finished paint job. All his boats are over-built and properly engineered says Doug. Sound engineering is the key, and he pays the same attention to areas that can’t be seen as he does to the bits of the boat in full view — even the bilges are etched and painted to combat the silent killer of all alloy craft: corrosion. Only the best materials are used and Doug refuses to cut corners.

The same is true for the boat’s fit-out. While buyers can fit out the boats themselves (or have someone else do it), Doug prefers to undertake this vital function himself. He adheres to the same strict standards as he does with his boats’ construction and uses only the best he has confidence in. Of course, owners can source their own gear and Doug will fit it, but he always feels happier when he can choose equipment he knows is up to the task. Usually, both the buyer and the builder work together to personalise the boat and its equipment.

While Doug’s boats are not specifically built for speed (except for some of the jet boats, which are designed for racing), they are all great load carriers and extremely comfortable in most sea conditions. Doug’s latest Predator 750 design, a fishing/cruising layout, has a good fishing cockpit, a lock-up saloon-galley area amidships and v-berth sleeping forward. It has a 500-litre fuel tank and plenty of storage, making it ideal for extended cruising.

In recent years, Predator Boats have tended to specialise in larger maximum width trailer boats powered by inboard petrol or diesel jet, sternleg or outboard installations, depending on the owners’ needs. Most have been built with serious sportfishing or charter work in mind. Doug has often been asked about his smaller boats, which have not been built for the last three years, and he is keen to revisit them. He is planning inboard and outboard versions of his popular and successful 6-metre design.

Interestingly, of the forty Predator Boats built so far (not counting jet boats), only five have been sold-on. Of these, two were sold so that the happy customer could buy another Predator boat. That kind of loyalty suggests a healthy level of customer satisfaction with the product — something Doug is justifiably proud of — and provides as good an endorsement as anyone could ask for.

Predator Boats are not the cheapest aluminium boat around. But they are one of the best in terms of engineering integrity, detail and finish. Each one is a labour of love for the builder and most become an object of love to their owners. If you are interested in something a little special in aluminium boats, check out Predator Boats.

A lifetime in boat building and design

Although Doug Dingle grew up around boats, he became really interested in their design while training as an aircraft engineer. Once he was qualified he moved to Sydney where he worked with a friend building a yacht. He so enjoyed the experience that he decided to build his own. At the same time he got involved in building round-bilged boats in steel and aluminium — knowledge he applied to his own boat which he later sailed back to New Zealand and still owns today.

Back home again Doug settled in Whangaroa where he set up a yard to build steel fishing boats. He also built a 53-foot yacht. He then built his own motor-sailer for commercial fishing at the Three Kings, Whangaroa and elsewhere. He worked the boat himself for a time before taking it and his family to Auckland.

While his boat fished the West Coast of the South Island, Doug built more steel yachts, worked in installing and fitting out large systems and specialised in large-scale marine engineering projects.

This work continued through the late eighties at which point Doug became involved with the Spirit of New Zealand project. Spirit is a 145-ft steel sail-training vessel. Doug oversaw the project from start to finish — he even built the shed!

Spirit was interesting in many respects — not least her immense size. She was also one of the first vessels in Auckland to have used computer lofting in her design.

After Spirit, Doug was involved in building the super-yacht Aquel, and several other steel and alloy yachts for Thackery Yachts. A stint building alloy hulls for Red Knight Inflatables convinced Doug to start his own business, Triangle Marine, and in 1990 the first Predator Boat was built. Since then he’s built 40-odd Predators of various lengths and 18 jet boats for racing and sprinting.

 

 

 This article is reproduced with permission of
NZ Fisherman Magazine

John Eichelsheim
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

 

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