Welcome to another episode where we interview builders and designers across the industry of catamarans. Today, we present Mark Silverstein from Antares Catamarans. The Antares 44 is a legendary catamaran first introduced by legendary catamaran builder PDQ in 2004. The model was built by PDQ until 2008 when the molds were moved to Buenas Aires, Argentina and production continued under different management. Since then they have made numerous updates to the design and continue to build one of the premier cruising catamarans in the world.
For more news, information about exciting new models, and to put in your build order, please see the website for Antares Catamarans and contact Mark.
Thanks so much for joining us. I know you’re in Malaysia, tell us what brings you to Malaysia for work.
We have a very unique story. We’ve been an owner of an Antares 44 catamaran now, for just over nine years. We started sailing nine years ago with our family, and we ended up settling in Malaysia in the last couple months. Our kids are in school, high school age, so we ended up just stopping here in Malaysia. I’m now working from Malaysia remotely, and travel to the US, when I can, or to Argentina, Buenos Aires, where the boats are being built. This is our home now, at this point.
Wow! How have you settled into Malaysia, has it been a big change for you?
We’ve been living aboard our Antares catamaran for nine years, so it’s just another place to be. We’ve been in Southeast Asia for three years. The kids love it, there’s a lot more amenities and expats in Penang, Malaysia, so it’s a good place to be.
Great! So how many catamarans are you currently building a year, on average?
On average, we build between three to four catamarans per year, and that’s been pretty much our history for the past 10 years. At PDQ, it was maybe three-to-four, or five per year, but we’ve been in that three-to-four per year.
Have you seen an increase as of late, due to COVID, to your business?
I wouldn’t say that we’ve seen an increase. We haven’t seen a decrease, we have a very high demand, very high interest in our boats. The hard part for us, and I think for most catamaran manufacturers, is just the travel to boat shows, that’s challenging. We actually are having our first Antares boat show in four weeks, in Tampa, and we’ve got 35 people signed up. People are flying from Europe to see the boat. It’s our newest boat, and it’s in Tampa. We decided to go ahead and do our own boat show, so we’ve been ecstatic to have 35 people signed up over two days in Tampa, in four weeks. We’re just doing our own thing now. We’re trying to do our own boat shows, basically.
Interesting. How did you select Tampa for the location to host this boat show?
Our newest owner of our newest boat is from Tampa. We’re using his boat and it’s in Tampa. We’re moving the boat show there.
Tell us about the history of Antares and the connection to PDQ.
PDQ is the original builder. Ted Clements is the designer of the boat, he worked for PDQ in Canada. In about 2009, when the exchange rate for the Canadian dollar changed dramatically, they ended up basically saying it’s time for us to close the doors on PDQ. An existing PDQ 44 owner said, “hey, this is a good business model.” He hired a bunch of the people from PDQ and they moved the operation and boatyard down to Buenos Aires, Argentina. For the last 11 years now, the boats been built in Argentina.
Now building boats in Argentina, what were some challenges that you faced in making that transition?
The biggest challenge that we faced was just the cultural differences, from a Canadian boatyard to building boats in Argentina. Then you get into supply chain considerations. The lead time to get components to Argentina was different of course, in Canada.
But end of the day, it’s been a very good result for us, because we found that the workers, in particular in Argentina, are very loyal, very good. The father-son combination that design and do all of our cherry-wood work and on the interior, are the same two leads that we’ve had for the last 11 years in Buenos Aires. So we have a lot less turnover in Argentina than we did in Canada. We think at the end of the day, that has resulted in a lot higher quality boats.
Good, good. So overall it sounds like it’s been a benefit to the business.
It has been. Outside of the logistical components of the supply chain, that’s a harder part.
Right. Are you currently building any other models besides the 44? And then what happened to the molds for the smaller PDQ?
At this point, we build the 44, and only the 44. We’ve had different versions of the 44, so it used to initially be the 44 I and then the 44 GS. Now we’re on the 44 GT. We’ve had a lot of changes that have taken place to the boat over those different iterations of the 44. We have some very exciting things that we’re going to be announcing soon, this year, as it relates to different boats from Antares. It was very confidential, so we’re not going to talk too much about it, but we do have some really good things to be announcing later this year.
You got me on the edge, can you give us any cue as to what it relates to?
Bigger, possibly, might be a keyword. We’re excited about what we’re doing and where we’re going, let’s just say that.
Okay, I’ll stay tuned for more.
Talk to us about the modifications and the molds that you’ve made recently.
The main changes that we’ve been making on the newest GT, deal with a complete redesign of our cockpit. Those changes were significant. It required us to redo a lot of our top side molds in the cockpit, in particular. We did that because over the years, we’ve received feedback from different owners that just wanted to have a new fresh design, so we’ve done that. Our newest boats are under construction at this point, with that new design. It was a lot of work, but we’re happy with those changes.
You are one of the few builders with the galley down layout?
Yes, that’s right.
In your opinion, why is that layout better?
If you look at a boat that’s in the 44-foot range, and that’s 44 to 46 feet. We have found, and myself as an owner having lived on our boat for nine years, that with the galley down, we actually call it a kitchen and not a galley, because we have over 17 different cabinets and cupboards to keep things in our galley, food-wise, cooking appliance-wise. We just have a lot more space for cooking on our boat with the galley down. If it’s galley up, then you get into considerations of space. On a 44-foot boat, your salon becomes a lot smaller, and every owner that has Antares loves the galley down. People have a hard time, sometimes, getting their mind around, “Why would I want to walk down some stairs to do the cooking?” But the mess stays downstairs.
We have a very unique thing on our boat, where we can open up one of the seats and literally open up the galley to those in the salon as well, if they want to. For me, I can tell you it’s a great design having that much space, because we are a live-aboard.
We’re not a charter boat, and most charter boats are galley up, and that’s fine, that works for them. But our design is for a long-term cruiser. Live-aboard, galley-down gives us more space.
So what do you think is the most important element when building a catamaran?
There are always trade-offs in design. If you look at the customers that we target, which I call them the serious live-aboards. Those people that want to really live aboard their boat and travel to very, very far away places. We need to make sure that our design doesn’t compromise the safety and the integrity of what we believe is a safe boat to go around the world.
For example, I’ll take the skeg rudders. You will never see a future interiors without skeg rudders. Why is that important in design? It’s important because when you travel to remote places, you don’t want to have an issue where you lose a rudder, and you lose steering. I can tell you from experience, we were sailing with another boat in Papua New Guinea. They hit a log, we hit a log. The log was one meter in diameter, rolled under the boat. Our rudders were fine, same log, different boat. His rudders were not fine. He had to sail all the way to Australia to get that fixed. It’s those types of design considerations that we’re just not going to compromise.
Same thing with a shaft drive, you’ll never see a sail drive on Antares because we believe that design provides too much maintenance on that boat. To haul a boat out in remote areas, Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, forget it. It’s not easy to do, and you have to haul the boat to fix a leak, a leaking seal on a sail drive. You don’t have to haul a shaft drive to fix those types of problems, so that’s another design consideration that is important for us that we just don’t compromise on.
It sounds like the galley down is viewed from a lot of your buyers as a positive.
What do you think is the biggest challenge in your boat, and getting people to buy it?
The biggest challenge that we would have, I think a lot of catamarans have in general, is you’re dealing with a lot of money to have to pay for a boat. You have to be able to show a potential customer, why spend a million dollars on a new catamaran? Our catamaran, we make no excuses. We are more expensive than another 44-foot catamaran in our same space, and the reason for that is a lot of the designs and the workmanship that goes into our boat, so we have to educate our buyers. Once we show them the boat and they understand those design considerations, we sell the boat.
But again, a different client will buy our boat versus probably a Leopard or a Lagoon. It’s a different budgetary strata, basically.
You alluded to it a little bit earlier on, sounds like some of it is confidential, but what can you share with us about just the future of Antares Catamaran?
Our future is to continue to build what we believe to be the world’s best live-aboard catamarans, plural, with different designs coming downstream to fit that parameter. There’s a change in the market right now, that we’re seeing, as it relates to people that are very interested in being more environmentally friendly. So we are doing things on our boat that are a lot more in line with being environmentally friendly. Right now, on the GT, we’ve gotten completely rid of any LP gas, for safety. We’ve added solar, we’re adding a lot more solar under newest designs, we haven’t even announced that yet. To be completely off the grid, from an environmental perspective, and there’s more to that we’ll be announcing later this year, probably in Annapolis.
I’ve spoken with a few designers and builders now, at this point in the catamaran industry, and you’re right. It’s a market trend, right now, of how can we make the boats emissions free.
That’s right, that’s right.
We look forward to hearing that, and hopefully in person, right in Annapolis. Anything else for those viewers today that are interested in learning more about Antares Catamarans, what’s the best way to get in contact with you?
The best way to get into contact with myself and learn more about our boats is just to go to our website www.AntaresCatamarans.com. You’ll find everything that you can imagine on our website, as it relates to boat performance, how we design our boat, and as I mentioned, the skeg rudders, the shaft drives, and lots of other details about why we design and build our boat the way that we do.
That concludes another episode, thank you to our viewers for joining us on catamaransite, and thank you Mark, for your time today.
You’re welcome, thank you very much.