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Thirty-nine years ago, Glasstream Powerboats first ignited its path to success in the boating industry. The company has the unique ability to serve several different markets, from families eager to spend a summer on the water, to fishermen hungry for the catch of the day, and even to law enforcement guarding coasts around the world. In its inception, founder and designer A.L. Kirkland introduced the world’s first inverted, stepped hull for his race boat “Turn of the Century.” Kirkland’s innovations and designs have maintained his original ideas while reimagining how they’re executed, by improving acceleration, offering better handling and reducing fuel consumption to make for a softer, drier ride.
“They just have a long history. It’s a name that’s been around forever,” said Art Naranjo, North American Composites account manager. “It’s always been a quality boat, so they have great brand recognition, and they take a lot of pride in consistently building a good product.”
Because of Glasstream’s ability for customization, the company has some government contracts for law enforcement and military boats in countries including Qatar and Germany. However, the bulk of sales is for recreational use. Ashley Strong, director of sales, marketing and public relations at Glasstream, said a lot of that is due to the appeal of the price tag and Glasstream’s ability to keep manufacturing under one roof. “Being able to provide your average American family with a luxury item for a price point they can afford is a rewarding feeling,” Strong said.
Classic Designs, Classic Creativity
Kirkland began building wooden boats with his father at a young age, from whom he learned the art of creating a boat that was efficient and appealing, said Strong. By age 12, he was learning the art of working with fiberglass. Years later, with the founding of Glasstream, the company became the largest independently owned bass boat manufacturer in the industry. His footprint was growing rapidly and so was his need to build a larger, performance-style boat. After spending time in various countries working alongside distinguished boat builders, he visited Italy to research the step hull, where he modified and designed his own version of the step hull that made its debut on “Turn of the Century,” his offshore racing boat. “He works with a lot of Italian boat designers over there, and in 1988 brought that over when he was offshore racing. He designs everything so unique — [including the] performance-style type hull,” Strong said.
In order to keep up to date on trends, Kirkland watches auto industry trends closely, building further on decades of success. With roots throughout the Southeast, Glasstream was founded in 1980 in Nashville, Georgia, but operates out of Dothan, Alabama, with a research and development facility in Panama City, Florida. The Alabama facility recently completed Phase 2 of two for its expansion project, increasing the total production square footage to 27,000 while adding dozens more jobs to the Dothan community.
Its expanded manufacturing plant, which houses all aspects of boat building under one roof, allows for more hands on deck to carry out Kirkland’s designs — all of which was conceived from an inspiring creative process. “Honestly, it’s a surreal experience to watch him design a boat and be able to watch his ideas come to life. He takes what others say is impossible or can’t possibly be done and makes it happen, because he’s not like a lot of people now who just do it on the computer or have a lot of it done electronically,” Strong said. “He’s old school. He draws the boat out on a napkin and then goes from there and literally tools every part of the mold to fit that boat. He will bring his designs to our CAD/CAM engineers and begin the actual build of the new boat model.”
Naranjo, who, along with NAC, has serviced Glasstream for more than five years, said their boats combine performance with beauty. “They do have an eye for lines, and their products are so attractive because they have an art for creating beautiful products and they have a very sleek, high-performance look that is very functional,” he said. “They combine style with functionality, and I think that’s what sets them apart. You could see one of their boats from a distance and know it’s their boat.”
From Design to Construction
Glasstream builds 17- to 36-foot, semi- to full-custom center console boats serving a variety of uses with high performance, family center console and inshore models. “With a center console boat, it allows the consumer to have the ability to spend a day out fishing or take it out for a cruise with their family — Glasstream is the SUV of boating. It can go in saltwater, freshwater — and we’re semi- to full-custom, so every boat is a little bit different,” Strong said. “We never want to be that cookie-cutter type boat company. We’re never going to be that boat company that just kind of pushes product out the door. Every single boat is a part of who we are and the legacy that we have in the industry.”
Building on its ability to create custom-made vessels, Glasstream offers different types of center consoles, including some with a drop-in liner versus a finished deck and hull, and the 25- to 36-foot boat, which can come in cabin or open. “The 42-foot will be open and cabin, if you can believe it,” Strong explained. “It will offer two living quarters that include all your cabin features as well as the ability to have space on the deck to walk around and lounge in the sun.”
Composites materials are used in the hulls, decks and small parts fabrication process. NAC currently provides Glasstream the white gel coat, used as the exterior color in many of these parts. NAC also provides acetone, mainly used as a solvent, to clean tools and other equipment.
You rely on the structure of these parts when you use your vessel, and trust that the manufacturer has done a good job during the lamination process — making sure that the correct amount of layers are applied, eliminating air entrapment, and using the correct glass to resin ratio. Even though you rely on the engine to deliver you to your destination, it’s that hull and other components that keep you and your family floating safely. Glasstream takes much pride in making sure everything is right.
In addition to NAC’s professional services, Strong also praised the company for doing its part to lend a hand to the communities it serves. “We have an annual charity golf tournament, and this year will be our 10th year. Proceeds for that are going to Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild the community of Panama City for people who lost their homes after Hurricane Michael,” she explained. “NAC does a really great job about participating in these types of events by donating or sponsoring to help make a difference within our local community and to just be on a more personal level with us.”