A high quality finish is only as good as the mold it comes from. This is especially true for big parts like the hull, liner and console, but still holds true for smaller parts like fishboxes and hatches. The first step of the Southport process is a mold inspection, repairing any blemishes, and waxing the surface to allow for a smooth, clean de-molding process when the part is finished.
Once the mold maintenance is complete, the first step in building the boat is applying the Gelcoat. This is the outermost layer of the hull. Whether ice blue, flag blue, sea foam green or just white, the process is exactly the same. The Gelcoat is sprayed in to specified thickness in certain areas, and tested throughout the process before it dries.
The first layer of fiberglass to go into the hull is the Skin Coat. This is a sprayed in mixture of chopped fiberglass and resin, applied with a gun that mixes both materials mid-air as they are applied to the hull. The hull is sprayed in sections; before moving onto the next section a technician uses a specialized roller to compact the material and ensure that any air pockets have been removed.
Once the skin coat is cured, the bulk of the hulls structure can be laid in place – the fiberglass cloth. In a predetermined and specific sequence, pre-cut fiberglass cloth sections are laid into the hull. The sections are cut from existing templates to ensure uniformity in strength, thickness, and weight from boat to boat.
With all of cloth in place, the infusion process can begin. This starts by adding a few more layers of material (which are removed at the end of infusion) to help the infusion process. These are specially made fabrics to facilitate resin movement and prevent thick spots, and include integrated feed hoses. Once in place, the vacuum bag is laid into the mold and all of the air is drawn out.
With all fiberglass and specialty cloths in place, the part is bagged and sealed, and all of the air is drawn out of the mold. Before the infusion begins a technician uses a specialized high-sensitivity microphone to find any air leaks in the bag. These leaks will create voids in the final part and must be dealt with before the resin can be drawn into the part.
At this point, the resin is drawn into the part in a highly choreographed sequence to allow optimal flow of resin across the part, to prevent both voids and pools of resin. The resin cures in a couple of hours, and the bag is removed.
The hull is not the only part we build this way- all major structural parts, as well as a few smaller ones, are infused. This includes the grid, liner, ring deck, console, and hard top.
This part, which is most of the way through it’s infusion, is the headliner for the inside of the console.
The grid is the backbone of a Southport, and the primary reason for the solid feel of the boat. Once the grid finishes it’s infusion, the hull and grid are dry fit, and then the hull is prepped for grid installation.
The two parts are bonded by a high strength, two part Methacrylate adhesive which once cured, creates a bond stronger than traditional fiberglass tabbing.
In addition to being the structural backbone of the boat, the grid is also home to many of systems and components that make the boat and its accessories work. Many of the interior lockers, fishboxes and even the interior spaces, are built into the grid.
Additionally, the grid has numerous chases running throughout for wiring and plumbing, as well as a dedicated bay for the fuel tank.
With all of the systems plumbed and wired, the boat is ready for the installation of the liner, which is the deck and interior hull sides, and the ring deck. These parts are glued-in in a similar manner as the grid, and the ring deck is additionally fastened with stainless steel hardware.
After a bit of pre-rigging and assembly, the console and leaning post are ready to be added to the boat. The console is attached using a “shoebox method” which creates a stronger connection to the deck, and eliminates any rattle or separation.
Toward the end of the build, the hull and systems are ready to have the engines bolted on. Our transom, fully cored with a modern composite material (never wood!), is engineered to withstand the weight and forces of twin and even triple engine applications.
After being built, fit, wired, and assembled on the floor, the hardtop is ready to be lifted onto the boat. All of the wiring for the T-Top is run through the frame, and various chases and messenger lines in the hardtop make electronics installation a breeze.
By this point, the boat is very nearly done. The only things left to do are the finer details, to ensure the boat lives up to the famed Southport level of fit and finish.
Once completed and quality checked, the brand new Southport is ready to be loaded for shipping to the new owner.