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 the 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.
Once the hull is out of the mold, the installation of various systems begins. The structural stringer systems of a Southport are designed to allow to clean wire and hose runs, with lots of space left over to add equipment in the future. The majority of these systems are installed before the deck is set into the boat, so only final connections are required after setting the deck.
The Liner makes up the deck of the boat, with molded-in openings for lockers, forward seating, coolers, and landings for the console and leaning post. Before the liner is installed into the hull, all hardware, speakers, and plumbing are installed on the liner to allow for cleaner, blind-fastening where ever possible
With all of the systems plumbed and wired, the boat is ready for the installation of the ring deck, this piece seals together the liner and the hull. This creates a rigid and sturdy structure. These parts are glued-in in a similar manner as the grid, and the ring deck is additionally fastened with stainless steel hardware.
While the hull, liner, and ring deck have been coming together, the console and leaning post have been in the pre rigging and assembly stage. The console receives a multitude of electronic components to complete the pre rigged systems already installed in the hull. Meanwhile the leaning post can be outfitted for several different purposes including a seat, fresh water sink, trash can, and tackle storage. When both these parts are properly prepared, they are mounted to the deck and the final electronic connections can commence.
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.
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