Made in Poland

GA­LEON YACHTS IN POLAND IS WOO­ING AMER­I­CAN OWN­ERS WITH ITS SOLID CON­STRUC­TION AND SMART DE­SIGN FEA­TURES.

Power & Motor Yacht - - IN THIS ISSUE - STORY AND PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY JUSTIN RATCLIFFE

Ga­leon Yachts is woo­ing Amer­i­can own­ers with its solid con­struc­tion. A yard visit re­veals the builder’s se­crets.

If you’ve never heard of Ga­leon Yachts, you’re not the only one. De­spite hav­ing been in op­er­a­tion for over 35 years with a loyal fol­low­ing in Europe, the Pol­ish boat­builder was vir­tu­ally un­known in the U.S. That all changed in 2016 when it be­gan an ex­clu­sive sales part­ner­ship with MarineMax, the na­tion’s largest yacht re­tailer. The brand ex­ploded onto the scene the same year with the sale of no fewer than 17 units at the Mi­ami boat show.

“Just over two-and-a-half years later and with 82 boats sold, Ga­leon is our most highly rated brand in terms of cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion,” says Bob Burke, Ga­leon Yachts brand man­ager for MarineMax, which rep­re­sents other top builders, in­clud­ing Sea Ray and Azimut. “We’re sell­ing around three boats a month, which is in­sane for a brand most peo­ple haven’t even heard of.”

With 15 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in the in­dus­try, Burke knows how to mar­ket and sell Euro­pean pro­duc­tion boats in the U.S. It takes more than bump­ing up the AC and ice-mak­ing ca­pac­ity. When he be­gan his new role with MarineMax, Burke spent a few days at Ga­leon’s two ship­yards near Gdańsk in Poland to get a han­dle on the brand. He was im­pressed by what he saw.

“Like most fam­ily-run com­pa­nies in the boat business, it’s all about build­ing a pre­mium prod­uct. Count­ing the beans comes later,” he says. “When peo­ple come aboard, they’re amazed at just how well­built these boats are and rec­og­nize the added value im­me­di­ately.”

I re­cently had the op­por­tu­nity to see for my­self why Ga­leon, which is de­signed by U.K.-based Tony Cas­tro, is one of the fastest grow­ing brands in its size range in the U.S. The occasion was Ga­leon’s first ren­dezvous at the sea­side re­sort of Sopot on the Baltic Sea. I was keen to get aboard the brand-new Ga­leon 650 Sky­deck, which had been pushed through the fi­nal phase of fit­ting out to get her ready for the event.

But be­fore sea tri­als, Burke ac­com­pa­nied me on a tour of Ga­leon’s two fa­cil­i­ties, which be­tween them em­ploy around 1,200 staff. The first lo­ca­tion dates back to when the brand was es­tab­lished by the Kobylko fam­ily in 1982, but a pur­pose-built fac­tory for the larger

mod­els with its own ma­rina on the Vis­tula River was opened nearby in 2010. Last year, a new lam­i­na­tion hall with mul­ti­ple mez­za­nine lev­els was added to the com­plex and fur­ther ex­ten­sions are planned.

Ga­leon’s lam­i­na­tion process is it­self an eye-opener. The sides of the FRP hulls are foam-cored, but the bot­tom sec­tions are fab­ri­cated with resin-in­fused, hand-laid fiber­glass to keep the weight down low in the keel for ro­bust­ness and sta­bil­ity. The light­weight su­per­struc­tures of the 640 Fly and 650 Sky­deck mod­els are made from resin­in­fused car­bon com­pos­ite and beau­ti­fully fin­ished pre-preg car­bon fiber for the large mov­ing pan­els.

Visit­ing the two sites—one rel­a­tively old school and the other de­cid­edly mod­ern with all the lat­est CNC ma­chin­ery—re­vealed how Ga­leon com­bines tra­di­tional boat­build­ing skills with lat­est-gen­er­a­tion tech­nol­ogy to build just about ev­ery com­po­nent in-house; the com­pany even mills its own teak for the deck­ing.

The at­ten­tion to de­tail is ex­em­plary. Where hoses pass through bulk­heads, for in­stance, most builders will sim­ply bore a hole and add a chafe guard. But Ga­leon uses threaded stain­less steel con­nec­tions on ei­ther side of the di­vide. Burke points out another small but telling de­tail: In­stead of bond­ing or screw­ing the Ga­leon logo to the boat, each laser-cut, pol­ished stain­less steel let­ter is through­bolted into the su­per­struc­ture, since noth­ing is more an­noy­ing than a name­plate that works it­self loose after a cou­ple of years.

As the ship­yard worked around the clock to fin­ish the 650 Sky­deck, I took the 640 Fly out for a spin. The two yachts share the same 68-foot hull form, as well as the in­te­rior lay­out and enor­mous win­dows that have struck a chord with U.S. own­ers. The dif­fer­ence lies in their names, with the 640 fea­tur­ing a full fly­bridge, while the 650 has a par­tial fly that can be closed off with two slid­ing car­bon fiber pan­els for a sportier, ex­press-style look.

Ar­guably the most ex­cit­ing fea­ture is the walk-through open­ing in the wind­screen that leads from the main cabin out to the open fore­deck; it’s the largest and most flex­i­ble open­ing wind­screen I’ve ever seen on a boat this size. The fore­deck is fur­nished with bench seat­ing around two height-ad­justable teak ta­bles. But here’s the best part: When the ta­bles are low­ered, the seat­ing slides out­board in one silky-smooth, elec­tri­cally pow­ered move­ment. Now you can cre­ate two size­able sunbeds sim­ply by fold­ing away the hinged back­rests.

Clever de­sign can also be found at the stern end of the main deck, where glass bul­warks fold down on both sides to cre­ate bal­conies and ex­tend the beam to over 23 feet. When the port-side bal­cony is de­ployed, the glass win­dow to the gal­ley can be opened and two stools slot­ted into the teak deck­ing to cre­ate an open-air bar that is sus­pended over the wa­ter.

“These are some pretty coura­geous, badass fea­tures,” says Burke rather proudly. “I mean, we’re talk­ing the kind of stuff you’re more likely to see on a hun­dred-footer.”

While Ga­leon of­fers var­i­ous ac­com­mo­da­tion lay­outs, the U.S. ver­sion comes stan­dard with three cab­ins (a four-cabin ar­range­ment is avail­able on re­quest), all full-beam with en suite heads. Most own­ers choose the widest cabin amid­ships for them­selves, but the for­ward cabin serves as a sec­ond mas­ter with its own stair­way ac­cess from the main deck. The mid­dle cabin has twin sin­gle beds and a bath­room that dou­bles as a day head.

For in­te­rior fin­ishes, MarineMax of­fers matte and gloss wal­nut ve­neers, or a more con­tem­po­rary grey-stained oak. Soft fur­nish­ings are avail­able in neu­tral shades of white or gray.

Un­der way, the steer­ing and track­ing feel de­lib­er­ate and as­sured as the twin 1,000-hp Volvo diesels wind up to a com­fort­able cruis­ing speed of 25 knots and a top speed of 32 knots. The shal­low Baltic is of­ten un­pleas­antly lumpy when the wind picks up, but even pow­er­ing into a 20-knot breeze and 3-foot seas, the hull re­sists slam­ming. On the few oc­ca­sions it does start to gripe, the ex­cep­tion­ally solid lam­i­na­tion ab­sorbs much of the sound and vi­bra­tion. The over­all im­pres­sion is of a solid, re­li­able and well-be­haved boat that would be as much at home in the Ba­hamas as the Baltic—or any­where else for that mat­ter.

“We had one cus­tomer who took his 560 Sky­deck on a maiden voy­age 1,500 miles from Ft. My­ers to Min­nesota up the Mississippi,” re­counts Burke. “That’s quite some shake­down cruise, and when I didn’t hear from him I got wor­ried some­thing might have hap­pened. He never called be­cause he had zero prob­lems with the boat.”

Exs­taza, the first Ga­leon 750 Sky­deck that will make her de­but in Ft. Laud­erdale, is pow­ered by 1,200-hp MAN en­gines. The U.S. ver­sion will carry the same 1,000-hp Volvos as the 640 Fly and comes with a Sea­keeper tucked away un­der the crew cabin in the tran­som. The ten­der is car­ried on the hy­draulic aft plat­form, but by do­ing away with the crew cabin it can be roller-loaded into a small garage, the front end of which has al­ready been built into the en­gine room bulk­head.

Sadly, my time on the new model proved to be all too short. Our de­par­ture from the ship­yard for Sopot was gov­erned by build­ing work on a new bridge span­ning the Vis­tula. Due to lack of clear­ance, the radar mast had to be mounted after we had passed un­der the bridge. This was dis­ap­point­ing but not dis­as­trous, as my fac­tory vis­its and ex­pe­ri­ence aboard the 640 Fly had pro­vided some in­sight into what makes Ga­leon so ap­peal­ing to a cus­tomer base hun­gry for in­no­va­tion.

As its brand aware­ness grows, there is no doubt that Ga­leon is des­tined for greater things in the U.S. The news that Sea Ray is to stop build­ing boats over 40 feet to fo­cus on its smaller out­board-pow­ered mod­els could in­crease de­mand in the fu­ture. In fact, Ga­leon has al­ready ramped up its pro­duc­tion for MarineMax, which has ev­ery in­ten­tion of fill­ing the gap in the mar­ket.

Ga­leon opened a sec­ond ship­yard for its larger mod­els in 2010 and last year added a new lam­i­na­tion hall (right). More ex­ten­sions are planned.

At Ga­leon’s new fa­cil­ity, the Pol­ish builder man­u­fac­tures just about every­thing in-house, even milling its own teak planks for the deck­ing.

The Ga­leon 650 Sky­deck cruises off the beach­front in the Baltic re­sort of Sopot. Note the side ter­race and car­bon top that closes off the fly­bridge.

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