As most folks in the tight-knit high-performance powerboating community know, New Jersey’s Bob Christie has owned a few killer boats. Namely, Speed Racer, a 44-foot cartoon-themed MTI catamaran and Perfect Storm, a 36-foot Nor-Tech cat with — arguably of course — one the most stunning paint jobs ever produced by The Art Of Design.*
Most recently, Christie owned a 2011 Cigarette 42X sportboat powered by a pair of Mercury Racing 1100 engines. Before that, he bought the first quad-outboard center console from Statement Marine. The 38-footer replaced Speed Racer until the sportboat bug bit Christie again and he bought the Cigarette and sold the center console.
That’s the thing about having the means and success — and through his own hard work Christie has earned every bit of both — you can boat hop. Hauling the big catamaran between New Jersey and Florida got old and the center console didn’t deliver the thrills he was looking for, so he jumped back into a high-performance V-bottom sportboat. Hey, why not?
But damn if the guy isn’t back to a performance center console again. He and his wife Madelyn spent several hours last Saturday at the Cigarette Racing Team facility in Opa-Locka, Fla., with company owner Skip Braver and ordered a new 39 GTS with quad Mercury Marine Verado 350 outboard engines. But beyond a gentle push from his lovely wife and his self-preservational instinct to heed it, what drove Christie to order his new center console from Cigarette was the his experience with the 42X. He traded it in to Performance Boat Center, the Osage Beach, Mo., outfit where he ordered his new 39-footer. It was sold in a matter of hours.
“I still think that Cigarette has the best fit and finish in the industry,” said Christie. “Our last event in the 42X was the Cape Coral Poker Run, and a guy pulled into the docks behind us in a 39 GTS with triple Verado 350s — we’re doing quads. We knew we were going to order one, but we were able to ask him what he liked, what would he would do differently if [he]had to do it again.”
While Christie said the encounter was helpful, it didn’t prepare him and his wife for the experience of ordering a new boat at Cigarette.
“It was amazing,” he said. “Ordering a new boat ‘from scratch’ was different for me. The Statement was sort of from scratch and the paint of the Nor-Tech was from scratch, but everything else I’ve bought over the years was from stock. I was actually nervous the night before.”
The bulk of the day’s work involved picking interior and exterior colors, right down to the “VW blue” piping of the seat upholstery. But that’s not unique when buying a new boat built from the ground up. What made the experience so exceptional — and so different — in Christie’s view was that he and his wife were able to go from virtual CAD images on the Cigarette showroom’s huge design screen to the factory floor, where they could look at real paint work, seating configurations and more on several Cigarette performance center consoles in various stages of production.
Braver’s crew actually brought fabric swatches for the Christies to examine while they looked at those same colors on the CAD monitor. From seating design—they opted to add hand-straps to lounges ahead of the console—to upholstery crossing stitching, exterior paint, dash color and every conceivable aesthetic detail and interior amenity, they were able to make choices based on real and virtual examples.
“We could look at flooring for the sole, for example, on the screen then go out to model in the factory and walk on it in a boat,” said Christie. “We got on a new 41 GTR so we could see and get familiar with the new Mercury SmartCraft touchscreen monitor that will be on our boat. We looked at paint schemes on the big screen with (Cigarette painter) David Hunter, and then when out and looked at painted boats and samples outside in the light from different angles. We initially thought we wanted a fade in the paintjob, but after going through that process decided against it. The Cigarette name is going to be ghosted in the hull sides and we had to decide whether we wanted it to go over or under the stripe.
“We had to decide what color we wanted for the Cigarette logos in the seats,” he continued. “The upholstery colors on the screen are not ‘exact,’ so they brought us fabric swatches so we could see them. You have ideas going in, but these are the types of decisions you can’t make until you see them.”
They started at 9 a.m. By the time Christie and company finished, it was time for lunch.
“Skip did a great job—he really rolled out the red carpet for us,” said Christie. “Brett Manire and Mark Waddington from Performance Boat Center were there and they were great. When we left, Madelyn said, ‘This is the best buying experience we’ve every had.’ And it really was.”
“We have been in the industry and I have picked out boats with Bob before,” said Madelyn. “I absolutely didn’t expect. From start to finish, they could not have been more welcoming, more welcoming or more professional. It was, hands down, amazing.”
The Christies typically hold on to a boat for three years before selling it and buying something new. But things could be different this time around.
“My bet is that my next one will be another sportboat,” said Bob. “But I’ll probably keep the center console.”
And for Bob and Madelyn Christie, that could be the biggest Cigarette difference of all.
*In the interest of full disclosure I have to say that Christie, a former Donzi and Baja dealer, is a cherished longtime friend, and not just because he let me drive Speed Racer, though, OK, that helped, while he throttled during a couple of poker runs.
Matt Trulio is an award-winning journalist who has covered the high-performance powerboat world since 1995. He wrote for Powerboat magazine for 17 years and was the magazine’s editor at large until it ceased publication in 2011. Trulio is the founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site that covers the high-performance powerboat realm. He’s also the former editor of Sportboat magazine.