The founder and owner of Maryland Offshore Performance Marine Center, 49-year-old Andy Imhof, holds a degree in economics from St. Lawrence University. As it turns out, Imhof, who started his business in 1996 and moved into his current 10,000-square-foot digs three years later, actually puts his degree to good use every day.
“I think it helps with the business development side of things,” he said. “I also think it helps when I talk to our customers. A lot of them are successful business people.”
But the education of Andy Imhof, at least as it supports his full-service Rockville-based operation, started long before he took his first college course. His uncle, Ron Brown, a contemporary of tunnel-boat racing legends Bill Seebold, Reggie Fountain, Jr., and Earl Bentz got him excited about—and educated him in—the high-performance powerboat world.
“I was always interested in boats,” said Imhof. “I learned the business from my uncle. He was a master Mercury technician. He actually designed and built the first SST 120 V-6 powerhead for the class. He taught me about boats, he taught me about rigging and he taught me about going fast. Long ago, I decided I wanted to open my own shop.”
Now, more than 20 years later, Maryland Offshore Performance Marine Center has nine employees including two Mercury Marine master technicians and shop manager Mitch Kramer who, according to Imhof, “is a tremendous talent when it comes to troubleshooting.”
“Any really difficult-to-diagnose problem, Mitch just kills it,” said Imhof. “We’ve had boats come in from other shops with problems they couldn’t solve, and in a couple of hours, he just nails it. He’s even figured out stuff Mercury couldn’t solve.
“Mitch has been with us for 17 years,” he added. “He wasn’t even old enough to drink when I hired him.”
But though the team members at Maryland Offshore Performance Marine Center enjoy the day-to-day problem solving that comes with basic repair and service work, their passion—fueled by Imhof—is powerboat restoration. That started about 10 years ago with the complete restoration of Raindance, a 36-foot Apache V-bottom built in the early 1990s.
“Our goal was to turn it into a ‘modern boat’—its styling and accessories made it seem a bit dated,” said Imhof. “We stripped it all the way down to the bare hull, designed and applied new paint, modified the cabin, cockpit and windshield, fabricated a new engine hatch with scoops and repowered and re-rigged it with 1,000-hp Paul Pfaff blower motors.
“There are a lot of guys out there with older boats who don’t have $700,000 or $800,000 to spend on a new boat,” he continued. “Our goal is to help them update their current boats. Years ago, people would come in wanting to repower with bigger engines, upgrade their stereo system, get new paint—we have a complete body shop here, repair their trailers. Lately, we’ve done a lot more overall refits.”
This year alone, Maryland Offshore Performance Marine Center tackled four such projects: a 43-foot Black Thunder, two Outerlimits (39 and 42 GTX models) and (still in progress) a 38-foot Cigarette Top Gun. “We currently have seven boats on the floor right now getting some kind major service from repower to paint,” said Imhof.
Among the more notable recent projects for the shop was the re-rigging/repowering of the former Bacardi Silver Skater 36 catamaran originally owned by offshore racing great David Scott. The 36-footer eventually became a test bed for Sterling Performance Engines owner Mike D’Anniballe, and he used the rudder-steered boat primarily to validate his prototype 1,700-hp turbocharged powerplants. D’Anniballe kept his 1700s, so new owner Mark House opted to power the catamaran with a pair of 1,550-hp supercharged Sterling engines installed and rigged by Imhof and his crew.
“We took it out last Sunday, and it ran great,” said Imhof. “Mark is going to run it in a few poker runs next year, and he and I are going to run it in the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in August.”
Between now and then, the Maryland Offshore Performance Marine Center should have its hands full with renovation projects, as well as routine service and repair work. And that’s exactly the way the company principal likes it.
“I really love what I do,” said Imhof. “I enjoy the design elements I enjoy the challenge of improving a boat’s performance, handling and appearance, and I really enjoy the looks on our customers’ faces when their boats get done properly. That’s probably what makes us successful—we go to the end of our abilities to make our customers happy.”
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.