Despite that he saw other high-performance powerboat builders surviving and even thriving by offering center-console models during the past few years, Patrick Haughey, the owner of Active Thunder Boats in Pompano Beach, Fla., was never tempted to take his company in that direction. Not for one moment, not if hell froze over (and it just may have in the past two weeks). No way.
That’s because as anyone who knows him can tell you, Haughey is a hardcore go-fast boat guy who has created a solid line of semi-custom performance V-bottoms that have developed a cult-like following over the years. To Haughey, the idea of a center-console Active Thunder is—even to survive—sacrilege. He breathes performance. Same goes for the Active Thunder faithful.
“We build the boats out of the love of go-fasts and my heart had no interest in building center consoles, whether that was a good business decision or bad,” said Haughey.
Instead, Haughey decided to scale back his business operation a few years ago with the go-fast boat market appearing to be in an economic death spiral. Active Thunder had little-to-no overhead and Haughey had other sources of income, so rather than go the center console route, Haughey let his company go mostly dormant—though never dark—and ride out the economic storm.
“I just never believed the storm would last so long,” he said, then laughed. “But coming out of 2013 and going into 2014, I feel it is time to ramp it back up. I have set aside an advertising budget for the on-line forums as well as a website budget to begin revamping activethunderboats.com. February will be the first time in four years that we are investing in boat shows. This year will be a key barometer for sales and, more importantly, consumer lending which should become apparent at the Miami Show. The guys buying the smaller boats generally are motivated to purchase if they don’t have to dig into their pockets. Hopefully, lenders are loosening up.”
Ramping down production during the past few years didn’t mean that nothing was going on at Active Thunder—far from it. The company retooled the dash for the side-entry version of its 37-footer, and the builder also retooled the center-entry dash for its 33- and 37-foot models to accommodate larger GPS units and other electronics. Most recently, the builder completed its first 33-footer with a full cabin liner, loads of storage, a fully equipped galley (“It’s beautiful,” said Haughey) with a built-in cooler and an electric enclosed head.
But the coolest thing to come out of Active Thunder will be what is, for all intents and purposes, a new 29-footer developed from an existing 28-foot model.
“We started tooling up the 29 Savage in the mid-2013 and we are finishing up production on the first one now,” said Haughey. “We took the basics from the 28 Savage and added extra cockpit space as well as deck retooling for a fresher, more contemporary look. Our patented DDC hull design, which delivers a sweet increase in performance and ride quality, was also incorporated into the boat.”
While the new 29 Savage could be viewed as an “entry-level” Active Thunder, Haughey said he is planning to release something targeted specifically to buyers just getting into the go-fast boat market. He believes the timing is perfect to introduce a smaller and more affordable sportboat.
“It is time to bring back the entry-level boater,” said Haughey. “With the demise of many boat builders in recent years, the pickings are slim for new buyers looking for a new single-engine sportboat of good quality at a reasonable price. So in 2014 we will retool a new deck for the 22 Tantrum and reintroduce that boat as well.”
Visitors to the Miami International Boat Show next month will get a look at the latest Active Thunder 37 Xcess powered by a pair of Mercury Racing 565 engines (watch the video below) in the Mercury Racing display. The builder also will display its new 33 Evolution—another model equipped with twin Mercury Racing 565 engines—also at Mercury’s in-water display on Pier 4 during the Miami event.
“This 33 has the new cabin liner and completely retooled dash that will feature dual Garmin 8212 GPS units and the new Mercury Vessel View 7 system tied into the Fusion Audio/DVD system, as well as an infrared Nite Vision camera that retracts into the deck of the boat,” said Haughey. “We think people are going to love it, and I have to say that we’re really happy to be back at the Miami Show. We think 2014 is going to be a very good year.”
All photos courtesy of Active Thunder.
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.