Douglas Marine Skater has been a favorite of performance boaters for more than three decades. From its offshore beginnings in Douglas, MI, in 1974, to the announcement of Skater Nation in Fort Lauderdale, FL. launched in 2011, – Peter Hledin, company owner, founder and boat designer, takes his custom-trade seriously. Skater’s dedication is borne out well in every catamaran and V-bottoms they build, ranging from 28 to more than 52 feet.
Skater Powerboats has achieved top status on the APBA, SBI, OPA, and OSS racing circuits, and has built some of the best and brightest entries on the recreational poker run scene. LOTO shootout record holder, Bill Tomlinson, ran a 46’ Skater with twin turbines in the mid-2000s, while SBI superstars, Team WHM Motorsports, Team Stihl and Team Lucas Oil, just to name a few, go balls-to-the-wall every season in their Skaters. The company proudly cites the fact that they have earned more World and National racing titles and kilo-speed records than any other catamaran builder on the market.
Off the race course, Skater appeals ardently to family performance boaters who prefer a little more comfort with their go-fast lifestyle. If it’s more comfort they want, it’s more comfort they get, with plenty of balanced performance to boot.
Just recently, Poker Runs America sat down with Peter Hledin and National Sales Manager, Tony Cutsuries in Key West, FL, to discuss the Skater 338 Wide-body, one of the latest shining stars in the company’s fleet, which will most likely out perform anything that crosses its class.
Coming in at an overall length of 33 feet, 8 inches (the actually running surface is 30 feet, 7 inches), with a beam of 10 feet 4 inches, the 338 conceals a set of custom Smith Power 588 V8 engines (rated at 950-975 horses) with intercooled 4.0L Whipple Superchargers, a BAM transmission and reliable, power-driven Arneson ASD7 surface drives. Mercury is the choice for props. With this rig, according to Hledin, the 338 “will hit 140 mph no problem and turn on a dime.” He also explained that with the Arnesons, the Mercury props are in the smaller diameter range of 16.25 inches with a 14 – 15 degree rake.
“I know a lot of people don’t like Arneson drives but I think they are great,” says Hledin. “For the 338, selecting the right drive and the right set of props is crucial. With the Arnesons, because of the thrust, a high rake prop is not required. That’s because we are not using the props to change the attitude of the boat. We are using the props to push the boat forward.”
While speed is the name of game with Skater power boaters, Heldin and his team also place much emphasis on ride comfort, whether you’re behind the wheel or not. Comfort starts with light-weight vacuum-bagged, fiberglass seat bases featuring high-density foam, with low-density foam on the top layer and sides. It’s also conveniently pliable, providing a nice, easy fit for passengers, while the driver and navigator are treated to new Custom Carbon fabric inserts. In all, the 338 seats six.
“Comfort has many meanings to us,” says Hledin. “The interior on the 338 (as with all their models in its fleet) is simple, functional and not overly complicated. The big part of comfort is providing a safe, secure feeling. Passengers are not going to get tossed out at speed and that’s what we accomplish more than anything else. We make people feel safe and secure.”
Another meaning to Hledin’s “comfort” is the ride. His philosophy is simple – the 338 allows an opportunity for everyone on board to participate in the Skater experience – not just the driver.
“Users can drive the 338 as an individual or have your significant other drive it. That makes it much more enjoyable for everyone on board. When you have a poker run like Miami to Key West, its fun to have someone drive and someone throttle, which is also a lot safer. In reality, you don’t have to set the trim, or push the buttons all the time, simply set it up and go.”
Regardless of who drives the 338, users will appreciate the dual helm steering, twin gauge package, powder coated Bezels, Latham Throttle Shifter Quadrants with trim, and heads-up trim indicators. A Garmin 5212 GPS with Mapping and rear console speedo with Tattle Tale are also featured.
Where the 338 really shines is what you don’t see. Heldin’s design parameters include one of the deepest tunnel designs anywhere in the high-performance boating industry, created to reduce pounding while increasing handling in inclement weather.
While Hledin wasn’t revealing any secrets to Skater’s success, he did explain that the fiberglass foundation of the boat is where he and his team concentrate much of their efforts. Every model, including the 338, is hand-laid with epoxy resin, which allows an efficient cure time, followed by vacuum bagging, which results in a light, strong design.
“The raw materials in a Skater represent a much higher percentage of cost over anything else,” said Hledin. “We put carbon fiber in every boat, epoxy in every boat, and we vacuum bag every boat. We put way more money in the hull and deck than other manufacturers, while they put a lot more “bling” in the boat.”
While Hledin is not opposed to bling, he emphasizes that strength, reliability, comfort and safety are Skater priorities. If customers want aesthetically pleasing features such as a sound system, exclusive seating, and additional comfort and convenience, Skater will go beyond the call of duty.
“Whatever customers want, we will do it. To me, getting a lightweight, and well-balanced boat is priority right from the start,” says Hledin. “When a person comes to buy this boat, I have to know what his or her expectations are going to be. You try to determine what the customers want and we try to do better than that. We give them something that’s above and beyond what’s out there. We do that for every model we build.”