"We're building a new facility just south of here," said Andy Heathershaw, who, with his wife, Debbie, owns Maxweld Boats. The new space, a steel building located off U.S. Highway 101 on the south end of Hebo, borders the Nestucca River.
"It's a great spot for the river alone," he said. He expects to be operating out of the new space before summer.
Owing partly to its current off-the-beaten-path location on a country road, and partly to the degree to which it specializes in power catamarans, Maxweld Boats isn't widely known to Tillamook County residents. However, the business has made a name for itself nationally among those in the market for sports fishing charters, rough water landing craft and patrol and rescue boats.
Twin-hull power catamarans are superior to traditional mono-hull boats in that they are extremely stable, fast and fuel efficient, Heathershaw said.
"Some of them top out around 40 knots, but they'll consume less fuel than a little 90-horse outboard skiff. You're able to do some really dramatic things with them."
That kind of versatility keeps Heathershaw's service in high demand. His customers hail from throughout the Northwest, California, Hawaii, the East Coast and Alaska. "A lot of the boats we build are purchased by sports fishing charters in Alaska," said Heathershaw.
The Multnomah County Sheriff's Department purchased two of Heathershaw's catamarans to be used by patrol personnel on the Columbia and Willamette rivers. The Sheriff's Department paid for the boats with a $675,000 federal Transportation Security Administration grant.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also purchased several Maxweld crafts with which it patrols waterways along the Canadian border.
Yet another Maxweld catamaran was purchased by a medical doctor in Juneau, Alaska, who intends to use the craft to travel back and forth to clinics throughout southeast Alaska.
"We're averaging 10-to-12 boats a year," said Heathershaw, adding that the largest craft they have built measures 42 feet long by 16 feet wide. Boats range in cost from $200,000 to $600,000 each, depending on their complexity.
The chief difference between Maxweld and other boat builders is that Heathershaw designs and oversees construction of the crafts himself, whereas many boat manufacturers work off plans done by marine architects, he said.
"We're constantly refining the design of our boats. There's a mathematical formula, but we're always tweaking it for the best efficiency, ride, weight-carrying capacity and stability."
Heathershaw is involved in catamaran production from conception to sea trial.
"When I design a hull, I build it so what you see is what it's going to be," he said.
Maxweld Boats evolved from Heathershaw's previous business, A1 Welding, a manufacturing and repair business that produced self-locking stanchions for local dairy farmers and logging equipment, among other products. "We started building small skiffs, and it just took off from there," he said.
Later, Heathershaw built mono-hull cabin boats. "Then we moved onto catamarans," he said. "There's just no comparison in how they handle in rough water -- it's night and day. The demand was there, and we couldn't keep up with it."
Heathershaw moved to Tillamook County when he was 16. Debbie Heathershaw grew up there. Two of her brothers work for Maxweld Boats.
Although the Heathershaws own a couple of small boats, "We just don't have much time to use them," he said. "We have little kids."
For more information visit www.maxweldboats.com or call (503) 392-3911.