Current boating logic says that introducing kids to the water early creates life-long boaters. If that’s true, Steve Potts, CEO and founder of Scout Boats, is a prime example. Not only did he like boating as a youngster but, as a teenager, he actually worked for a company in the Charleston, S.C. area that built a 14’ boat called a Scout.
When Steve decided to build boats himself, he turned to his youthful endeavors and secured permission to use the Scout name. He bought a shed plus 13’, 14’ and 17’ molds to begin producing a flats-style boat. It wasn’t all smooth sailing. The first plant was opened in 1989 with three employees. Shortly afterward, Hurricane Hugo destroyed most of the building. It took two months to rebuild.
Potts’s son Stevie, now vice president of product development, joined the Summerville, S.C. manufacturer in 1992 while he was still in school. He came aboard full time in 1995 and continues to help grow the production line. Scout Boats has now produced over 30,000 hulls in 50 models.
The inherent philosophy behind their boats has not changed, even as the company is approaching its 25th anniversary. Potts wants designs that work, so Scout continually develops innovative construction methods that increase not only performance but also strength and safety. The creativity of the various models appeals to all levels of the boating population, from flats to offshore fishermen to families that just want to have a good time together. The universal appeal has led Scout through a seamless transition from a very basic flats boat to sophisticated center console fishing boats, to ever more elegant multi-purpose center console boats.
Scout’s innovations include binding the hull to the deck through a reverse shoebox hull/deck design that prevents water getting between the joint, increasing the strength of the hull. Another was to use composite stringers in the boat construction, eliminating the use of wood that can rot.
The Scout Strata-Mount system for engines uses a factory molded bracket that allows the two main longitudinal grid stringers to pass through the composite transom to be integrated into the engine mount. The natural stresses of the engines are then spread out over the entire hull.
The Air-Assist stepped hull came about in 2006 when the father-son team wanted to “develop a smaller boat with the features and feel of the sportfishing yacht.” They looked at the multi-million dollar sportfish boat market where, according to Steve, “customers were talking about down-sizing to cabin express models that felt like a big trailerable boat.”
They approached well-known naval architect Michael Peters to design the stepped hull that decreases the time to plane, improves overall handling and even improves fuel economy. It was used in 2008 on the first Abaco 350, a truly different type of boat that combined a large fishing area with streamlined, easily accessible mechanics and instruments, and a casually elegant cabin that can accommodate 4-5 people in comfort.
Along the way, Scout developed and patented a sleek, swept-back powder-coated T-Top. It has a style more European-like that flows with the lines of the boat. It can also house an optional fiberglass sunshade that extends over the cockpit by electronic controls at the helm station.
Not content to rest on their laurels, the Potts “went back to school” to design the 350 LXF, changing the modular structure by incorporating the same adhesives used by Boeing, and altering the running surface length by changing the two-step hull to a three-step hull.
Introduced in 2012, Steve said the LXF series “will appeal to the same fishing audience as before but, by creating creature comforts, it appeals to a broader audience.” He explained, “The stern is where you fish; the entertaining area is in the really unique bow area with a grill, sink, armrests that convert to back rests with the flip of a switch.” The series comes in 27 to 35 foot models; a 38- and 42- footer are in the works.
Steve promises that while the Scout brand is “making pretty strong inroads in the bigger boats,” Scout “will continue to update and develop boats under 20 feet.”
That continued commitment was definitely shown as the marine industry began to recover from the recession. Scout helped its dealers reduce inventory during 2009, rewarding them the following year when the company came out strong, introducing an all new line of 17-foot models. The 177 Series includes the Sport, Sportfish, Dorado and Winyah models, designed “around four identified customer types and what packages they would like to see,” Steve pointed out. Each is unique as well as easy to handle and maintain, another Scout characteristic.
The emphasis on continually developing new features and designs permeates the company. Dave Wallace, Scout’s General Manager, told me several years ago that the Scout concept “is more than a fishing boat. We like to be in the forefront of creative boating ideas,” including offering Guy Harvey editions and special features.
Steve added recently, “Others don’t put the same emphasis on design. They put more emphasis on high performance. I want to be in the same trend-setting place but with performance boats with yacht-like features.” He paused…”We’ll continue to compete with the higher end coastal fishing boats but our performance will set us apart. I know there’s a way to design high performance and luxury!”
What’s next? A new 42-foot LSXF is the biggest venture yet. A test boat has been built and was at Yamaha this spring trying out quad 350s. At full load, the boat is approaching 70 mph. Steve says it will be the flagship of the LXSF series that will sleep four and have an enclosed head. “It will look like a center console but will have the accommodations of a walkaround.”
Scout Boats remains a family-owned and managed company. Amidst all the economic turmoil, it is, amazingly enough, debt free.
So, after almost 25 years running the same company, still coming in six days a week, is Steve tiring of the job? His answer: “If I had all the money in the world, I would still be messing around with and building boats!”
For more information, go to www.scoutboats.com.