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Boating: Victory at Sea

Michael Verdon

Burger Boat has struck solid gold with its latest launch, Ingot. The 153-foot trideck yacht, the largest in Burger’s century-plus history, also represents an aesthetic triumph for the United States’ oldest shipyard, which is located in Manitowoc, Wis. Designed by Burger and the Dutch naval-architecture firm Vripack, Ingot has a classic-looking yacht exterior, but its aluminum hull and fuel-efficient Caterpillar engines provide the 4,000-mile range of an expedition yacht.

Beyond Ingot’s sheer scale—which encompasses 5,025 square feet of interior space and another 4,150 square feet of exterior deck space—its importance to furthering the Burger pedigree lies in its intricate interior details. "The woodwork is extremely ornate," says Burger’s president, Jim Ruffolo. "We gave our craftsmen many challenges during the three-year project, and they rose to meet every one."

The challenges included creating a neoclassical interior with raised-panel Honduran mahogany, onyx, and rare marble accents, connected by hundreds of sculpted details. "You can see the custom joinery everywhere—in the crown molding, sconces, or just the way the cabinets curve outward, instead of flat like traditional cabinets," Ruffolo says. The ceilings of the salon and dining room feature translucent white onyx, which casts a soft, diffused light on the richness of the mahogany.

Ingot’s internal beauty marks Burger’s coming of age as a truly international yacht builder, and the latest chapter in an illustrious manufacturing saga. The shipyard has been operating since 1863, when Henry Burger and his nephew, George, set up shop in Manitowoc. During its history, Burger has launched breakthrough yachts such as Tamaris—the country’s first all-welded steel ketch—in 1938, and, two years later, the 65-foot Pilgrim, the first flush-deck cruiser. Between 1985 and 1990, about half of all registered motoryachts over 80 feet built in the United States were born in Burger’s yard. But in 1991, having been acquired by outside investors, the company fell into bankruptcy.

Ruffolo, who visited the yard in 1992, was more impressed with its craftsmen than with the facility. A group of 170 workers calling themselves FBW, or Former Burger Workers, convinced Ruffolo to resuscitate the ailing yard. Many families had worked in the shipyard for generations.

"When we acquired the assets in 1993, the boatyard was closed with no utilities," Ruffolo says. "The windows in many of the older buildings were boarded up. We had no orders and very few usable materials."

Fifteen years later, after a $10 million investment in infrastructure, Burger’s order books are full, and its customers, including a Russian businessman who took delivery of identical twin 126-foot motoryachts last year, hail from around the world. Although the company is building other large yachts—the 151-foot Sycara and the 142-foot Sea Owl among them—Ingot remains the jewel in its crown. "We’re proud of all of our boats," Ruffolo says. "But with this one, we truly excelled."

Burger Boat, 920.684.1600, www.burgerboat.com

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