In 1984 Dick Pond bought a new 46’ Viking Convertible from a dealer in Virginia Beach. The dealership however, had no facilities or means to provide service, so Pond took his new Peanut Patch to Bluewater Yacht Sales in Hampton, Virginia. Founded in 1968 by Chris Hall, Sr., Bluewater Yacht Sales took root and flourished amidst the traditional seafaring trades of the Hampton waterfront. Fueled by a yachtsman’s passion and a lifetime of cruising, racing and fishing, the company grew. After a few turns on the powerboat racing circuit, brother Earle joined the company to head up the service division. With the acquisition of some additional waterfront facilities, Bluewater’s scope of operations underwent continuous expansion as their reputation spread up and down the coast.
When Peanut Patch arrived, it fell to a young Earle Hall to phone the Viking Yacht Company and navigate the warranty process. On that first call he was put through to the warranty administrator, another young man whose name was Patrick Healey. In the due course of forging the bonds of mutual service, in the shared language of boat enthusiasts, a friendship bloomed between the Viking and Bluewater families. Finally Pat Healey asked Earle Hall, “Why don’t you sell our boats?”
Earle and Chris discussed the possibilities and soon Viking Vice President of Sales Tom Carroll flew down with Patrick Healey to meet with the Hall brothers and see what they had to offer. And so, in 1985 Bluewater became the new area dealer for Viking Yachts and began a long and productive partnership—and some colorful history.
Diving Right In
Chris Hall ruefully remembers the very first Viking Yacht Bluewater ordered. The client was a Virginia Beach accountant and was a personal friend to Chris. The prospective sale had everyone pretty excited. The customer requested one of the two possible layouts and that his boat have the option that included the full dinette. When the order confirmation came through, it indicated it would be a “Plan C” layout. Chris remembers that they took a look at it and everyone thought that “C” indicated a convertible. Since that was what they had ordered, they returned the confirmation and their first Viking was in the works. The months rolled by until they were at the plant with their friend and customer to take delivery and bring it home.
“So there we were, all jacked up about our first Viking delivery,” Chris relates. “The new owner-to-be stepped up and slid the salon door open, said calmly, ‘this isn’t my boat’ and slid the door back closed. That caused quite a stir at the time.” Turns out the “Plan” designation was actually indicative of the specific layout and it should have been a “Plan B.” Pat Healey remembers the story as well and reminisced fondly, “After the commotion settled down I thought to myself how and why we did ever hook up with these guys? But we quickly found a Viking dealer with a new 41 Convertible and the desired layout and were able to swap boats and please the customer and make Bluewater’s first sale. From that first hiccup, it has been a marriage made in heaven with the Healeys and the Halls.”
It was in 1988 that Jud Black joined the Bluewater family and not long after became the overall sales manager as the Halls discovered he had an eye for detail, remembered even the most obscure product info and had a gift for always hitting the heart of a matter. His rapport with the Viking line-up helped make him a partner shortly thereafter. By the time things were really rolling, he was considered one of the best Viking sales experts nationwide—and that gave Bluewater an edge.
Through Good Times and Bad
Over the years there have been as many “adventures” as there were challenges and triumphs. New models, bigger buildings, new dealers, the “luxury tax”—and its defeat—through the boom times and the near busts, Bluewater sold Vikings, serviced Vikings and fished them, too. The underlying story here is that both family run companies have grown and evolved together over the last 30 years. What sets Viking apart—the “Viking Difference” is that they live it. “Build a better boat, every day.” They really do. They use their boats extensively every year and bring that experience back into the plant and into the conference room. They have a fine balance in their ranks between the energy of the younger, partnered with the experience of the elder. Viking has always welcomed the experience of their dealers, the corresponding relationship of family involvement and strong boating proficiency. This has been especially true amongst the Hall and Healey families.
In January 1987, Earle and I were staying at a condo in the old Buccaneer Yacht Club on Singer Island. I was on vacation after a 10 day stint at the New York Boat Show where we introduced the first Viking 45 Convertible. This was when our local Florida dealer was Rybovich. The Viking 45 had been trucked down to Daytona Beach, where my father, Bill Healey and Bruce Wilson, and a few others from the design group were planning on delivering it to the Rybovich location in West Palm Beach. Earle and I ran into them at a restaurant on Singer Island and my father suggested we meet in the Rybovich yard at 8 am the next morning to go through the boat.
Earle and I were up at 7 am, even though as I said earlier I was on vacation, and we headed down to the Hall’s Mako center console that they docked at the Buc for the five minute boat ride to the Rybovich yard to meet my father. We get aboard the Mako, Earle turns the key and nothing; dead batteries. Brother Chris Hall had neglected to turn off the boat’s electronics from the night before and we were going nowhere. With no charger, no jumper cable and no car at our disposal, our day to see the new Viking 45 got old real quick. We scrambled and finally found a guy to give us a ride down to 45th Street where my father was waiting for us on the boat. It was a cold January morning but the old Marine had steam coming out of his ears. When he saw us walking toward the new Viking he no doubt was convinced Earle and I stayed out all night, because again I was on vacation. We don’t even get aboard the boat before my father starts yelling that I’m fired. Before I can even explain, he takes one look at Earle and tells him that he’s fired too. Earle being the gentleman he is says, “But Mr. Healey, I don’t work for you.” To which my father yells, “I don’t care you’re fired anyway, both you guys are no good $#%*#%$^*!!!” Meanwhile, there was no sign of Brother Chris who caused the situation in the first place.
The story of the Bluewater and Viking families is a parallel tale with countless intersections. “Having worked so closely together over this kind of time period means that we know their inner workings and they know ours intimately. When something goes wrong we are able to pull together as a team, seamlessly,” says Earle Hall. “This streamlines the build process, warranty related items, parts issues—if something comes up we know how to respond, quickly, and expedite solutions. The teamwork goes both ways, playing to each of our strengths. Viking has sent teams to us, just as we have sent teams to them and work well together. They have confidence in our ability to work on their product and that can make all the difference in getting things done quickly and with the most efficiency.” This kind of teamwork has been described time and again in the testimonials of satisfied customers and in the very pages of this magazine.
Cherishing it All
At the last Viking Dealer Meeting, Viking Yacht Company was celebrating their 50th Anniversary together with all their dealers. On stage were Bill Healey with his son Pat telling jokes and relating funny stories from all the years of their history—a history that is as much family as it is business. For Bluewater, watching the men on stage, this was witnessing a part of their own history. Bill Healey, respected mentor and Pat Healey, the friend with whom they grew up. On that stage was the embodiment of the development and maturity of the Viking Yacht Company. The man telling the story he had largely written, and the son directly behind him, ready and able to pick up the thread of that story at any moment. It was the picture of a company that has come full circle, and is poised to move forward successfully.
Earle Hall expressed, “It was one of the most meaningful moments I have ever witnessed–being a part of that as a dealer—both pride in their accomplishment and excitement for what lies ahead. When it was over I knew we were in good hands moving forward.” Chris Hall felt it last fall, “Earle and I got aboard our new 62 Convertible up at Viking to bring it home to Bluewater when I realized something… As we cruised at speed I looked at Earle and said, ‘you know Earle, the last time you and I brought a boat home together it was 1985. We picked up the flagship Viking at the time, the 48, and remember—we thought it felt like a rocket ship. Now here we are after 30 years of technological advances and we really are on a rocket ship.”
Wow. Thank you Viking, it’s been one helluva ride!