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A Pioneer of Outboard Fishing Machines
Ocean Master’s Mark Hauptner has been tweaking boats since he was a teen, when he began racing small outboards with his father. The 60-year-old president of Ocean Master, of Riviera Beach, Fla., builder of Ocean Master powerboats, was an innovator on the race course and his resume shows it. He set 14 world records, held six national titles in 25 years of racing, and is a member of the American Power Boat Association’s Hall of Champions.
31 Ocean Master
Tinkering With Boats Since He Was 11 Years Old
A native of City Island, N.Y, Hauptner grew up around the family’s boatyard and machine shop. Every summer his dad would give him a small boat – one of the yard’s abandoned derelicts – and let him fix it up and mess about in it on Long Island Sound.
“He built me my first raceboat,” Hauptner says, “I was 11 years old.” The precocious tinkerer entered his first race at 14, going to an amateur career racing 14- to 16-foot outboard performance boats.
“All I was interested in was boats,” he says. “air flow and water flow. Aerodynamics and hydrodynamics. That just fascinated me.” And speed. That fascinated him, too. He liked to go fast.
While still a teen, he devised a contraption to deliver better trim without tabs because tabs were prohibited in the class he was racing in then. He built a movable console, seat and steering assembly, which he could hand-crank forward and back on greased plywood strips for better weight distribution at different speeds.
The early record-setting days
Hauptner introduced the windshield to his sport class. Most racers thought a windshield would only slow the boat down. His improved the boat’s aerodynamics and added 1 1/2 mph to its speed. He developed a manually operated trim tab, or racing plate. That picked up another 1-1/2 mph. He designed an engine cowling that – coupled with the windshield - reduced wind resistance. He also put a step in the hull to lift the boat out of the water, and he was fanatical about tuning his props. “I put in a lot of time after work,” he says. “I was very, very serious about winning.” The innovations helped him stay at the top in the lake-and-river Sport E, Family G and Sport G classes.
“We had a lot of fun,” he says, “we didn’t race for money. We had no sponsors. It was whatever you could come up with that was more ingenious than what the next guy had. You had to stay in the rules, but there was plenty of leeway to use your head. That’s what I liked.”
The first Ocean Master 31 back in 1974
A Design First
Hauptner started building boats in 1974, and true to form his Ocean Masters were a departure from the mainstream. The Ocean Master 31 – his first design, still in production today – was the first big outboard powered center console. A Mercury engine dealer then, Hauptner says a customer of his wanted a big, open outboard-powered center console that would safely allow him to cruise the islands. The biggest outboard-powered boat he could find for the man was a 23-foot Seacraft, so he decided to build it himself. He bought the molds for a 31-foot inboard and modified the hull to carry a pair of 175 hp outboards. A little over 10 feet wide with enough open deck to land a plane on, the Ocean Master 31 was doing 50 miles per hour with outboards at a time when most inboards that size were chugging along in the 20s. The outboards were more economical than inboards, and the boat could carry an enormous load of fuel.
Skeptics Proven Wrong
Yet industry gurus were skeptical. “they asked, “What are you going to do with a big Boston Whaler?” Hauptner says. With T-top or tower, the 31 became the template for the classic Palm Beach sportfisherman: big, rugged, fast and economical.
“It’s very, very stable,” Hauptner days. And tough. The boat – hull, with inch-thick bottom and box stringers – is all fiberglass, no wood; carries 310 gallons of fuel; and is designed with big consoles and spacious cabin and room for a head under the console. For the angler, “there’s massive fishing space,” and the boat is designed to deliver its best fuel economy and a soft, flat ride in the midrange speeds: 30 to 35 mph, Hauptner says.
The Ocean Master became the boat of choice for many to fish the Florida Gulf Stream, run across the Straits of Florida to the islands, and make 120-mile canyon runs off New England to catch tuna. “It was a breakthrough for outboarding.” He says.
The Ocean Master Line of Boats
Hauptner builds Ocean Master s 27, 31 and 34 feet long, and he builds them the way he always has built them, in sold fiberglass. At 9,000 pounds fully loaded with engines, the 31 is a sturdy battle wagon, and Hauptner won’t compromise its strength to pare back weight. “Ocean Master hulls are so overbuilt they will easily stop a large-caliber bullet fired at point-blank range,” Hauptner says. “I’ve got one fellow – a commercial fisherman – with 450, 000 miles on a boat. He’s gone through three engines, 4,800 hours per engine. The Navy has four of our 31s with 300,000 miles on each one.
Hauptner has broadened his customer base with the 186, a flats boat, and the new Ocean Skiff 27, a combination bay and offshore boat. The 27 hull is identical in design to the Ocean Master 27, but it is much lighter – 3,000 pounds versus 5,000 pounds for the 27, without motors. The 27’s hull is solid fiberglass like the 27, but deck and bulkheads are cored and it carries just one outboard. Hauptner says the 27 tops out at 51 mhp with a 250-hp Evinrude, delivers an efficient 3.5 miles per gallon at 35 mph, and draws just 15 inches of draft. “You can get it up on a plane in a length and a half, or two lengths of itself,” Huptner days. “And we’re getting equal or better efficiency than 22-foot bay boats.”
While the Ocean Master 27 costs $90,000 to $95,000, the single-engine 27 rings up on the register at more economical $60,000.
A New Challenge - a Robotic Boat
Hauptner, always open to new challenges, just completed a prototype robotic patrol boat based on his flats boat design. Powered by diesel jet drives, the boat carries standard radar and GPS, but is remote-controlled from a command center using onboard cameras for eyes. The electronics, supplied by another firm that markets the technology, are state of the art, says Hauptenr. “It has such advanced electronics that you could plot a course and send it up the Mississippi River,” he says. “It has an obstacle avoidance system. It is even programmed to start itself.
Ahead of the Times
Hauptner says his original outboard-powered 31-footer may have been a little ahead of its time. This patrol board may be just the boat for its times with the growing emphasis on port and coastal security.
Ocean Master Sportfishing Boats is located at 1525 53rd Street, West Palm Beach, FL 33407 map
Phone (561) 840-0448 © 2009 Ocean Master Marine