Monday, February 20, 2012

Setting the Industry Standard

 

Imitation, the old saying goes, is the purest form of flattery.  For a boat manufacturer – no, for a bunch of boat manufacturers – to copy Cobalt ideas can be downright up-puffing.  And so, you’ll please forgive the folks in Neodesha for a quick mention of the ways in which they’ve been imitated, the Cobalt innovations that have gone on to become industry standards.

All perfectly legal, you understand, this borrowing of what once were fundamental differentiations in the design and building of these boats.  Legal after a sufficient period of exclusivity, and therefore and thereafter  flattering.  Over the years, would-be competitors have seen the wisdom of metal backing plates installed in the fiberglass below hardware on the deck, multiplying the strength, increasing the longevity of hard-working cleats and eyes and rails. Cobalt has added muscle and bone to the most vulnerable areas in a boat’s design – at the bow, for instance, where the now-legendary Cobalt scuff plate stands guard.  And everywhere, deep down in the fiberglass behind every bolt, every screw on every hardware attachment, there rides plated reinforcement, ruggedness belied by the friendly reflections of a perfect gelcoat.

And next time you pass by a Cobalt windshield, pause for a moment to understand the stresses inevitably applied there.  Feel the cold rigidity of the stainless steel designed everywhere in the windshield, its mounting, and its supports.  Know that Cobalt has anticipated the worst, has designed the best possible resistance to wind, to the force of years of happy use of your boat.  Next week, we’ll talk about the often, if unsuccessfully, copied Cobalt ride, an extended story in itself.  Stay strong, you who go down to the sea.

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  Categories: Cobalt Boats, Industry News, Innovative Features, Lifestyle | Tags: Boat Builders, Boat Dealers, Family Boating, Lifestyle, Luxury Boat


Monday, February 13, 2012

Cobalt Innovation

 

United States Patents do not belong to those terrified by paperwork.  The application process calls for a black-and-white welter of forms, abstracts, descriptions, claims, amendments and, in some cases, appeals. We’re protecting intellectual property here, folks, and there are lawyers involved.  A peculiar set of attorneys, odd in their wanting to wade knee-deep into the minutiae of what belongs to whom for how long and why.

So it comes with some pomp, some legal precedence, this Cobalt swim step and its patent. As is with so many great ideas – gravity, yeast, the hula-hoop – the Cobalt swim step operates as a beautiful simplicity, its form matched honestly to its function. Kiddos with inflatable wings pushing their pudgy little deltoids right up into the sunlight can scamper in and out of the water with natural-born ease and public safety, thanks to this step, this lift and soft drop, this elegant contraption of electropolished stainless steel deploying – and then retracting to its hiding place –in the splash of a cannonballer’s fun. We’re talking seconds here, folks.

As with so many other Cobalt innovations, other Cobalt creations of an industry’s standard, there will come imitators. From the bow scuff-plate to the backing on siderails to the flip-lip captain’s seat, Cobalt design has been copied and copied again by would-be competitors. And they will most certainly now be investigating the nuts-and-bolts of the swim step, eager to adapt it for their own borrowed use.  But not for seven years or so.  Not if this federal government of ours has anything to say about this particular little deal.

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  Categories: Industry News, Innovative Features, Videos, Watersports | Tags: Award Winning Boat, Boat Builders, Boating Industry, Cobalt Boats, Lifestyle, Watersports


Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Heart of Cobalt

 

My collegiate degrees equipped me, vocationally, to teach.  So when I left education, I fell soon into plant tours, the mandatory safety glasses robbing me of IQ points I could not afford to lose. These walks around factories were congenial and informative, and I enjoyed them, even at the end of my nine years of writing corporate profiles for the Wichita Area Chamber of Commerce. Then, on my own, a fledgling freelancer down in Neodesha, Kansas I walked through a gigantic metal building involving “the best boat builders in the world.” Or so the sign said.

My guide was a young man, a very young man, the owner’s son I understood.  Ouch.  “Get ready for some hard looks,” I thought.  “A little resentment bouncing around here,” I expected.  “Nothing like watching people work for the richest kid in town.”

And you know, it just goes to show how wrong you can be.

I spent a couple of hours with this smiling, laughing, happy guy named Paxson St. Clair, and he knew everyone working in that plant.  And they knew him.  Thirty minutes would have delivered the necessary information, an overall impression of the Cobalt manufacturing facility, but we needed an extra hour or so just to stop and visit, to say hey to essentially every Cobalt associate in the plant that day.

My presumptions made me feel small and silly, stereotypes beside the point in personal interaction built around respect and affection and loyalty, each to each.  We were walking in the very back of the plant, and Paxson stopped to talk to a man, late middle-aged but erect and strong, he too hooting with the boss’ son. This old gentleman took me by the arm, led me a few steps away, and he said, “You need to understand that I’d lay down my life for Pack St. Clair.”  [Paxson’s dad, Cobalt’s founder, now retired]

The Chamber of Commerce had not prepared me for self-sacrifice of any sort, certainly not on this order of magnitude.  But this man’s gentle and inescapable hold on my arm told me that most surely his words were heartfelt.  Actionable and certain, fully intended in the way that only the very best friendships can produce.  For twenty years now Cobalt Boats has shown me that molds were made, even the five-part jobbies used on the A-Series boats, to be broken.  And then built back better than before.

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  Categories: Customer Service, Lifestyle | Tags: Boat Builders, Boat Dealers, Boating Industry, Cobalt Boats, Luxury Boat, Neodesha


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