Gerry Gerrand (Hamilton 1963–65) marks 41-years in business this year with his Hamilton boat building company Buccaneer boats. His son Wade Gerrand (Hamilton 1990–94) also works in the family business.
Buccaneer makes fibreglass pleasure boats ranging from small run-abouts to 7m fishing boats, sold in New Zealand and Australia.
The company has produced nearly 6000 boats over four decades.
Growing the business in a tough boat building industry is testament to Gerry’s business philosophy, and constant innovation.
“We have had a lot of our competitors come and go in that time and other ones start up and become quite successful. It is a matter of recognising the changes that are happening in the industry all the time, and changing with them.”
“Some of those changes are making new models all the time and operating lean and mean.” Gerry left school aged 16 and did an apprenticeship as a boat builder with Rollo’s Marine in Hamilton, working under Rollo Dutton. He worked for the company for 12 years and developed an eye for good design. Back in those days, boats were wooden.
He was either going to be a bee farmer or a boat builder and chose the latter, setting up Buccaneer – a name chosen from the outset as it starts with a letter at the top of the alphabet and also has a catchy nautical name which was easy to remember.
He started out in a shed on the family farm in Taupiri and later purchased a building in Hamilton.
The Buccaneer factory has been located in Foreman Rd, Te Rapa, since the late 1980s and currently employs 14 factory staff, many of whom are long serving staff.
Gerry has a “hands on” style. “I still spend three or four days per week in the factory. It is all about attention to detail.”
While the fundamentals have remained the same, improved materials like gel coatings, resins and adhesives have changed boat building immensely.
“We do everything. We make the plugs and the moulds, then we assemble them.” Parts like stainless steel work, upholstery, and windscreens are purchased from suppliers. Buccanneer was one of the first to introduce a fibreglass one-piece hull liner, bow to bow, gunwale to gunwale.
The new materials are far better both for the environment and staff working in the factory.
The company relies on a loyal dealer network to sell the boats, some of whom have been stocking Buccaneer boats since the beginning.
“We are just a straight manufacturer, not a manufacturing retailer, so we have about 12 dealers across New Zealand who stock and promote our product.” Buccaneer markets itself as “a long trusted name in New Zealand boating, with superbly designed exceptionally well-built and finished boats, with a full fibreglass one-piece hull-liner.”
“With 19 boat designs across 5 different ranges, there’s a model to suit everyone – from an agile runabout to tow the sea biscuit, right through to the ultimate marlin vessel.”
The Gerrands have other business interests in dairy farming and commercial property. They milk 1900 cows between dairy farms in Taupiri, Arohena, and north of Taupo. The other business interests have allowed the Gerrands to diversify and ride out upsand- downs in boat sales, most recently caused by the Global Financial Crisis.
No surprises Gerry is a keen fisherman himself and had just returned from a marlin fishing trip when he spoke to Network.
He still enjoys seeing his boats out-and-about. “When you are driving around the countryside and you see one of the boats, especially one of the older ones, it gives you a bit of a buzz.”
Gerry’s son Wade has been working for the family business for nearly 12 years.
When he left school, Wade worked on commercial fishing boats for Sanford for eight years, mainly in the South Island.
He then travelled for two years and arrived home one October. “I came back for a mate’s wedding and Mum and Dad said you may as well work here until Christmas. And I have been here ever since.”
Wade is assistant plant supervisor, and also works on a range of other things including liaison with boat dealers and boat shows.
“We are continually doing development work, we are changing models, using new ideas, changing with the times and making the boats a lot easier to use and clean as well.”
“What we are trying to do is to build a practical boat for the practical person and the average user.” Wade says typical customers would be “predominately farmers, builders and executives.”
Wade and his wife Rebecca, who also works in the business two days a week, have two young children and live in the Hamilton area. Gerry’s wife Jenny is also an integral part of Buccaneer working on the accounting and administration side of the business.
Gerry and Jenny’s two daughters, Toni and Kara, also enjoy getting out on the water, boating with their families.
A third generation family member is due to start at St Paul’s next year, with the Gerrand’s grandson enrolled at the school.