Armed with a few used and rented tools and with
Mucklow as their teacher, the crew began to piece together the boat
Slane and Hargrave had conceived. She was a 41-foot trunk cabin
sportfisherman with a 14-foot beam and was to be powered by a pair of
275-hp Lincoln V8s. She would carry 324 gallons of fuel, 200 gallons of
fresh water, and her designer calculated a top speed of 34 miles per
Later, Jack Hargrave commented: "Willis had what
he called the 'Hargrave Test.' The production people would lay up a hull
section to what the equations called for, then Willjs and I would go out
in the plant and kick the hell out of it. If it didn't seem stiff
enough, Willis would have the lamination people add some more
On March 22, 1960, precisely on schedule, the first
boat was trucked out of the garage, down Wrenn Street, and sent on her
way to Morehead City. There, she was christened by Slane's wife, Doris,
as the Knit-Wits. Willis Slane's vision was outdistanced only by his
energy, perseverance, and salesmanship. He took seven orders that day
for the boat now designated the Hatteras 41 Convertible Yacht Fisherman.
Success brought expansion and building boats in a garage didn't last
long. Less than two years after it began, the Cinderella story moved
into a better castle, a brand new facility on Kivett Drive.
Slane and his
creation were, to say the least, a sensation. In January of 1962, Slane
& Co. took their 41-foot production yacht to the New York National
Boat Show for its debut on a greater stage. The boat was hailed as the
"... largest plastic production-built power cruiser."
(Chris-Craft had two 50-foot wooden hulls in the same show.) Reaction in
the local media was a publicist's dream. Photos of the 41 were splashed
allover New York's newspapers, including the Herald Tribune,
Daily News, Mirror, and the World-Telegram and The
Sun. The photograph showed the 41 on its trailer about to be towed over
the George Washington Bridge. In the cockpit were four showgirls from
the Broadway musical "Sail Away." Even the venerable New York
Times made mention of the company's $650,000 worth of orders taken at
Forty years later, Hatteras Yachts is firmly
established as a benchmark against which other boats are compared. The
53 was the most popular model: 349 motor yachts and 224 convertibles
were sold in a 12-year period.
Remarkably, a few of
those pioneers who brought Knit-Wits and her sisters into the world are
still with the company. Curly Cook recently recalled: "My first job
was as low as you can get: sweeping floors and dumping trash. I was
learning, like everybody else. Nobody except Don Mucklow knew anything
about fiberglass. When I went to work there, the only thing they had was
the framing. We planked it and made a two-piece mold. We planked it with
narrow stripping and then came back and glassed over that. Then we had
to sand it down with sandpaper. It took forever!"
Cook is now (and has
been for a long time), a customer service rep for Hatteras and generally
regarded as the best in the business in that category.
hired Curly Cook and a couple of buddies, about 17
or 18 years old. One day, they were sanding on the side of a
hull .I say 'sanding. ' Curly was leaning on one elbow
against the hull and rubbing at it with the other: Don Mucklow and I
were standing back watching them, wondering if they'd ever amount to
anything. " -Ray Myers.