Sea saga

Located on Norway’s west coast, Saga Boats is a shipyard that puts functionality and durability at the heart of its top quality, semi-displacement leisure vessels. With a long and reputable portfolio to its name, today it continues to produce boats for both domestic and export markets.

Established in 1960, the company began manufacturing small rowboats, but by 1966 had launched the Saga 20. This motor-powered tour boat became the company’s first big-seller, which led to the production of Saga 27, the biggest selling boat in both Saga’s portfolio and throughout Norway. A variety of editions were made during its production run from 1968 to 2004, totalling 5000 units by the time the model was retired. In the mid-1970s, Saga 7000 was introduced with a semi-planing hull and this hull form has remained the cornerstone for the company’s boats to this day.

Sales and marketing director, Sølve Refsnes, discusses the company’s regional markets: “For our business today, the biggest region is of course Norway, but we also export to many other countries. Half of our boats are sent abroad, with most of those going to Sweden and Denmark; we also export to Holland, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Finland, Russia and Slovenia.” With all of its models being between 31 and 41.5 feet long, all are sold to private owners for vacation and leisure purposes.

One of the most important features of Saga’s vessels is the yard’s focus on functionality and durability, best displayed with the fact that some of its boats from the 1970s remain in daily use. By manufacturing hardwearing semi-planing hulls that allow greater seaworthiness than planing hulls and greater speeds than displacement hulls, its boats are characterised by usability taking prominence over design.

Sølve explains the company’s approach to vessel building in greater detail: “Although the main components we use are all industry standards, we spend a lot of time and money finding the best varieties and techniques. For example, we used to hand-laminate our hulls but today use resin infusion for the fibreglass, which makes it lighter and stronger. This is a benefit to both the customer and us – for the buyer a lower weight means lower fuel consumption, whilst for us the production process is a lot safer because it lacks styrene emissions.”

Despite this the yard has a distinct and signatory style that it places somewhere between classical yet modern design, without appearing too contemporary. Therefore the company attracts a certain type of client base – people that are experienced in boating. Whilst first time buyers will often seek boats that place design at the forefront, Saga’s customers appreciate an emphasis on practical solutions with quality components and often become return clients.

The company is currently producing three models: the 310, 315 and 415. Launched last year, the 415 is the latest model and with an approximate £400,000 price tag sits at the higher end of Saga’s range. Sølve discusses the creation of the 415 in greater detail: “During its three-year development we worked with one designer to create the hull, then with an industrial design company who collaborated with us on the rest of the vessel. Everything was first modelled in 3D software, as this gives a more accurate representation of the final product, and then we used use a mill to produce the moulds.”

Despite its price tag, the model has fared surprisingly well, particularly given recent market conditions. In the autumn of 2008, as the financial crisis was beginning to bite, Saga experienced a drop in business that saw it temporarily lay off almost all of its staff. Production started up again in February 2009, returning to 60 per cent by April and has remained at this level to the present day. However, this hasn’t prevented the company from forging onward, and development on a new model is already underway.

Sølve discusses the as-yet-unnamed vessel further: “It will be a 35 to 36-foot boat ready for the 2012 season. Building on the same basic concept as our other boats it will have a semi-planing hull, but one that is a bit faster and more fuel efficient than our other varieties; this will be achieved by focusing on a low weight. It will have a closed front wheelhouse with a self-baling aft deck.”

He concludes with the company’s bright hopes for this model and its prospects for the future: “There is a very strong belief that this new model will be very successful and to facilitate this we are working on expanding the dealer network, looking at new markets to gain a wider footprint for our sales. There are already 600 of our 29 and 31-foot boats in the market and, though the 41-foot Saga 415 proved to be a bit too large for most of our loyal customers, we expect to see significant growth from the new model.”

New 35-foot vessel under production

Reliable, durable design

Lengthy and reputable portfolio of boat models