The Online Fisherman

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Built from the ground up

This article is part of a series we're going to be providing our readers about boats. Fishing boats, to be specific. Although the article's falls under "Product Reviews", we've decided that you can't really review a boat. I mean how do you review boats? It's sort of like being the judge at the "Cannabis Cup" in Amsterdam. After being on three or four beautiful, essentially-custom boats built from the drawings up to be used hunting fish -- in most cases by the men or women who first dreamed of them -- it's hard to say one's 'better' or 'more economic' or 'will catch more fish' than the other. The third thing we know doesn't count; it's not the boat, it's the boater, and it ain't the fishing boat, it's the fisherman.

In the case of comparing boats, we've decided we're never going to try to compare boats in product reviews. Instead, we're going to talk to the builders, and learn what it was that took them into the field, what they think about the business, their customers, and the future of boat building. In most cases the builders will be from Florida, but if you have somebody you know that builds boats, recommend them to us, and we'll contact them for an interview. We hope this to be a monthly feature.

The Clearwater Marina's still there, of course. A lot of us know it well; we've bought live shrimp there for many years, whenever our adventure-of-the-day took us to local waters. Many readers may have gotten on boats moored there to begin a day's trip. Waters that abound with snook, redfish, tarpon at the right time of the year, cobia, and on and on; the species we hunt live there as they do anywhere there's structure, bait to eat, and maniacs like us willing to go to any ends to catch them, only to gently put them back where they live.

Somebody that may very well have sold us those shrimp worked there as a teenager. A kid (then, he would argue) named Robb Young. Then he looked at boats, lived around them, owned them, and eventually built them -- having learned to do so by one of the world's masters. And all the time, he fished. His boats are built to fish, and among the many fishers that use them every day, each and every one is willing to have their name on the man's web site.

This is a story about Robb and the boats he builds. We've talked about reviewing boats, but after some consideration, we thought it more appropriate to talk to the men and women that build them. Between here and Texas, the best fishing craft the world knows are built, and we're going to make it our goal to talk to many of those builders. To learn about what brought them from selling bait to fishermen on their way out of the marina to the guy who builds the boats they use.

Robb was born in Fort Worth Texas, to a dad who was a Baptist preacher. The family moved to Clearwater and became partners with another family in the Clearwater Marina. Robb ended up in high school in Clearwater; and developed a love for two things (well, more than two, but for the sake of this article, the two that count): boats and bridges. If you think about a young guy living around Clearwater, and essentially living in a very fish-active marina, it's not surprising.

The boats that Robb Young builds are Sport Fishing boats. It's in his genetic makeup. From his time working the Clearwater Marina, through the passion that led him to work with world-famous boat builder Charley Morgan, his love for the water, and things built around and on and for it has been part of who he is.

When it came time for Robb to decide on a career, the smell of water and his fascination with engineering and structure led to a choice of schools fitting his passions; the Melbourne Campus of Florida Tech. He figured that he was headed to a career that would support fishing, boating, and eventually a family (Robb's a dad now); oil rigs and ocean engineering. It's interesting that while we're writing this story the nation's industry is being put to one of its ultimate challenges with the Deep Horizon spill happening in the Gulf right now.

Life -- and formal education to become a serious specialist in a field filled with specialists (the offshore oil industry; the structural and engineering side of the industry) -- went on. Robb was in school when his dad had a fishing boat built -- a custom Island Hopper made in Ft. Pierce. Robb got hooked. The boat builder that would eventually become Young Boats (www.young-boats.com) -- a fishing craft that many of our local fisherman have chosen as their hunting machine -- started to bloom. He started taking electives in boat design, specializing in small craft. He even spent time in Scotland studying Marine Architecture. Robb's hunger for knowledge is what builds those boats all those fisherman love; the scientist turned boatbuilder is inside all of them, and it shows.

In his Junior year, Robb was seeking summer internships. Once you decide to become a boat builder, you're sort-of limiting the number of doors you might find open to you. Robb found one in a guy named Charley Morgan. Morgan responded and took him on that summer. Morgan is one of the world's leading designers of boats. He's the man who built the famous Morgan "OutIsland" line of boats, and many others. Responding that first summer led to Robb working with Charley for the remainder of his undergraduate education at Florida Tech. Even after earning his Masters, Robb continued to work with the Master, and considers him a major influence on the quality of the boats he builds to this day.

The boats that they build at Young Boats reflect the fisherman in the company's founder. While most flats boats on the water are somewhat cramped in the cockput, where enlarged front casting platforms eat space best left for movement of the people fishing; you can't fish from a single standing spot in most cases. In addition, those enlarged platforms are usually short; 10" to 14" isn't uncomong. The Young 20 is an example of Rob's approach to space; the cockpit is uncluttered, 6'10" long and an inch wider -- at 8'1" than the author's Robalo Bayhunter 21. Young's engineering passion shows in the reverse sheer line, whose grateful curves creats higher cockpit sides and acts as a built-in hull stiffener. This is something of prime importance when you're fishing waters like ours; where 3ft chop can torque a hull and make the ride quite uncomfortable.

Most flats boats in today’s market have a cramped cockpit fishing area where space has been consumed by an enlarged front casting platform. In addition, these boats have shallow cockpit sides ranging from only 10” to 14” in height. This limits the number of people that can fish both comfortably and safely. However, the new Young 20 has solved this problem with a spacious, uncluttered 6’10” by 8’1” cockpit fishing area with sides over 20” in height. The Young 20 achieved this roomy layout without compromising performance or appearance. The graceful curvature of the reverse sheer line, which is the signature of this exclusive hull design, creates higher cockpit sides and acts as a built-in hull stiffener. This not only provides an attractive, functional and safe layout but also translates into a smooth, dry, and stable ride that must be experienced to believe. Rob Young and his crew built solid, beautiful boats, and build them from 20s to 24's. Beautiful, safe, and well-built boats from a compassionate Floridian builder. Can't beat the product, the builder, or the results of putting a Young under your feet when you're out on the water.

Working with Morgan gave Robb what he needed. Married 5 years now, with two girls, his experience and education -- enhanced by his time with Charley at Calcutta Marine -- has grown into one of the state's leading custom fishing boat manufacturers. The boats built there are solid, long-lasting (we don't know of one not on the water, which is always a good thing when talking about fishing boats).

When asked about the impact of the downturn in our economy, he said "We're doing a lot of glass work, and customizing; we're good at it, and quite frankly, in some months it's kept the staff intact". Robb's like many entrepreneurs -- he worries as much (more maybe) about the people that work for him as he does himself. "The business will come back. This is America" he said. We share that feeling.

Robb's business produces boats considered among the finest fishing craft on the water today. Considering who he is, what his company produces, and the quality of the guy himself, consider Young if you're thinking of putting new glass under your feet.

Without the help of Rosemary Young, this article wouldn't have gotten completed. She was patient with a writer with a big mouth and long stories. Thanks, Rosemary, for your kindness and help in putting this article together :)