(This article was originally published in the 2017 July/August edition)
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF. WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
I was born in Tennessee, which is why I’m an American citizen, but I grew up in Canada – on Prince Edward Island (PEI). I have a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Naval Architecture from Memorial University in Newfoundland. After college I went to Tasmania where I worked as a research assistant while getting my Master’s degree, specializing in ship maneuvering. In 2011 I earned an MBA from the University of Washington while working at Foss Maritime in Seattle.
HOW DID THE NAUTICAN PURCHASE COME ABOUT?
I was working at Foss Maritime in Seattle as their Director of Engineering and Foss had several Nautican propulsion units on its vessels. Part of my role there was to do lifecycle cost analyses of all major retrofits or newbuilds. And I did one for one of our classes of boats. We were looking at re-engining or putting Nautican units on or building new vessels. And so I did all the cost analysis and came up with a really terrific
payback for Nautican, which I thought meant I had messed something up, so I went down to the fleet engineering folks and asked them about their experience with Nautican retrofits and they looked at my numbers and said, “No that’s right. That’s really the payback we get from them.”
So that made me really curious about Nautican and I started looking into them more, checking out what they were doing. This was right around 2007 when Nautican’s founder, Joe Gruzling, had died, and his daughter had taken over the company. I watched the company for a number of years and I thought: “You know, that’s a great product, and somebody who is really passionate about it needs to own that company.” So about a year and a half after I left Foss I just called them up and offered to buy it and Joe’s daughter was, well, at a point where she was really happy to sell.
ARE YOU THE SOLE OWNER?
Yes, though I have a fantastic team working with me.
HOW MANY OFFICES ARE THERE?
We have two offices. Our main office is now in Charlottetown, PEI. We moved the head office from Vancouver as part of our move to set up our own production facility in PEI. Our production facility opened last December and we are continuing to install equipment there as we ramp up production. Our main sales office is in Seattle.
WHAT ARE NAUTICAN’S MAIN PRODUCTS?
Nautican’s primary products are Integrated Propulsion Units (IPUs) and the subcomponents that make up those units: high-efficiency nozzles, propellers, pre-swirl stators, and rudders—most commonly our differential triple-rudder system, which is by far our most popular rudder setup. We find that many customers now want a fully integrated package that minimizes their burden in making different systems work together, so we now also offer steering systems provided by our steering system partners. Along with shafting and bearings, the steering systems can be fully integrated with our IPUs.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE RIGHT NOW?
Our biggest challenge right now is going out and building sales. Now that we have laid the groundwork for growth, we are ready to take the next step of getting in front of new customers and not just relying on a small number of repeat customers. We now have the infrastructure in place to grow our business by roughly two-and-a-half times over the next five years.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
When I do get spare time, my favorite thing to do, aside from spending time with my family, is racing sailboats. I have raced with a crew from Seattle for the past 17 years, and there are few things that make me happier than being on a boat. It can be 40 degrees and raining and it’s still more fun than anything else – as long as there’s wind! MarEx