Southport Factory Tour

Introduction

Southport Boats and the Southport boat-building process began with a clean sheet of paper. The design team was allowed to leverage their collective technical and practical experience with the best methods and materials available. Unencumbered from having to use existing molds, pressure to look like other existing models or be built with outdated manufacturing processes allowed the Southport design team to combine extraordinary functional design, safety, and hull performance characteristics with a modern high quality manufacturing process. The result- Southport's legendary strong, stable and amazingly agile soft dry ride.

As advances in materials and manufacturing techniques have evolved so has Southport Boats. Today Southport Boats are built using premium vinylester resins, strong methacrylate adhesives and closed cell foam for exceptional quality, durability and safety. In addition to using premium materials, Southport's hull and all major components are built utilizing modern vacuum infusion technology that produces a more consistent, stronger and higher quality laminate than can be achieved using traditional hand lay up methods. Not only does the vacuum infusion process allow us to build a stronger, better quality boat, the process greatly reduces the amount of emissions produced compared to traditional hand lay-up methods making it better for the environment and creating a safer, healthier and more responsible workplace.

Mold Preparation

Construction of every Southport hull, deck and component begins with the inspection and maintenance of the mold. Molds are stored in a temperature controlled environment and undergo scheduled maintenance to ensure they are in excellent condition prior to their use. Southport's computer designed molds provide the final fiberglass part's shape and provides the smooth, high gloss quality finish associated with each Southport boat.

Gel Coat Application

All hulls, decks and components are manufactured using a premium quality gel coat that has enhanced flexibility and crack resistance, excellent color retention, a high gloss and superior resistance to fading. A gel coat technician applies a smooth even layer of gel coat on the mold, which forms the exterior colored layer of each Southport hull and component. That color can be whatever you choose. After the gel coat is applied to the mold, it is immediately followed by hand laid vinyl ester skin coat at more than twice the industry standard thickness. This additional care to the "skin coat" ensures optimal cosmetics and guards against blistering that plagues lesser quality boats. Southport technicians take great pride in their attention to detail… and it shows even at these early stages.

Lifting Strakes

The internally molded strakes of a Southport are filled with a propriety blend of extremely strong composite material and covered with two layers of 45-degree bias knit glass. Not only do these strakes contribute to the smooth dry ride but they act like external stringers and provide extraordinary longitudinal and compressive strength for punching through heavy seas.

Laminate Schedule

Southport's laminate schedule is based on offshore race boat technology, and is present in the knit glass laminates used to build the hulls and decks. Knitted glasses carry less resin weight than woven roving laminates used by many other manufacturers. Multiple layers of finish mat, print blocker material and various weights of knitted biaxial glass are strategically positioned inside the mold to deliver a strong, stiff and durable part.

The Advantage of Vacuum Infusion Technology

While some manufacturers are still using traditional hand lay-up lamination, Southport uses advanced vacuum infusion technology to build all major structural components, like the hull, deck and cockpit liner. Technicians strategically place all the structural materials into the molds dry, precisely where the engineers designed and allow our Quality Assurance team to verify material loading accuracy. Once the various layers of structural laminate are positioned inside the mold, technicians pull vacuum on the part, drawing the high strength vinylester resin uniformly into the laminate. This process creates uniformity and consistency that is impossible to achieve through hand lamination.

Vacuum Infusion Consistency

The vacuum infusion process allows for unparalleled consistency. Traditional hand lay-up parts vary dramatically depending on the expertise and attention to detail of the specific employee on that particular day. Today's vacuum infusion parts, however, are highly repeatable since the laminated materials are all pre-kitted and the resin content is the function of a mechanized process. As a result, when released from the mold, parts will vary in weight by as little as 1%. Now that's consistency!

Vacuum Infusion Strength

One of the many benefits of modern vacuum infusion technology is the ability to build stronger parts that weigh less. While Southport vacuum infuses the hull and major components, we have designed a lamination schedule that maintains the same thickness as previously built hand lay-up parts. The structural stiffness (a function of thickness) of today's Southport is equal to or better than previously built hand lay-up hulls, and the overall laminate strength far exceeds hulls built with the traditional method because they contain more than twice the glass reinforcement of their hand lay-up equivalents. That's right… the vacuum infused Southport hull laminate is more than twice as strong as its hand lay-up predecessors. That is serious strength!

Vacuum Infusion Construction Process

Finish mat, print blocker and various weights of knitted biaxial glass are strategically positioned inside the mold and inspected to ensure the proper materials are used and positioned correctly before vacuum infusion begins.

Vacuum Infusion Construction Process

Special flow materials and plastic tubing are positioned in various locations of the mold which allows resin to flow in a controlled manner to all sections.

Vacuum Infusion Construction Process

Once all the materials are loaded and the resin feed and vacuum lines are installed, a nylon bag is placed over the entire hull mold. The bag is sealed around the perimeter of the mold and around all the resin feed and vacuum tubes. Once the mold is bagged and sealed, a vacuum is created which "sucks" all the air out of the mold and compresses the fiberglass materials tightly against the hull. The nylon bag is inspected for leaks and the pressure monitored for a period of time to ensure it is holding steady and ready for infusion. Removing all the air from the laminate prior to resin infusion eliminates air voids which can be a frequent occurrence with traditional hand lay-up methods. A further benefit of placing the laminate under vacuum is that any potential moisture or contaminates are removed from the glass reinforcement, ensuring that the laminate provides its optimal strength.

Vacuum Infusion Construction Process

Vacuum lines are carefully positioned around the mold and are connected to a "vacuum pot" which provides the negative pressure that draws the resin out of the buckets and into the reinforcement material. A carefully measured amount of high quality vinylester resin is prepared in buckets from which the feed lines will pull the resin into the various sections of the mold. Using a high grade vinylester resin provides a strong, durable laminate that is superior to less expensive polyester resin products.

Resin is drawn from buckets into the laminate in a carefully designed sequence to ensure all dry laminate materials are completely filled. The dark area is where the resin has saturated the laminate
Inspectors carefully monitor the flow of resin and open additional feed lines when appropriate.
It takes approximately one hour for a hull to be completely infused with resin.

Vacuum Infusion Construction Process

After the resin has cured the nylon bag is removed along with the feed and vacuum systems and the hull is prepared for grid installation.

Strength Where It Counts

Our incredibly strong transom is produced by positioning a full width section of high density PXC-385 reinforced structural foam panel across the transom area. This closed cell panel will not rot, does not absorb water and has significant strength properties which are enhanced by adding multiple layers of heavy weight glass reinforcement on either side. This optimal composite design maximizes transom strength while meeting the required thickness for outboard installation. Our goal is no transom failures... Ever!

Solid Fiberglass Stringer System

Nowhere is the advantage of CAD design more visible than in a Southport stringer system. Engineered precisely for strength, the intricate stringers are not built of fiberglass-covered plywood or foam sheets as in other boats. The system is laminated on a mold, is 100% fiberglass and is filled with closed cell foam for additional stiffness and safety. The stringers are also designed to contain the complete wiring and plumbing chases, the fuel tank compartment, and the floors for consoles and storage compartments.

Solid Fiberglass Stringer System

The stringer system is attached to the hull with Plexus, the industry leading methacrylate adhesive that chemically fuses the fiberglass parts together to produce an incredibly strong and secure bond that is actually stronger than the fiberglass laminate itself. Plexus is a perfect boat building material because its tensile strength (the maximum force needed to pull something apart) is 4,000 pounds per square inch, and unlike traditional putties and glass mat, it is flexible which allows a Southport hull to handle challenging seas, absorbing and flexing without any delamination concerns.

Basic Flotation Safety and Security

After the stringer system is bonded to the hull, it is completely filled with closed cell injection foam, and then all cavities that are not used for storage or fuel tanks are filled with foam as well. This gives your Southport superior strength, basic flotation, dampens sound and absorbs vibration. Regulations don't require us to install all this foam: We do it because it helps us build a better boat and it's the right thing to do to ensure you, your family, and your crew are as safe as possible when enjoying your Southport.

Hull Assembly

In the assembly area, plumbing, electrical and fuel systems are located within the stringer system grid. Wiring chases are gel-coated fiberglass, so there is never a worry about rough glass chafing wiring and hoses. Even the polyethylene fuel tank has its own gel coated compartment. Careful inspection and testing of key systems occurs prior to the installation of the cockpit liner.

Before the cockpit inner liner is fitted into the hull, beads of Plexus adhesive are placed on the tops of the stringer system grid. In the area above the fuel tank, 4200 sealant is used in place of the methacrylate bond in the unlikely event that the polyethylene fuel tank ever needs replacing.

Component Construction and Assembly

Inspecting the ring deck prior to attachment

Cockpit liner ready for installation

Major components such as the console, ring deck and cockpit liner are all built using the vacuumed infusion process to provide strong, durable and precise parts that are attached to the hull and stringer unit. Steel fixtures are used to precisely locate the cockpit inner liner on the stringer system and then the ring deck is attached. With the hull, stringer system and cockpit liner filled with foam and bonded together with 4,000-pound-per-square-inch Plexus adhesive your Southport uni-body is incredibly strong, solid, and quiet.

Pre- Assembled Components and Wiring Systems

Parts such as the consoles, instrument panels and helm seat/livewell pods are built off-line in the subassembly areas before they are installed on the boats. Southport electrical systems are carefully built using the very best copper tinned wire and electrical components and tested prior to delivery.

Factory Installed Outboard Power

Factory installed outboard power systems, electrical systems, T-Tops and customized outfitting takes place during the final construction stage. At various stages throughout the construction process and after complete assembly, every Southport is inspected by a quality expert to ensure our high standards are being achieved.

Performance Delivered