The Island Packet
Island Packet owners are remarkably loyal.
You can always tell you’ve met an Island Packet owner when they
struggle with what to talk about first - their Island Packet or their
kids/grandkids. And of
course, there are usually pictures of both in their purse or wallet.
The passion of ownership has been described as bordering on
religiously fanatical by some of our friends.
Well, if you’re not an Island Packet owner I’ll try to explain
this phenomenon by sharing some of our ownership experiences.
If you’re already an Island Packet owner, I’ll just reconfirm
First, let me assure you of my qualifications to preach this Island Packet
gospel. Our first Island
Packet was a 1989 Island Packet 35 which we purchased used.
My wife, Janet, our two golden retrievers, and I are currently
cruising aboard our second Island Packet while Bob Johnson and his Island
Packet staff create our next home, the Island Packet 485.
Our current boat,
‘Charbonneau’, is an Island Packet 40, hull number 132. We
purchased her new in 1999 from Gratitude Yachting Center and have been
cruising full-time since June of 2000.
Both experiences, owning new and used Island Packets, were the
same. Janet and I felt
like we had just bought a brand-new boat when I sheepishly called the
factory hoping to find a nine-year old replacement part for our IP-35.
We couldn’t have been treated any better if we had walked in
offering them all our money. So,
we’ve owned two Island Packets (new and used) and are waiting for our
third. I think that qualifies
me to dispel some of the Island Packet myths and share the faith with
Let’s start with the myths. Myth # 1 – Island Packets are slow and won’t sail upwind.
Truth – It depends on the conditions.
Island Packets are built for cruising, not racing.
However, several racers have been shocked when one of our
‘slow’ Island Packets win another offshore race.
And, it happens frequently! They’re
exceptionally stable which translates into lower heeling angles, even in
stronger winds. Our
upwind experience aboard ‘Charbonneau’ has shown an ability to sail
well at 40 degrees apparent wind and pinch at 35 degrees apparent.
We agree that our boat doesn’t move as well in light air, but
we’re going around the world not just around the racing buoys.
The ability to take the heavier air is more important to us than
the lighter air sailing. A
good cruising chute has kept us moving well in almost all conditions.
Myth # 2 – Island Packets are expensive. Truth – I can’t think of anything we’ve ever purchased
that gave us more value than our Island Packet.
The boats are built tough, almost to a fault. They hold their resale value over time and usually return the
purchase price to the seller when sold.
You don’t get a custom boat full of personal features.
What you do get is the collective wisdom of all previous owners in
an overbuilt boat that will take you safely around the world for a modest
price when compared to other similarly built boats.
Myth # 3 – Island Packet owners are fanatically devoted to their
boats. Truth – This one is
no myth. Own one and you’ll
understand why we’re fanatical. Island
Packets are like those famous potato chips, “You can’t have just
one.” Many owners go on to
own several Island Packets in their lifetime.
By now you’re probably wondering just what could cause ordinary people
to become so devoted to these boats.
The boats themselves are one reason.
As I already mentioned, they’re exceptionally well built and the
attention to detail is amazing. From
the warmth of the teak interiors to their distinctive beige gel-coat,
these traditional designs are pleasing to the eye.
Safety and a sea-kindly motion are the two features that we’ve
come to love in our cruising. ‘Charbonneau’
is extremely stable in all conditions and very forgiving when I make
stupid mistakes under sail. She
shoulders through large seas with joy and cares for my family as we cross
open oceans. Her cutter rig
with all roller-furling sails makes sail changes and reefing almost
effortless, even in deteriorating conditions.
There will always be items that individual owners wish were done
differently on their boats. But all in all, Island Packet has produced designs that meet
just about every need a cruising family could ask for.
More than the boat itself, Island Packet as a company has redefined
excellence in customer relationships.
They start with a strong dealer network comprised of highly
qualified sales and commissioning staffs.
But what sets them apart, in my opinion, is their staff at the
factory. I’ll start with an
example from the top – Bob Johnson.
We were talking with Bob at the 2001 Annapolis Boat Show when
another Island Packet owner asked Bob if he’d seen the email regarding
his question of sailing the cutter rig.
The owner was interested in some of the finer details of the cutter
rig (when to fly the staysail, etc.).
Bob’s answer reconfirmed my faith in the company.
He said he received the email just before the show and it was on
his desk. He promised a full
response and explanation as soon as he returned to the office.
No shuffling to other members of the staff. Bob Johnson, the top man, was taking the time to answer
sailing questions from the owners – and in detail.
commitment to customer service is prevalent throughout the entire company.
Tom Broome and Bruce Hodges run the customer service department at
Island Packet. I’ve called
them so many times that I know their number by heart!
And each time I’ve called, they’ve come through with flying
colors. Some personal
examples of their efforts include Bruce Hodges driving to a local marina
to deliver a replacement halyard to us and then later coming back with his
wife to help us get our HUGE load of laundry to a local Laundromat.
The laundry trip was not only unsolicited, Bruce insisted that we
let him help. Tom Broome is
in the same category of personal heroism.
We recently discovered that I had inadvertently broken a plastic
fitting on our exhaust system’s vented loop.
This translated into salt water dripping into our engine pan and a
thin layer of salt on some of the engine – not a good thing for long
term care of metal! I called
Tom asking for help. We were
essentially stuck in port until we could find this part and I’d looked
everywhere. One call to Tom and it was there the next day so we could
head back offshore for warmer destinations.
And let’s not forget Karsten Johnson.
He’s moved out of customer service and into a marketing position,
but has always been just as committed to customer happiness.
I can’t count the number of times he’s come through for us in
the past. He even yelled to
us across the fence at this year’s boat show to see if we needed
tickets. The only price for
the tickets was a handshake from me and a hug for Janet.
You don’t find many companies that treat their customers this
well. We consider them all
And like the commercials say, “But wait, there’s more!”
There was the time when we were going through the factory tour.
Our Island Packet 40 was in production at the time. The hull and deck were completed and the bulkheads and
cabinets were being installed. We
were sneaking peaks through the ports when a smiling man covered in dust
poked his head out of our boat. He
grabbed our camera and said “Hold on, I’ll get you some good
pictures.” With that he
jumped back into the boat and flashed several pictures.
He returned our camera with a smile and went right back to the dust
and noise. We never got his name, but will always remember his kindness
that day. When we had a
recent problem with our starting battery, Island Packet arranged for their
lead electronics person to come to our boat at anchor, via our dinghy, to
replace the battery, alternator, and regulator.
We think we just had a bad battery, but they wanted to replace the
whole thing just to be sure.
Our latest experiences revolve around Island Packet’s newest endeavor -
the building of a three-cabin, fifty-foot yacht.
We have been asking (badgering, actually) Bob Johnson to build one
for years. Last year, they
finally caved in and started the planning for what will become the Island
Packet 485. Being retired and
on a fixed-income didn’t stop us from placing an early deposit for this
new boat. We asked them to
build it and thought we should show that we were serious even if it meant
going without food for several years so we can stay retired.
(We’re Island Packet owners.
Who said we were logical?) Since
the inception of this project, we’ve shared many long emails,
conversations, and even a lunch with Bill Bolin and Earl Blackwell, Island
Packet’s Director of Marketing and Operations Manager, respectively.
We took the local bus from St. Petersburg, FL to the Island Packet
factory in Largo one day and Bill Bolin insisted that he drive us back to
our boat. There was no taking ‘no’ for an answer. We were interested in the new design and they were sincerely
interested in hearing ideas from Island Packet owners.
They took ideas from anyone willing to share them.
We’re happy to report that several of the owner’s ideas,
including ours, actually made the cut.
Well, I could go on for days sharing our experiences with Island Packet.
Our boats have been a joy to own and the relationships we’ve
built with Island Packet’s staff have developed into life-long
friendships. If you’re
already an Island Packet owner and haven’t taken the time to meet their
staff, you’re missing one of the best experiences in today’s boating
industry. If you’re not an
Island Packet owner, stop by sometime and let me bend your ear while
showing you some pictures of our boat.
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