The family-owned Cruise Craft brand is enjoying an amazing journey that shows no sign of reaching its destination anytime soon. The Australian boat building company was founded in 1946, and over the past 75 years there has been three generations of the Nichols family at the helm.

While the Yamaha Motor name does not stretch as far back as Cruise Craft, the two companies has enjoyed a long-standing and ongoing development partnership with new technologies driving them into the future.

Company director, Nathan Nichols, whose grandfather founded Cruise Craft, is a leading voice on Australian boating standards and construction methods. He and his fellow company directors, brother Justin and cousin Darren Nichols, are all passionate about the history of the Cruise Craft name, as well as its future direction.

Nathan summed up the relationship between Cruise Craft and Yamaha Motor perfectly when he said. “It’s not that we get to bolt a Yamaha outboard onto the back our products. We are proud to bolt a Cruise Craft onto the front of a Yamaha outboard.”

While there’s little doubt that being a director of one of Australia’s biggest boat building companies has its stresses and challenges, Nathan never loses sight of how fortunate he is to work in an industry that delivers a lifestyle. “Being out on the water is so satisfying and relaxing, and then when you get to do it for a career, it’s awesome,” he revealed. “The best part of our job and the business is being able to use the product. We can get up on any given day and get out on the water.”

Flicking through a book that was published to commemorate 75 years of Cruise Craft, Nathan marvels at what the family-owned business has achieved in that time. “We have been operating now for three quarters of a century,” he said. “My grandfather started the business in 1946 down in the Wynnum area, and now it’s into a third generation of family ownership. We have been in the Brisbane area that whole time.”

In it’s 75 year old history, Cruise Craft has only moved premises twice. Once in 1964, and again in 2020 when it built its new state of the art facility at Hemmant, QLD. “The most recent move has enabled us to increase our efficiencies and make sure we can manage the business process the right way,” Nathan advised. “It has also provided us with the ability to initiate manufacturing processes that are more environmentally friendly than anything we could achieve at the old premises. The improved system we can put into place have been beneficial to our dedicated team which is resulting in a better-quality product for our consumers.”

While the name Nichols remains on the company’s ownership masthead, it’s no longer a solitary captain steering the ship. While Nathan looks after all the HR and management of the business, his brother Justin is the one heavily involved with new product development. Justin loves to be down on the floor in the thick of the action with tools in hand. The third director is their cousin, Darren, who looks after everything to do with rigging, installation, water testing and delivery.

Working together with a tight-knit team, the trio share the goal of using old-school methods and know-how that has been handed down from generation to generation, to bring to life something that has been designed using 21st century computer CAD technology.

“What we are trying to do is turn an idea that starts life as a drawing on a computer, into a tangible product,” explained Darren. “The design work is done upstairs, but when we get onto the floor, we get to assemble all the ideas into a finished product, that’s what I love to do. We bring those visions to life and then head out on the water to find out if the theory behind the design work. This is where Yamaha tech and know-how really comes into its own. We not only work with Yamaha staff, but we also utilise the performance bulletins they put out, so we know we are fitting the optimum motor, propeller, and motor height combination.”

Adding to what Darren said, Justin explains that their goal is to ensure the customer receives the best experience possible when they purchase a Cruise Craft boat. “We want them to know that from the stem to the stern, including the electronics and the Yamaha outboard fitted, that all the components are perfectly suited to each other, and that the boat is set up perfectly from the first day they take delivery of it.”

“We are very lucky to have a partnership with Yamaha,” he added. “We are privy to information about what they are going to be releasing the following season, and this allows us to work on designs to suit those new engines. That’s when we get excited, when we get to see what we are going to be building next.”

Nathan added that one of the biggest advantages Cruise Craft receives by working with Yamaha Motor is access to the latest technology and outboards. “Having this early access enables us to work out how that technology can be built into our latest products as we are designing them,” he said. “This puts us well ahead of the game.”

An example of this is the Helm Master EX system. Cruise Craft was one of the first companies in Australia to get access to that product. “We were able to design our next generation of products around that system to make sure it interfaced well, and that the assembly and installation process was spot on,” said Nathan.

The trio also revealed that planning for the next 75 years does not involve relying solely on the next generation of boat builders, although they are a major part of the plan.

“How we train the young girls and guys that are coming through the boat building process involves finding a nice blend of new-tech and old-school boat building know-how,” Justin explained. “This is the secret to building something special at Cruise Craft. We not only have a lot of old experienced heads teaching the younger boat builders, but we also have younger heads showing the old blokes some new technologies and ideas – such as CAD drawing.”

Adding the conversation, Nathan said, “We’ll look to continue to build the best products on the Australian market, giving our customers the ultimate experience, and to deliver the best possible career path for our staff, that’s where we see the future of Cruise Craft. And we look forward to having Yamaha with us the whole way.”

“Looking to sum up the spirit of Cruise Craft into a couple of sentences, Nathan said the best example of what drives them to perfection often happens at the boats shows. “When we go to a boat show we see people eyeing off our products and we overhear them saying something like ‘I really love these boats but can’t afford one yet’ to us, meaning there is a desire for the product, there is aspiration for the product. When you can get a team to build that aspiration with you, then take them to the water with the finished product and show them what they have produced – that’s extremely rewarding.”