While Rogue Valley boaters might not consider Siberia a likely place for running a riverboat, Russian industrialist Alexander Peterman begs to differ.
Peterman took notice of Boulton Powerboats cruising western Russia waterways and decided he needed one, but not just any old 30- or 40-foot boat.
We're talking a serious big boy toy here.
The Kodiak series model extends 45 feet, is 11 feet wide with a 10-foot floor and reaches 13 feet high. Its twin turbo-charged Yanmar diesels engines from Japan belt out 500 horsepower apiece, and its HamiltonJet drives from New Zealand are the size of desks.
Boulton estimates 50 vendors are supplying components or gadgets going into the boat, which has a 700-gallon tank and a 1,000-mile range.
"It's like an RV on water," said Mike Boulton, president of Boulton Powerboats on Highway 62 between Medford and White City. "Everything you would see in a Marathon bus is in this boat."
It surpasses the 44-foot watercraft built in 2004 for Salmon Harbor Charter in Ketchikan, Alaska.
The order came five years after a St. Petersburg, Russia, customer ordered the first of what became a nearly 50-boat bonanza for Boulton Powerboats. Those boats powered the boat builder through the Great Recession, keeping 10 Rogue Valley workers on the job.
Peterman, president of Russian conglomerate Slavtek, lives too far from Boulton Powerboat's lone Russian dealer, Trade Marine in St. Petersburg. So he went factory-direct and will wind up paying close to $1 million after shipping and taxes are factored in.
The boat will be trucked to Baltimore, from where it will be shipped to St. Petersburg, a western Russian port on the Baltic Sea. Then begins a 2,700-mile land trek to Nizhnevartovsk, along the banks of the Ob River in western Siberia. "Western Siberia is kind of like North Dakota," Boulton said.
North Dakota, of course, is home to the Bakken oil field — a generator of untold future wealth. "The city sits on the largest oil field in Russia," he said. "Which makes their little city uniquely capitalized compared to the rest of the country with its modern gyms, stadiums and arenas."
Slavtek owns more than 30 companies with 4,000 employees in 15 cities. The company has its hand in nearly every aspect of Russian life, from oil and aviation fuel, publishing, beauty salons, restaurants, advertising, law, accounting, baking, brewing, furniture manufacturing and building materials, according to its website. The Slavtek group is even into all-terrain vehicles.
With business in western Russia flagging, Boulton is looking east. "We're hoping our Christmas present will be a new dealer," he said. "Potentially, this is a larger market than St. Petersburg."
Peterman is well-connected with Russian leadership and considered a friend of Vladimir Putin, Boulton said. He noted that an airborne officer from the Russian military was dispatched to check out early work on the boat.
"This is a very expensive boat, they sent a large deposit, and they are checking out what we do for the future," he said. "Peterman is deciding if he wants to be a dealer in his area, so he had pictures taken of our facility and production area."
Boulton said Peterman made his first contact four months ago. It took a little technological help to move the process forward, relying on translation programs and Skype, Boulton said. "He has an associate who speaks English — almost — and we've been talking on the phone and Skype," Boulton said. "I call about 8 in the morning, and that's 11 at night there."
Boulton hopes the initial deal will lead to more sales and Peterman will add a Boulton Powerboat dealership to his holdings. "We're crossing our fingers," Boulton said. "We've already been asked how soon we could start another one for a couple of Alexander's friends. So I'm hoping there will be another order to follow."
Work began on the blue-and-white watercraft six weeks ago with completion expected in February, when it will undergo its maiden voyage at Lost Creek Lake. "It could be put in the Rogue River during normal water levels," Boulton said. "It can run in 3 feet of water. They're intending run it in skinny areas along the Ob and Volga River where they can put it on the beach without damaging the lower unit."
The Rogue Valley's boat building industry is running at harbor speed compared with what it was five years ago.
The big order kept five people working through the fall into winter, Boulton said. On average, the company has sold one boat per week — less than half of its peak production. "A lot of boats were financed by home refis, and that's just not happening now," he said. "Failure is not an option, so everybody has adjusted capacity to fit the economy. Right now our goal is to do 10 percent more next year."
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.