Dufour Insider: How the Boats are Built (Part 4)

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Construction quality is the foundation of what makes a Dufour a Dufour and we take great pride in the way our hulls and decks are built and strengthened. Strict attention to detail and sophisticated engineering is just one of the many things that make Dufour Yachts such solid performers. But the truth is, lots of the quality you get in a Dufour goes on underneath the floorboards and behind furniture. So, like the foundation of your house, the benefit from these essential functions often go unseen.

So the next installment of this popular series is going to show how all Dufour Yachts start to take shape beneath the surface during construction. And as you can see in the photo above, bulkheads are some of the first elements to be added as the open hull makes its way down the production line. The yellow metal frame pictured above holds the bulkhead in place to ensure a precise fit.

IMG_7955Here in this close-up shot you can see bulkheads are tabbed to the hull with a wide layer of fiberglass and resin to form a ultra-strong bond and are closely inspected to ensure structural integrity.

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An incredible amount of hand craftsmanship goes into every Dufour Yacht. But we also use highly efficient CNC machines to cut wood panels very quickly and  precisely to help speed production along as well.

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Modular construction–i.e. the interior gets built in sections (modules) and then installed in the hull as it moves down the production line. This makes it possible to improve both the quality and the speed of production.

nav stationHere’s a completed nav station (including the electric panel and the highly insulated refrigerator box) that’s been built in the woodshop and waiting to be placed into the appropriate hull that’s moving down the production line.

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Modules can also be pre-wired with all the necessary wiring and electronics and then highly skilled electricians make sure all the connections are complete once the module has been placed into the hull.

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As you can see above, air conditioning ductwork, vented loops, soundproofing, and even the engine’s fuel filter can be pre-installed.

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This module also includes a section of bulkhead that must be bonded with the hull. The area that will be joined with the hull is prepared to insure there is a solid mounting surface that’s receptive to resin for the tabbing material.

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Completed modules then get lowered into place in the hull. Workers use remote-controlled hoists in the factory that allow easy handling and placement of the module sections/ The piece is then bonded in place with adhesive, fiberglass tabbing, and other mechanical fasteners.

IMG_0226_AWe’re not at the finished boat yet. But we’re getting there. Click here for part 5 in this How the Boats are built series to see how the interior fits together before the deck is installed.

Dufour Insider: How the boats are built (Part 3)

Okay, so let’s keep on moving down the Dufour Yachts production line. We learned how the hulls are laid up in Part 1. And Part 2 describes how the decks are made. Now it’s time to talk about how an empty shell of a hull that first comes out of a mold becomes a Dufour Yacht.

unnamed[7]It all starts with solid fiberglass structural grid (above) that’s engineered to provide strength as well as provide solid connection points for all the interior components.Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 3.43.41 PMDufour’s grids are built the same way the hulls are. Specific layers of fiberglass, resin, and gelcoat are laid up on a mold. As you can see in the photo below, the one-piece grid that comes out of the mold has a highly finished gelcoat surface. This allows the grid to be as attractive as it is strong and allow for wonderfully clean locker and cabinet floors, as well as sump areas.unnamedDWC2U02OAttaching the grid is literally the first step in the assembly process. It’s actually chemically fused to the hull with adhesive.

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The support beams are molded into the grid and the entire structure is fused to the hull. Notice the circular hole and solid mounts that are designed for the engine and saildrive and the black hoses that are there to make it easy to run plumbing and wiring.

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The grid is also tabbed in place with fiberglass in high load areas around the chainplate anchors (pictured above). This spreads the load of the rig out over a wide, heavily reinforced area.

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Once the grid is in place, the boat quickly starts to take shape. Here you can see the engine and saildrive have been installed. Some wiring and plumbing have been run. Hull ports have been installed. The first of several tanks have been dropped into place, and even the anchor locker is taking shape.

Notice also the temporary plywood “floorboards” in front of the engine. Those are there to make it easy for workers to move around and will be replaced with the much more stylish ones as the boat moves down the production line.

But this is only the beginning. Click here to see how the interior takes shape in part 4

Behind the scenes at Cruising World’s Boat of the Year testing

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 3.03.56 PMCruising World Magazine has been test sailing and judging the best new boats of the year after the US Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland since the early 1990’s. And since they test sail up to 24 boats during the week immediately following the show, they can’t really afford to worry about the weather, or going back to the dock in between test sails!

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As you’ll see in this behind-the-scenes view of the 2015 Boat of the Year testing on the Chesapeake, they maximize sailing time by jumping from boat to boat on the waters off Annapolis.

Behind the scenes at Cruising World’s 2015 Boat of the Year testing from Dufour Yachts on Vimeo.

And they don’t stop test sailing just because it’s a little windy. In fact, we’re even prouder the Dufour 560 was named Cruising World’s Best Full Sized Cruiser over 50 feet this year because, as you’ll see in the video, the test was conducted on a dark, rainy day in a sporty 20 knot breeze and weather that you’d certainly expect to find on an offshore passage.

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Cruising World Senior Editor Herb McCormick (with the notebook above) sums it up beautifully in his report: “One of the best, if sometimes harrowing ways to get a sense of just how massive and voluminous today’s full-size cruisers are is to board one from a rocking inflatable in a rolling seaway. Case in point: approaching the Dufour 560 Grand’ Large for our test sail on a blustery Chesapeake Bay morning in a 20-knot northerly with accompanying 2- to 3-foot seas. Yes, we’d already scrutinized the boat dockside and understood it was a big, powerful yacht. But timing the leap and scrambling up the boarding ladder put the exceptionally high freeboard in its proper perspective. It was like scaling Yosemite’s slab-sided El Capitan. Later, similar adventures boarding the other boats in this category… drove the freeboard nail home with authority. These are all Big Boy boats, with all the attendant space, systems, amenities and sailing prowess that come with that rarified territory.”

The Dufour 560 is big, sexy, speedy, comfortable, and a winner. Check it out.

Dufour Insider: How the boats are built (Part 2)

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Both hulls and decks are built of fiberglass in our state-of-the-art facility in La Rochelle, France, but they are actually built in very different ways. As we explained in Part 1, each hull is built of layers of hand laid fiberglass and resin in open molds.

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Decks, on the other hand, are “injection molded” in closed, 2-piece molds. This process allows the finished decks to come out of the molds strong and smooth, so smooth in fact that a finished boat won’t need a liner, but, it does require sophisticated engineering and incredible attention to detail during construction.

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 5.15.43 AMInjection molding requires the entire deck to be laid out with specific layers of fiberglass and reinforcing material in high load areas like winch pads and jib tracks etc to laid up all at once on the “bottom” part of the mold that is first sprayed with gel coat that will form the smooth outer later of the deck (pictured above).

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Then the “top” which is also covered with a layer of cured gel coat is lowered on to the bottom part that’s laid out with the required sandwich material (pictured above). The two parts are then joined and form an air tight seal and then the magic happens.

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It’s not actually “magic” but, once the two parts of the mold are sealed, workers can then start “injecting” the resin into the mold. The resin is pumped in through hoses (pictured above) and the seal insures complete resin saturation. This is ideal because it results in a strong deck without requiring excess resin.Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 6.21.38 AM

Injection molded decks are virtually flawless (on both sides) when they come out of the mold.

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Then workers use jigs to cut out the areas for ports and hatches as well as drill all necessary holes to install all the deck hardware.

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Then the deck hardware is attached before the deck is the lowered on to the hull (we’ll talk about this later in a future instalment of this multi-part series).

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And the best part is, the underside of the deck is beautiful. This allows for increased headroom (since no deck liner is needed) and the sleek, modern look Dufour Yachts are known for.

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 6.31.45 AMClick here for part 3 where we explain the construction and bonding process for the structural grid.