Monaro Marine Ltd.
Locally Built Boats Keep Customers Happy

In 1976, when Monaro Marine designed and built their first 21-foot boat, they launched it with a clear goal. Monaro founder Dan Parker believed there was a need for “a high-quality semi-production small cruiser” that was capable of handling our region’s rough waters. Parker thought the market would likely be small; but if the boat was well built, the company would grow and thrive.

Thirty years later, it’s clear that Monaro has found its niche. The Richmond shop, which employs nine people and turns out up to 12 boats a year, is a far cry from the part-time operation that started off in Parker’s garage, where in 1976 he worked alone to build the first Monaro 21. Today the family company, which employs both Parker’s son and wife, offers boats from 21 feet to just shy of 30 feet. And all of the boats meet the same high standards that the company’s discerning customers have come to expect.

Dan Parker loved building and designed boats from an early age. He was 11 when he built his first boat: a canvas-covered kayak. A few years later he constructed a classic Cracker Box speed boat, which was powered by a ’56 Buick engine. Parker developed an interest in yacht design as he worked on the Crack Box. “The engine was a little heavy, but for a while I had the fastest boat in Nanaimo,” he says.

As an adult it was inevitable that Parker would go into boatbuilding, and he started work at Spencer Boats. Well known for their sailboats, Parker found himself drawn to the powerboat side of the business, he says, “Because sailboats are too slow for me.”

While Parker learned the boatbuilding trade at Spencer, he learned the technical side of boat design by taking correspondence courses with the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology. While he studied, held down a full-time job, and raised his family, Parker pursued another goal: he designed and built the first Monaro, a rugged, well-made boat that was “meant to be used, not moored at the marina.”

Monaros are semi-custom. This means that the boats are built to order and new owners can decide exactly what options they want and need. Options start at the hull, and using an extensive list of choices, the customer is involved in decided all of the engine, seating, electronics, hardware, and cabin arrangements. Parker says the owner can work with the builders and come up with a plan that is completely unique. “Some of our best features have been suggested by customers,” he reveals. Some customer-generated ideas include the new dash layout on the 27-foot and 298 models and the extended swim grid on the 298. However, Parker draws the line at options that may affect the look or performance of the boats because “our name is still on the boat.”

Many of the smaller Monaros serve as commuter boats: getting their owners quickly to and from Gulf Island properties in almost any weather. Others are fishing boats, cruising boats, or workboats. A few have even been expedition craft. One Monaro 27 traveled up the Mackenzie River and all the way to its current home in Resolute Bay – a trip that saw the boat squeezed up and out of the water by pack ice. Fortunately, owner ingenuity got the boat back into the water. The damage? Just a few scratches to the hull and a broken trim tab.

While not every owner wants to take their boat to the far north, Monaro prides themselves on building and designing boats that meet their customers’ needs, whatever they may be. Parker is modest about his accomplishment, but does acknowledge that most of their sales are the result of happy customers referring their friends to the company. “Most of the people who show up here looking for a boat say that a friend sent them in,” says Parker.

It also seems that once someone buys their first Monaro they’re hooked. Many of Monaro’s customers are repeat customers: one family has bought four of the boats through the years. And the yearly rendezvous brings many of these owners together. Now in its 30th year, Monaro owners attend these gatherings where as many as 70 people get together and enjoy the islands while discussing the details that make their locally built boat so popular.

The reason for this customer loyalty seems to be found in Monaro's commitment to building the best boat they can. Parker explains, “We are careful with each boat; we research the market and are always refining and redesigning it to make it better.”