Frank Lloyd Wright was a strong influence on Symphony Boat Founder Marcel LaFond, whose parents broke ground on a Wright Usonian house on the day he was born. Learning about lean manufacturing and design at former employer Cirrus Aircraft, was another great influence.
LaFond is not formally trained in design but has carried a fascination for how others solve a design challenges and how he might do it, if he were given the task. This came about from numerous hours of taking apart broken or old items as a kid. But being raised on a Minnesota lake also gave opportunity to break down the elements of a boat under sail, a propeller thrusting a motorboat forward, or the simple act of holding one’s breath under water.
Fast forward to college where, in 1982, he built an all-electric car from parts of a Volkswagen Beetle and a fiberglass body kit as a senior project. After driving it around town that summer he retired the vehicle due to the obvious hazards of driving while surrounded by lead and acid.
After studying small craft design and boatbuilding in Maine, LaFond discovered that there were few design jobs in the sailing yacht world but plenty in motor yacht design. After 10 years, he turned to aircraft where for 13 years he saw his aviation employer grow from about 50 people up to 1300 or more before the Great Recession put that career to an end.
A Wisconsin shipyard provided some opportunity for LaFond for a while but without a naval architect’s degree, the work the yard needed to keep busy was beyond the lessons learned in Maine - this is when Symphony Boat Company germinated.
Symphony Boats saw the need to make new watercraft that were gentler on the environment and that fostered a greater degree of interaction between the boater and the waterway.
Just like the quiet Torqeedo electric motor that has complimented the company’s philosophy, Symphony Boat is silently gaining relevance in the world of boating. Symphony Boats have exclusively used Torqeedo motors in all previous designs except the founding prototype.
The plan to launch the boats was also a business decision. The electric vehicle world is a growth industry. Together with partners Torqeedo U.S. and Lamboo Technologies, Symphony Boat Company is poised to become the Tesla of the boating industry.
But for Symphony, electric propulsion doesn’t mean a complete departure from the roots of wooden pleasure watercraft; LaFond dreamt of the elegant classics of the early 20th century and how to bring that charm and romance of boating to a more efficient and environmentally friendly future. But like the Wright house he grew up in, good design that endured was the ultimate goal.
The 2016 Six-1 Conductor (a.k.a. the Allegro Project) is the first American installation of the Torqeedo 80 hp Deep Blue inboard all-electric motor. With an approximate displacement of 1900 lbs., the 80 hp Deep Blue inboard will push her up to 30 mph. Torqeedo is a German company with product engineering expertise among the best in the industry.
Allegro’s look and design were an attempt to make an elegant, yet minimal, boat with the durability of the aluminum outer hull, which lends a decidedly modern tone to the final composition. The bamboo, wood, and hull shape itself, is to evoke the sleek look of a classic barrel-back runabout.
Her vee-bottom hull shape gets shallow as you go aft, and with her beamy stern she jumps to plane effortlessly with 6 passengers. A number of people have pointed out the utility of the Six-1 as a yacht tender and indeed, that was the reaction of Luke Schuette, founder of Lamboo Technologies, who is the supplier of the bamboo products that Symphony uses:
Design elements go beyond the bamboo (technically a grass, not a wood) and electric propulsion. Seating in the round so people can face each other makes the two launch designs more social vehicles. They are very easy to handle, making them perfect for high-end resorts where guests can rent one for a unique experience. The launches move at a leisurely speed of about 4 to 5 mph (6 mph top speed) making it stress free for the novice operator and the resort renting it. One of SBC’s first contracts was a small launch for two ladies in northern Minnesota who wanted to silently take in the beautiful wilderness of those northern lakes.
Symphony’s two launch designs utilize the Torqeedo outboard Cruise 2.0 tucked away in a cleverly designed motor well – giving them a classic inboard look. The Five-2 model was designed with a motor retract system that lifts the motor out of the water with an electric switch. It is a plus for elderly folks who don’t want to deal with manual tilt.
On the design table are a 23’ (electric auxiliary motor, of course), an electric glass bottom boat, and a unique wave piercing cat that will allow faster cruising with even less power.
“We are truly excited about our future and invite you to consider one of these beautiful craft as part of your electric vehicle future” LaFond says.
More information at www.symphonyboat.com