A passion for sturdy boats

Work as a machinist may not sound like an exciting job, but for Stephen Beecroft it’s a pretty good way to earn a living.

Matt Beaudoin measures around the motor of a new aluminum jet boat at Firefish Industries in Innisfail Wednesday.

Matt Beaudoin measures around the motor of a new aluminum jet boat at Firefish Industries in Innisfail Wednesday.

Work as a machinist may not sound like an exciting job, but for Stephen Beecroft it’s a pretty good way to earn a living.

It helps that he’s able to merge his trade with his passion for boats.

Beecroft operates FireFish Industries, a company that manufactures heavy-duty, shallow-water jet boats.

“It’s a rewarding job,” he said. “You can build a product and when you’re done you can stand back and look at it and you can actually go use it.

“You work in some industries, and you build a bunch of parts and you don’t know what they’re for and you don’t care.”

One of Beecroft’s current projects is a 30-foot vessel designed to carry up to four horses. It’s being built for a customer from Fort St. John.

“When he goes hunting, he wants to be able to pull ashore and unload his horses.”

Powered by a pair of six-litre Chevy engines, the boat will contain such features as removable livestock rails and a drop-in ramp system.

The ability of FireFish to custom-build boats to meet its customers’ needs is a big reason the business has grown into a 10-employee shop in just seven years.

Not everyone needs to transport horses up river, but many do want a personalized product.

“We can go from a plain-Jane hull for a guy using it for hunting to a very nicely finished boat that’s more for luxury — zooming up and down the river with his family.”

In addition to different lengths and widths, customers can choose their own colours, upholstery, tops, motors and a myriad of other features.

It can take 10 to 12 weeks to build a big boat, said Beecroft, with smaller products running about five to six weeks. Prices range from $30,000 to $100,000 — and up.

In addition to custom builds, FireFish has a half-dozen standard models it sells directly to customers or through a dealer in Grande Prairie.

“We get a lot of sales because of the availability,” said Beecroft of his spec boats.

“You can walk in on a Friday and go boating on the weekend.”

Many of the boats that FireFish produces are used for hunting, fishing, camping and by outfitters. They’ve gone to customers as far away as Quebec.

“They end up in some pretty remote areas.”

The company, which Beecroft owns with his wife Jennifer and his father Dave, operated out of Red Deer until a few weeks ago, when it relocated to Innisfail. Beecroft said the new premises, which has about 7,000 square feet of shop and another 1,000 square feet of office space, is better suited for production.

Plus, he added, it gives FireFish its own building instead of having to lease.

Being able to customize boats has brought a lot of customers to FireFish. But Beecroft thinks quality has been the key to the company’s success.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com