A Zoom call with Dickey Boats founder and sales and service manager Jason Dickey reveals the role technology plays in the 11 herbs and spices that go into making these iconic boats so coveted, writes Matt Vance.

We live in a world saturated with technology. It is technology that enables me to type this from the chart table of my boat – it is also technology that fuels the frustration of a help desk caller. (Yes, I have bloody tried to turn it off and on again!).
Boats are no different and you’ll quickly discover that technology has made the boating life infinitely easier but also more complex. Successfully harnessing the best technology is something of an art, and there’s a ton of technology lurking beneath the classic styling, smooth ride and gleaming navy-blue paint job of a Dickey boat.

“Technology was at play before we even established the business. Until then, building classically-styled, fully-customised vessels in modern materials was an expensive proposition.
“Building the vessels at a realistic price came about through the development of CAD and CNC-cutting technology. With these we were able to develop, test and build alloy boats that had the strength, the quietness and the ride we wanted.”
Roll forward a few years. Customer experience remains at the forefront of the Dickey Boats’ mantra, much of which is facilitated by technology and user-centric design.
“Every boat starts as a conversation and then as we start to understand what the customers are looking for. We listen to their likes, their frustrations, get to understand who they are, where and how the boat’s going to be used.
“We literally turn this conversation into a 3D model to help visualise the boat and the experience. We can then show clients the benefits as well as any consequences of any modifications in the layout.”

There was a brief pause before Dickey added one of those aphorisms that should be in the Manual for Life: “It’s always better to make a decision early than face a disappointment later.”
The company puts technology right at the start of the customer discussion. “We take two paths with technology. One – as technology becomes available we look at it how it can help our customers.
“Two – we often experience headaches ourselves or via customer interactions out on the water – so we start to hunt for technology to solve the problem. So, right at the start we’re trying to use technology to deliver outcomes for people. Technology must make something better or easier. If it doesn’t meet those two goals we move on.”
Much of this approach’s success is having the flexibility in the construction method that allows change to happen as a natural progression. Alloy construction – free from the limitations of moulds and tooling – allows an infinite range of customisation within the basic design parameters of the hull.

“Every change has a consequence for the hull design, weight and ride, so we use an integration between several software technologies to help us and the client understand what is being improved or compromised by these decisions.” The result is a boat that’s light, strong and rides like a Cadillac.
Technology’s other important role is creating confidence for the clients. “Confidence in the boat is enjoyment, it’s as simple as that.”
This is particularly significant for marina manoeuvring. Most boaties are familiar with the dry mouth that accompanies trying to squeeze into a marina berth in a crosswind. The development of thrusters and IPS for its twin-engine models was a big step for the company.
Another area that has enjoyed large gains over the last few years is onboard electrical systems – an advance which has reduced the occurrence of ‘amp psychosis’ in new owners.
“Though the switch to lithium-ion batteries has been a great leap forward, they require large alternators to get the benefits of the rapid charging capabilities. With the right lithium-ion setup in place, you can get a 25% charge in half an hour. On a launch this means you’re not constantly thinking about electrical consumption. Ideally, everything aboard should be as effortless as if it was an apartment.”
With the addition of C-Zone and smart digital switching everything from the generator to the bilge pumps can be automatic, set-and-forget systems, with the option for manual override.
Away from the boat, software for remote monitoring is available. “As with any other piece of technology we have to bring it all back to customer experience. Knowing that your anchor is dragging or that your bilge pump is going adds confidence to the experience.
“Having false alarms going off or gimmick ideas like boat speed – which is already catered for by other technology aboard – simply diminishes enjoyment by eroding confidence or providing needless hassle.”

Left unchecked technology can become a runaway train, much like the American sports fishing boat syndrome: bigger engines need more fuel capacity, which increases the weight and requires a bigger engine…
“You can get into an endless loop, so it’s important to measure any pros and cons of additional technology carefully and keep bringing it back to the fundamental customer experience.”
While ‘customer experience’ rolls off the tongue easily, it requires a flexible business setup.
“We can customise and change our boats – and that’s great for customers. So when a new piece of technology comes out, we can start working with the suppliers on designing or integrating that technology into the boat.”
You can learn a lot over one cup of tea and a Zoom meeting. Dickey signs off to go back to producing great boats, and I go back to writing stories on an old computer that keeps crashing, and before you ask, yes, I have bloody well tried to turn it off and on again!