Innovation: Armstrong Nautical Products
Finding — and serving — a world-wide market
Tucked away between U.S. 1 and Old Dixie Highway in south Stuart is a marine products company known as one of the top innovators in the industry.
From outboard brackets to center pole ladders, special ladders for inflatable boats, compression deck plates and more, Armstrong Nautical Product’s designs make boating safer, faster and/or more efficient.
Janie Vallery, Armstrong Nautical Products president, explains that the birth of the company’s positive flotation outboard bracket goes back to racing boats in the 1950s and 60s.
“The technical people back then were looking for more speed,” said Vallery. “They decided to move the motor off of the transom of the boat. With the motor farther back, the propeller took in cleaner water and got a better bite. The effectiveness of the propeller was improved and the boat was able to plane much faster. As a result, they started winning races.”
“Armstrong Nautical took the concept much farther,” said Russ Sedlack, Armstrong Nautical vice president. The company has designed a type of bracket that is like a shelf or an extension of a boat’s stern. “The bracket eliminates a cut in the transom,” said Sedlack. “It makes the boat safer because it removes the chance of water coming over the stern when backing up or navigating in a following sea.”
Made of marine grade aluminum, the bracket has an enclosed air chamber that increases buoyancy. It is custom made and bolted on the back of each boat, either during the process of manufacturing or when an owner wants to retrofit an existing boat’s power system. Boat builders such as Twin Vee, Bluewater Sportfishing, Grady White, Parker and Regulator include the Armstrong bracket as part of their standard package on larger boats.
Not only does the bracket improve safety, it increases fuel economy and creates more room in the boat. For example, with motors mounted on an Armstrong bracket, a 25’ boat with twin 200 HP engines uses 29% less fuel at 1100 RPM and has a 24% increase in speed.
Armstrong Nautical has a worldwide reach. They currently ship their brackets to 10 manufacturers overseas Dubai, South Africa, Italy, England and France to be used as original equipment on boats.
Sedlack, who is a marine industry designer, has worked at Armstrong Nautical for the last 12 years. Now part owner, he has helped Vallery, who purchased the company in 1990, create additional products that give Armstrong Nautical an innovative niche in the marine product world.
Besides manufacturing motor brackets, Armstrong Nautical is also known for its marine ladders. “The center pole ladder concept was developed in 1988,” said Sedlack. The ladder has one single pole in the middle with open rungs on either side of the pole. “Using a standard ladder, a diver would have to remove their fins to thread the needle to climb the rung which created a very unsafe situation,” said Sedlack. “With the Armstrong center pole design, divers can go up the ladder with fins on.” Armstrong Nautical has three variations of its ladders. “All of our ladders float and act like a lifeline,” said Sedlack.
“Janie has a policy of listening to our customers,” said Sedlack. “We get their feedback and listen to the problems that they have with existing equipment,” said Vallery. “We want our equipment to be safer, convenient and comfortable.”
As a result of listening to customers, Armstrong Nautical has produced a line of ladders that attach to rigid inflatable boats (RIB), such as those that are used by the Coast Guard.
The sides of the RIB boats are tubes that make it challenging to hang a ladder on, but the company has surpassed expectations with its RIB ladder. “It is important to have a stable ladder particularly in a rescue situation in rough seas,” said Sedlack.
In 2009, Armstrong Nautical won a design award at the Marine Exhibition and Trade Show the largest marine accessory show in the world held in Amsterdam for its RIB ladder. “Out of 1,300 vendors, Armstrong was one out of seven that won a design award,” said Sedlack.
Another innovative product manufactured by Armstrong Nautical is a compression deckplate that the company patented in 1993. “Our deckplates are water tight and do not require a bezel,” said Sedlack. By inserting the deckplate in a hole, it can be installed without special tools, which eliminates time, effort and energy. It also adds to the safety of the vessel.”
When asked about new products on the horizon, Sedlack described the Armstrong Yanmar Marine (AYM) bracket. Rather than complementing an outboard engine, this bracket design accommodates the inboard engine. “It’s an aluminum enclosure that houses a Yanmar diesel engine with the outdrive extending from the rear of the boat,” said Sedlack. Rather than the engine being in the boat, it is in a box that extends out from the stern. “The AYM offers tremendous commercial and military use because of the diesel motor durability and an increase in deck space.”
Vallery and Sedlack, along with Armstrong Nautical’s 20 employees, have proven that innovation in the marine industry on the Treasure Coast continues to grow and thrive.