Haskell founder Preston Haskell’s love of art and design are on display throughout the Jacksonville riverfront headquarters. An adjacent pier built during construction in 1986 to support now obsolete mechanical systems would also allow easy access to the Casamia, Haskell’s corporate yacht, as it served as an extension of Haskell appreciation for design.
Today the iconic vessel celebrates the 60th anniversary of its launch on Sept. 28, 1961.
“It’s not just a means of transport, but a vessel of great aesthetic enjoyment,” Haskell said from his office overlooking the river last week. “One of the reasons that generation of yachts is so sought after is because of its beauty. It’s not only comfortable, but it performs well.”
The corporately owned Casamia – Italian for “my home” – is a 53-foot Huckins yacht, with deep roots in Jacksonville. The Huckins Yacht Corporation, located on the west side of the Ortega River, was started in Jacksonville in 1928 when founder Frank Huckins developed a sleek Quandraconic hull that allowed larger boats to go faster and plane on the water.
Huckins’ first claim to fame was making a design for the famous PT boats for the military at the beginning of World War II, a class of craft on which future U.S. President John F. Kennedy famously served.
The Casamia was designed in the late 1950s and launched in 1961. The original owner was Howard Dobbs, an Atlantan who founded Life of Georgia insurance. The yacht was sold to a Texas owner before returning to Jacksonville under the ownership of Charles Perry. Perry then entered an ownership partnership with Preston Haskell and John Murphree in 1979. Perry was the owner who bestowed the name “Casamia,” as he spent time living onboard before entering the three-way partnership.
Haskell became the sole owner by 1993, and it became the property of the Haskell company in the mid-to-late 1990s, serving as a team-building and business-development asset for the company. Haskell employees use it for departmental cruises, transport to and from football games at nearby TIAA Bank Field, social events in the vicinity and other occasions as it sails predominantly between the Dames Point and Buckman bridges on the St. Johns River. A cruise on Casamia is a familiar item in non-profit fundraisers as the boat is donated several times annually for charitable purposes. In all cases, Casamia is a reflection of the Haskell brand, showcasing quality design and the waterfront beauty of the Jacksonville.
The Casamia no longer cruises to open water as it did frequently in its earlier life for fishing ventures and trips to the Bahamas. Visiting clients or potential customers are able to step on deck to see the city via the river, originating either from the Haskell office or from the Casamia’s berth at the Lamb Yacht Center, adjacent to Huckins Yacht.
“It’s a great way to entertain, particularly for out-of-town guests, clients or prospective clients who haven’t seen Jacksonville from the river and may live in a land-locked city,” Haskell said. “It becomes a unique and pleasurable way to entertain. What a great afternoon or evening when you’re on the Casamia.”
The look and feel of the boat harken to a different era, in the 1950s and 1960s, with its combination of wooden features, two state rooms, two restrooms galley and salon below, ample deck space on the main level and a captain’s bridge above. It wouldn’t be all that startling to see an Ernest Hemingway-era figure emerge, as the design brings back thoughts of his maritime ventures.
“The symmetry of the design and the way it moves through the water gives the Casamia a lot of energy,” said Captain Mark Brundick, who took over the captaincy this year from 30-year captain Rocky Nepshinsky and who was born within a week of the Casamia’s original launch. “It is definitely a boat people don’t forget.”
In addition to its corporate use, Haskell donates the yacht to several different recipients throughout the year for charitable functions, one of the biggest drawing cards for any auction effort. In total, excepting the off time during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Casamia makes approximately 100 trips annually, with a capacity of 16 voyagers each trip.
“The number of nautical miles that this boat has covered is really significant,” said Huckins owner Buddy Purcell, whose wife Cindy is the granddaughter of founder Frank Huckins. “It has been a serviceable boat for its entire lifetime, with the same hull and same superstructure. Its survivability makes it unique because the number of miles is similar to a high-performance, high-miles car that keeps on going.”
During the pandemic, with use of the Casamia curtailed, the vessel returned to Huckins Yacht for the first major cosmetic exterior refit in its history. The bottom, hull and superstructure were all recoated, handrails rebuilt, brightwork refinished and obsolete hardware removed. Purcell said paint made the Casamia “brighter and prettier” than originally designed, because paint technology wasn’t as sophisticated 60 years ago. Most agree, Casamaia looks as good today as she did the day she launched, if not better.
Haskell delivers more than $1 billion annually in Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Haskell is a global, fully integrated, single-source design-build and EPC firm with over 1,800 highly specialized, in-house design, construction and administrative professionals across industrial and commercial markets. With 20+ office locations around the globe, Haskell is a trusted partner for global and emerging clients.
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