The concept of a high-end compact pontoon didn't even exist until Apex Marine introduced the Qwest line of pontoons nearly three years ago. The idea was simple, build a boat that has great features, with a family-friendly design and keep the overall construction quality high, but pack it all into a smaller version. The Qwest LS 7518 XRE Cruise is a perfect example of what forward-thinking will get you.
This kind of innovation is nothing new to Apex Marine, which first began nearly ten years ago when the original Gillgetter compact pontoon boat was manufactured by Mellinger Boats. This compact line of pontoons consisted of a pair of 15-inch diameter pontoons with a four- by eight-foot deck that was furnished with two swivel fishing seats. The vessel was originally designed as an affordable two-person fishing boat with tiller steering that could be easily trailered and possessed the characteristics of a pontoon boat. Little did they know at the time, this was the start of something bigger and better and soon these boats would be in great demand.
As the line developed for the compact pontoon concept, the Gillgetter line expanded to include several models with 6- and 7-foot widths and lengths ranging from 10 to 20 feet. Gillgetter pontoons quickly earned a reputation for sound construction, while still keeping the boats at an affordable price.
In February of 2003, Apex Marine acquired the assets of Mellinger Boats. Mark Dupuie, owner and president of Apex Marine, helped develop the original dealer network for Mellinger and was anxious for the opportunity to acquire the company. He knew that with his other company he could help take this pontoon to the next level and beyond. Dupuie also owns American Soft Trim, Inc., a company that manufactures OEM and aftermarket marine seating products, and the perfect match was created.
With Apex Marine at the wheel, the goal was to build on the solid reputation Gillgetter had earned, expand the dealer network, and explore new markets for compact pontoon boats. While the overall construction of the Gillgetter line remained the same, immediate enhancements were made to improve the cosmetic appeal and incorporate the upholstery products and experience of American Soft Trim. Apex set out to build the best "little" pontoon boats on the market. Turns out, they weren't the only ones that thought the concept of a high quality pontoon was a good idea.
In order to achieve significant growth, Apex Marine justified the acquisition of a larger manufacturing facility in March of 2005 and the decision paid off almost immediately. The new facility not only allowed Apex to double its manufacturing square footage, but it also provided space to integrate the operations of American Soft Trim. Eventually, it provided room for additional support staff and automated production equipment, including a water jet cutting system and full-time engineer.