The custom-built 42' Freeman was built in collaboration with Freeman Boatworks, Merritt Boatworks, and Pipewelders Marine. It was named Last Mango in homage to Buffett's 1985 country-tinged album "Last Mango in Paris."
The hull comes courtesy of South Carolina's Freeman Boatworks, who built the one-of-a-kind platform to give Buffett additional creature comforts and performance compared to smaller boats he'd previously run. The hull was also reshaped to accommodate a custom pilothouse built by Merrit Boatworks in Pompano Beach, Florida. A custom tuna tower courtesy of Pipewelders Marine in Fort Lauderdale, Florida was added on top to make the 42-foot offshore fishing boat a truly unique vessel.
For those unaware, Buffett is a longtime boater while his music has been a staple of yacht rock playlists since the early 70's. The "Margaritaville" singer has spent his downtime aboard a number of boats over the years, most recently a 50-foot (15.25 m) Pacific Seacraft sailboat named Drifter.
But the Last Mango was several years in the making.
"So this project starts three years ago," says Scott Cothran, Director of Sales & Marketing for Freeman Boatworks. "This very educated guy named Vinny calls, very educated boat talker asking very educated questions about doing some kind of pilothouse and wanting design information. I got off the phone and looked at one of the guys I work with and said: 'that guy is fishing for information. He is a competitor. Don't answer calls from that guy.'"
That 'Vinny' was Captain Vinny LaSorsa, Buffett's longtime boatswain.
For Vinny, chauffeuring Buffett around Charleson, South Carolina four years earlier was the inspiration for reaching out to Freeman.
"So four years ago, a few of my friends had ridden on Freeman boats, and I actually saw a 33' Freeman zooming around Charleston Harbour, and they got my attention."
With Buffett's approval, LaSorsa reached out to Freeman, only to be rebuffed as the company was wary of the seemingly knowledgeable 'captain' who implied having a mysterious boss.
According to Cothran, "Then I get a phone call from one of the guys in South Florida, saying: 'you need to quit blowing this Vinny guy off.' I asked who does he work for, because he's gotta be a competitor. He knows way too much about boatbuilding and about the marine industry. And he's got some mysterious boss that clearly doesn't exist. He goes: 'his boss is Jimmy Buffett. Answer the dang phone call.'"
(Photos courtesy Captain Jimmy LaSorsa)
After confirming that LaSorsa and Buffett were indeed real, and serious buyers, Freeman began putting their team into order.
It all began with Buffett explaining his vision.
"We met Jimmy Buffett when he came to my house to talk about the build for his awesome new Last Mango," says company president Sally Freeman. "What was so great was that he bought a boat from us when he could have bought a boat from anyone in the whole wide world, and he chose a Freeman. That's pretty darn cool."
With Cothran leading the charge, and the ultra-knowledgeable LaSorsa watching over his shoulder, the growing team began allocating plans for a custom 42-foot Freeman catamaran that would utilize a pilothouse rather than a centre console.
"You don't understand the stuff that's gotta come together," says Cothran. "We gotta get with Yamaha, we gotta get with Garmin, we've gotta get JL (Audio). All these parts have gotta come together, they've gotta be perfect, and they've gotta happen very quickly. Doing a boat in record time, we've got to involve every bit of our team, our best of our best. They're gonna do it in a short amount of time, and we're still running full production on everything else. We're racking our brain trying to think of how we're going to do all this while still keeping the quality of everything along the way."
The pilothouse would prove to be one of several features requiring outside expertise. To fabricate a pilothouse for a hull that had never had one, the team added Roy Merritt of Merritt Boatworks to the mix.
"Jimmy Buffett came to us about a project," said Merritt. "I wasn't too keen on the idea, but between Vinny and Jimmy there's always a certain amount of arm twisting that goes on, if you know what I mean. When you're a builder you like doing different things, and that's what interests me. So we agreed to do it. Jimmy went ahead and purchased the boat, and we went ahead designing the pilothouse and what was going to go in it. We mocked it up, and we built it."
The final touch came from Pipewelders Marine, who added a custom stainless steel tuna tower, effectively turning the Last Mango into a fully customized offshore dream machine.
"Probably the highlight of the build was that so many people poured their heart and soul into it, and then Jimmy flies in to meet everybody at the plant," said Cothran. "It was a really cool experience. He signed stuff and hung out with everybody. It shows the common touch he has. That was fun."
"This was a great build," added Mark Hanke of Merritt Boatworks. "It was a one-off build. It's one of the projects that brought a lot of the guys together to show the quality and craftsmanship and trades, from your carpenters, to your painters, to your electricians, to your mechanics."
Captain Vinny summed it up nicely: "You're only as good as who you work with. I took an idea and a dream of Jimmy's and was fortunate to have him believe in me enough to carry out his vision. Throughout carrying out that vision we've had so many people willing to be right there for me, to help me make sure that I succeed. I don't think it can get any better than that."
You can check out the story of the Last Mango below: