Row, sail, paddle…whatever you got. If you wanna say, “Let’s go out in my boat.” I’m gonna say, “Yeah. Let’s go!” …I mean, that’s the end purpose of it all; to get out on the water and to be out on the water. That’s the purpose of the boat, right? That’s what I do for people. I get them out on the water. -Walter Baron
In searching for this month’s interview subject, I started mulling over who I had interviewed in the past. I’ve interviewed mostly boat builders that had businesses that were 2 or more generations old. They either acquired them or inherited them, but the point is that they were established businesses with track records and an loyal customer base. I really did not have the dreamer, the something-from-nothing, the backyard-boat-builder-turned-career-boat-builder person yet. I think every boat builder has that fantasy cross their mind once or twice in their lives. The one that says, “Damn, I wish I could do this all the time and still support my family.”
Walter Baron of Old Wharf Dory in Wellfleet, MA is that guy. His business started with a small pram that he simply nailed together with some glue and sold to his wife’s father. Eventually, he was able to churn out 2 prams in a week and make some money. The repairs started coming in and his name got out and next thing he knew, he was a professional boat builder. That was back in the 70’s when wooden boats were abundant. Times have changed and wooden boats are now scarce, but Walter is still able to maintain a consistent book of work and to do what he loves…building boats.
Although he has built 160 boats in all shapes and sizes, Old Wharf Dory focuses mainly or rowing/paddling boats these days. Rowing is something that Walter is passionate about himself and he gets out on the water frequently. Unfortunately, he has not found “the perfect rowing boat” yet, but he is certain that he is closing in on it. After you have built 160 boats, you have the luxury of being able to compare designs. For the rest of us that have just a small handful of, we are not quite as concerned about the performance…we are just happy that it floats.
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