Podcast 020 – Bob Fuller of South Shore Boatworks

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Third Generation boat builder. We throw the term “third generation” around like it doesn’t mean too much, but let’s think about that for a minute. My father passed away over 2 decades ago and I never knew my grandfather on his side, but let’s just say that I did.

I’m going to pretend that I own a third generation boat building business. My grandfather started building boats when he was a kid. Let’s say that was 100 years ago. Then my father, the 2nd generation, spent time in the shop as a kid and was taught the trade growing up. That’s another 75 years or so. Then I came along. I meandered around the shop as a child and started picking up the trade at a young age. Now here I am in my 40’s and I’ve basically been building boats with my Dad and grandfather for 30 years. Now, if my math serves me, I essentially have over 200 years of pooled experience all bottled up in my head. That is incredible. That is what third generation boat builder means to me. Sure, it also means that the business has been in the family for three generations and you can assume you will get a builder with integrity and honesty, but more importantly, it’s the mountain of skill that has been passed along to each new generation.

Unfortunately, none of this is true for me, but it is exactly the case at South Shore Boatworks. Bob Fuller is a third generation boat builder just as I described above. The focus of the business is building high-end wooden ships wheels, but the business spans into boat builds and restorations as well.

The wheels that Bob Fuller designs and builds are not your run-of-mill boat steering devices. These are cream of the crop centerpieces that have adorned the yachts of the Kennedy family, the walls of the National Heritage Museum, a French America’s Cup yacht, and various other high profile vessels. Bob is known worldwide as one of the last and best builders of custom wooden ships’ wheels and his passion for the craft is enormous.

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I read about Bob and South Shore Boatworks prior to our meeting and I was expecting a bustling shop with multiple hands churning out ships’ wheels with a busy master craftsman rushing through my interview. Much to my delight, I was way off. I drove right by South Shore Boatworks the first time and had to turn around. It is a small barn nestled in the woods behind a beautiful, cabin style home. Bob has a larger space for boat work, but this is his primary spot for much of the smaller work and the ships’ wheels. As we spoke before the interview, Bob explained the process of wheel building. It became clear immediately, that South Shore Boatworks isn’t about churning out good products for profit.  They are about building the finest piece of craftsmanship they can possibly build.  They are about building a centerpiece for a boat that will improve the boat.

I greatly enjoyed my talk with Bob Fuller.  Bob takes great pride in his work and it shows in each intricate detail.  I was a little troubled by the end of the interview with Bob’s plea for a 4th generation person to pass it along to.  As it stands, there is no heir to the South Shore Boatworks throne.  Bob’s daughter has chosen a different path in life and as it stands, nobody is slated to take over.  Hopefully, some hopeful young apprentice will find South Shore Boatworks and it will become a passion to that person as it has been to Bob, his father, and his father.


 

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