Rebirth of boat works
Restoration work on the Farley Boat Works building is nearly finished, and offi cials with the Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association (PAPHA) plan to open the historic Port Aransas structure to the public this spring. Visitors will be able to browse marine-oriented historical exhibits and take part in actual boat building, right there on the grounds of the facility on Avenue C, near Cut-off Road.
“We hope to bring back to life a part of the island’s past that was immensely important,” said Rick Pratt, director of the Port Aransas Museum. “Our island depended on the sea and couldn’t do without boats.”
Farley Boat Works, which operated at a number of locations around town, was in business from 1916 to 1970. That easily makes it the longest lasting major boat building business in Port Aransas history.
The wood-frame building on Avenue C is about 60 years old and was run by Farley Boat Works from the 1950s to 1970, Pratt said.
PAPHA bought the structure in early 2011. The $200,000 deal represented the largest purchase that the nonprofi t organization has made in the more than 15 years the group has existed.
Preserving the building goes a long way toward preserving Port Aransas maritime heritage, Pratt said. The all-wood boats that the Farley family built were iconic of the town’s tarpon era. President Franklin D. Roosevelt fished from a Farley boat when he visited Port Aransas waters in 1937.
Restoration work has included squaring the building up. It had been leaning slightly.
Work also has meant rewiring the building and replacing much of the metal sheathing that makes up the walls.
Built after the structure’s original construction, a storage area was removed as part of the restoration. A small office and restroom were added.
New lighting and hurricane proof windows were installed.
Workers put in new water and sewer lines. There never were sewer lines there before, and the only water line that existed before was for a hose. The building has a sink inside now.
A covered entry way also was built. And the concrete floor was repaired, cleaned and repainted, giving it a smooth finish. That was tough work, said Frank Massey, owner of the company that restored the building.
“ There was 50 years of fiberglass piled up on those floors, with splatters and droppings ever ywhere,” Massey said. “Many years of boat repairs.”
Massey, a Port Aransas resident, said he was proud of the work that his business did on the building.
“I look back at the history Port Aransas has, and we’re not that old,” Massey said. “By restoring the Farley building, we’re capitalizing on what history is available. Everything revolves around the water in Port Aransas, and I can’t think of a better thing to do to enhance the community.”
Assisting Massey were his workers, brothers Steve and James Mayes. Other contractors on the job included Port Plumbing and Mid-Coast Electric Co.
PAPHA has brought in a table saw, a band saw and two drill presses for later boat construction work at the facility.
Doyle Marek, a retired teacher from the Port Aransas Independent School District, has said he will help at the boat works building. Marek taught boat building at Port Aransas High School.
The first boat to be built at the facility will remain at the shop as an exhibit, Pratt said. The next one will be sold at auction as a fundraiser for PAPHA, he said.
PAPHA will help people build their own boats at the facility, for prices that haven’t been established yet. The paying customer will get instruction and physical help building their boat in the boat shop, Pratt said.
Pratt said Farley Boat Works won’t seek a profit but will charge only for materials costs and shop overhead.
The operation will produce wooden and fiberglass skiffs, V-bottom powerboats and other vessels, Pratt said. That includes classic Farley boat designs, he said.
A skiff can be built in just three days, Pratt said, adding that he could envision Farley Boat Works producing one boat each week, if there’s enough interest.
Pat Farley, who is part of the Port Aransas Farley family, said he’s happy to see the old building get a new life.
“This is awesome,” Farley said while cleaning the building’s new windows on a recent day. “This is a tribute not just to the family but to wooden boat builders everywhere.”
Pratt said PAPHA is re- questing donations of various kinds of tools for use in the boat shop. The operation needs hammers, skill saws and other tools, especially C clamps. The facility could use about 1,000 C clamps, Pratt said. (He’s not kidding about that number. Boat builders need lots of C clamps.)
Folks who would like to make donations to the project or ask questions may call Pratt at (361) 549-6328.
No decisions have been made yet about what days and hours the boat shop will be open.
Questions? Comments? Contact Dan Parker at (361) 749- 5131 or email@example.com.