When boat-building operations got started at the newly restored Farley Boat Works building in early February, officials there decided the vessel they’d start on first would be a traditional skiff design.
Completion of the project will represent a milestone in the long history of boat building in Port Aransas. The vessel’s construction was the first to be undertaken at Farley Boat Works since the Avenue C facility closed in 1970. It also marks the 61st or 62nd boat either built by or under the tutelage of noted Port Aransas seaman and retired teacher Doyle Marek, now 79 years old and living in George West. Also directing efforts was Port Aransan Will Mayfield, who has built many boats with Marek.
“It’s an unqualified success,” said Rick Pratt, director of the Port Aransas Museum, of which Farley Boat Works is a branch. “It’s a beautiful boat – delicate and pretty. It’s got great lines.”
Teaching people how to build old-style Port Aransas boats is one of the missions at the Farley Boat Works facility, which also serves as a museum space devoted to Port Aransas maritime history.
Besides Marek, Pratt and Mayfield, folks taking part in this first boat building project included John Henry Studeman, Zack Gaskins, Tim Johns, Marc Teller, Denny Larkin, Charlie Fisher, Matt Landry, Herb Lancaster, Pat Farley, Warren Abbott, Terry Wirta, Ken Curlee, Alex Porter, Dan Pecore, Barney Farley, and Cody Redman, all of Port Aransas. Also involved were Leland Hayes of Bemidji, Minn., Bob Happle of Pine Haven, Wyo., and Peter Falus, who lives near Montreal, Canada.
Pratt calls the vessel the Coach’s Boat. That’s because Marek served from 1955 to 1991 as a teacher and coach in the Port Aransas school system. Girls’ basketball teams especially flourished under Marek. Today, the gym at Port Aransas High School is named after him.
At the same time he was teaching in Port Aransas classrooms, Marek was active on the town’s waterfront. He started running fishing charters in the mid-1950s.
Marek said he learned how to build skiffs by watching longtime Port Aransas fishing guide and boat builder Bubba Milina construct the vessels. He said he used Milina’s basic design but employed a different kind of stern.
Later, Marek taught boat building classes that were part of the curriculum in Port Aransas schools.
Marek provided Farley Boat Works’ first boat building instruction at the invitation of the Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association, or PAPHA, which runs the shop and the Port Aransas Museum. While temporarily away from his George West home, he has stayed in a trailer parked outside Farley Boat Works for several weeks now.
Like everyone else involved in boat building at the shop, Marek is working as a volunteer.
Some of the volunteers who built the Coach’s Boat under the direction of Marek and Mayfield will, in turn, teach other folks who want instruction in boat building at the Farley shop, Pratt said.
A 1970s-era outboard engine will be put on the Coach’s Boat, and the craft will be put on public display either inside the Farley Boat Works building or just outside, Pratt said.
Folks who think they might want to build a skiff at Farley Boat Works could go out for a short jaunt through local waters in the Coach’s Boat with a captain supplied by the shop, Pratt said.
“ These boats are traditional,” Pratt said. “They got started in the 1870s in Connecticut, and they worked their way rapidly around the coast to Texas because they’re good boats – simple to build, and cheap.”
Various Port Aransas boat builders have put their own spins on the basic design over the years.
While the volunteers at Farley Boat Works began building the Coach’s Boat first, it wasn’t the first boat to be finished at the newly reconstituted shop. They started work on another boat, one that had a slightly different design, with higher sides, after starting on the Coach’s Boat. Both crafts remained under construction simultaneously for a while, and the builders ended up actually finishing the high-sided boat first.
The high-sided boat was auctioned at the March 3 Boats, Boots and Bow Ties benefit for $11,000 – part of more than $125,000 that was hauled in, overall, at the fundraiser for the Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association. The winning bidders on the skiff were Bobby and Sherri Patton of Fort Worth and Port Aransas.
The newest boat under construction at the shop is a tunnel-drive skiff with a selfbaling deck for Charlie Fisher, the city’s harbormaster.
Anyone can build a boat at Farley Boat Works. All they’ve got to do is put up the money for materials and overhead, plus some sweat equity, helping build the boat in the shop with the half-dozen or so trained boat-building volunteers there.
Four people are on the shop’s waiting list for people wanting to build boats.
(To sign up to build a boat, call Pratt at (361) 549-6328 or drop by the shop on Avenue C near Cut-off Road. Hours are 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The shop is closed Sundays and Mondays.)
Questions? Comments? Contact Dan Parker at (361) 749- 5131 or firstname.lastname@example.org.