Wooden boats bring class to the water

by Daniel Bowden
Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Staff photo by Emmy Errante 

The first boat crafted by Masonboro Skiff Company won the people’s choice award at the Southport Wooden Boat Show in September 2012.

Few handmade items carry so high a penalty for error in construction as a wooden boat. In a project where just about every piece of wood used must be painstakingly cut to fit rounded curves on all sides, it’s a bit unnerving to think that one serious mistake could leave one’s work at the bottom of the ocean.

But that’s part of what makes them so cool.

“People will come to the sides of a $2 million yacht to take a look at my boat,” said Larry Heckner, co-owner of Masonboro Skiff Company. “It takes them back to another time.”

Heckner was describing the 26-foot Lyman he keeps at his home in Landfall. He has this in addition to a small “runabout,” which he uses for cruising over to Masonboro.

“Both wooden. I wouldn’t have anything else,” Heckner said.

On March 14, Heckner leaned against a 25-foot wooden vessel of his own crafting, alongside his business partners John Olsen and Peter Kirkey. 

Olsen described the wood used to build the boat, which was finished in fall of 2012. Locally grown and milled cypress was used to build the hull of the craft.

“Of course we went to the other side of the world to get the rest of the wood,” Heckner laughed. 

Heckner was referring to stained sapele, an African wood from the same family as mahogany, used to top the benches and console. White oak was used for strength and structural integrity where needed.

The boat — No. 1, as they refer to it — is the first production of Masonboro Skiff Company, a company founded last year when Olsen and Heckner discovered their common love of wooden boats.

“My first ride on a wooden boat was with my father when I was a kid,” Heckner said. “I caught a fish. But besides that, I remember the water under the hull sounding like a guitar. Wooden boats have beautiful acoustics.”

Olsen elaborated on the fish-luring qualities of wooden boats. “It’s a very quiet boat, great for sneaking up on fish. I’ve heard old salts say ‘nothing draws fish better than a wooden hull,’” Olsen said.

Since No. 1’s creation, it has been entered in four boat shows, and won the people’s choice award at the Southport Wooden Boat Show on Sept. 29, 2012. It is scheduled to be shown in six more shows this year.

Because everything Heckner and Olsen build is by hand, Masonboro Skiff Company will work with patrons to customize their boats and to ensure that each one includes one-of-a-kind craftsmanship. Construction takes just about 30 days. More information can be found at www.masonboroskiffcompany.com.

email dan@luminanews.com

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