Part 3: “From the bilges to the varnish, it’s all about the customers’ needs.”
By Capt. Ken Kreisler — May 2002
Ramsey teamed up with Myron Harris out of Marshallburg, North Carolina, and by 1986 had built one boat, sold it, and begun another. When the orders started coming in, Tillet and O'Neill were ready to help. "Omie was the one who got us all started, and Warren put our hands to work."
Ramsey's boats--he has eight under construction--are all cold-molded now but were once frame-and-plank juniper. "I found that the frames took up too much space, and given our need to please the customer, we switched over," he says. "But I built a whole lot of framed boats that are still running around out there." Ramsey lavishes a lot of attention to detail on the interiors of his boats. "From the bilges to the varnish, it's all about the customer's needs," he adds.
Buddy Davis also pays homage to the Tillet-O'Neill era. He was running one of Tillet's charter boats back then and recalls that it was O'Neill who taught him the finer points of boatbuilding. "We all had our own ideas about it, but it was Warren who showed us how. Naturally, when any one of us decided to go off on his own, we took a little bit of him [O'Neill] with us," Davis says, and to that end he put his own distinctive spin on the style by offering boats with a characteristic bow flare, sharp entry, teak toe rails, broken sheer, and tumblehome aftersections.
The first Davis boats were also juniper-planked, then cold-molded. Ultimately, in 1999, Davis (now building under the Davis Boat Works logo) switched to solid fiberglass and from custom boats to semicustom.
The Carolina boats, with their unique profile and design qualities, are easily recognizable no matter how far and wide they go or how many tournaments they fish. And as the new crop of builders begins to imagine what their vision of a Carolina boat could be, it all comes back to Tillet and O'Neill. "For me and Warren, it was all about the dreaming," Tillet says as he looks back over all the years. I ask him what he thinks of the new crop of Carolina boats being built by his boys, and he doesn't hesitate as he answers. "They're as fine a collection of boats as you can find anywhere, and the boys are sincere about what they're doing. But here's what I think: There's a big difference between just getting a boat out and getting a good boat out. Remember that."
Briggs Boat Works Wanchese, NC Phone: (252) 473-2393
Bay Boatworks Beaufort,
NC Phone: (252) 728-2690 .
Paul Mann Custom Boats Manns Harbor, NC Phone: (252) 473-1716 Fax: (252) 475-1523www.paulmanncustomboats.com.
Boats Wanchese, NC
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.