There have been many boatyards throughout the estuary that provided commercial fishermen with draggers or trawlers, garveys, skiffs, dories and other watercraft used in both the bay and the ocean. In addition there have been boatyards, mostly in the 20th century, who specialize in recreational boats ranging from luxurious yachts to simple skiffs able to navigate the shallow bay waters in the estuary.
While there are some historic boatyards remaining in the region, most no longer manufacture traditional or modern boats. However there are some significant reminders of what was once considered “the boat building capital of the world”. One of the most prolific boat builders in the estuary was Gil Smith of Patchogue, who had his shop in the late 1800s until the mid- 1930s on the east side of Patchogue River near West Avenue and Amity Street. Smith built recreational cat boats used for sailing races.
Another important Patchogue-based boatyard is the Weeks Boat Yard, one of the first settlers in Patchogue. Frank M. Weeks was born into a family which made River Avenue in Patchogue, NY its home since the early 1700s. Weeks purchased land for the boat yard that currently stands on Riverview Court off River Road in small increments. By 1928 he had purchased all of the present property, approximately 5 acres. Many of Weeks’ original tools and machinery are still used in the yard today. The Weeks property also includes a c. 1926 wood shingle house where Frank Weeks lived. The Weeks boat yard is one of the oldest family run boatyards in the country.
Up the river from the Weeks Boatyard is the South Bay Boat Repair run by Charles Balsamo. The yard was originally founded as the Bishop Boat yard in c. 1892 by George Bishop, a ship’s carpenter whose parents were born in England. The yard consists of several buildings that range in age from c. 1892 to the 1960s. The oldest is the boat shop, also known as the barn, built in c. 1892. There is a historic railway connection, built in c. 1911 by Fred Lane that continues to be used to haul boats in and out of the water. The rails are the longest ones on Long Island. The interior gear works for the train pulleys remains intact and in good condition. Other significant original features include interior beams with c. 1960 cross braces, the original section’s historic sign, and original clapboarding. In the early to mid- 1900s oyster steamers and clam boats generally relied on Bishop for maintenance and repairs. These included the boats operated by the Bluepoints Company in West Sayville. During Prohibition the yard was a commonly used site for shipping illegal liquor, as were other yards on Long Island. The yard continues to specialize in repairing wooden craft.
Another major community for boat builders was Sayville, which was home to several boatyards in the 1800s including a boatyard on Brown River Road that built sailboats and catboats. The L'hommedieu family also operated a boat shop during the early 1900s in the same area. Finally the Westin Boat Shop, owned by Doug West, at 69 River Road in Sayville has been in operation since the early 1900s, with two historic buildings constructed c. 1910 and 1925 on the site. Surprisingly there were few boat builders in West Sayville, where many baymen lived. They included Sam Torgenson. In Brookhaven hamlet, the original Tooker boat yard is now part of the Post Morrow Foundation site.
In Freeport the Maresca boatyard stands on the site of what is now the Long Island Marine Education Center owned by the Village of Freeport. Founded in the 1920s by Phillip Maresca, they built both recreational and commercial boats. Their customers included Guy Lombardo and party boat captains. The business was taken over by Everett Maresca, who died in 1995. The original building remains relatively intact, consisting of a large concrete block structure. Further down on Woodcleft Canal stands the former Scopinich Boatyard, now part of Shelter Point Marine services. The structure is obscured by corrugated metal siding but elements of its original frame structure remain. The yard was founded by Fred Scopinich, a Greek immigrant in the early 1900s. His grandson Fred moved the yard to East Quogue. The Freeport yard specialized in building commercial fishing boats including trawlers, government boats for the Coast Guard, rum running boats, as well as sailboats and garveys for local baymen. Finally the original Grover boatyard, founded by Al Grover, stands on Woodcleft Avenue a short distance from the Maresca yard. A modest frame building, approximately 20 people worked there. Today the yard is located north of the Nautical Mile on South Main street, run by Grover’s sons. Their yard consists of modern corrugated structures used primarily for maintenance and storage.
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