Any boat builder worth his or her salt can build a boat that floats.
Building a boat that totally meshes with the owner’s personality is another issue. Customized boat building is both an art and a science at Shearline Boatworks in Morehead City. The boat builders there are perfectionists, and word is getting around in the boating world.
Shearline is very busy these days, and the company needs to expand its operations to meet the demand, according to owner Chip King.
Shearline recently agreed to purchase additional land in the Crystal Coast Business Park. The 3.82-acre parcel adjoins Shearline’s existing property, located at 321 Facility Drive, Morehead City.
“We are operating at full capacity, so we need one or more new buildings,” King said. We are in the design phase to properly plan what we need facility-wise to move forward.”
Shearline is a home-grown business, starting up in Carteret County in 2000, using a single garage bay to build a 30-foot, center console boat.
King recalled: “We were a crew of young, enthusiastic guys, betting on a dream, blasting music and talking trash to one another in the shop while we worked. Onlookers commented at the time that it looked like too much fun to be work.”
The name itself, Shearline, is a playful twist of “sheer line,” a nautical architectural term referring to the curvature of the hull along a line that runs from bow to stern.
Working with the Carteret County Economic Development Council (EDC), Shearline moved from the garage to the county’s industrial park in 2004, setting up shop on a 1.88-acre parcel. Needing more space and another building in 2006, the company acquired yet another 1.02-acre site in 2006.
Each Shearline boat is a unique project of its own, because no two designs are ever the same.
Pleasure and recreational fishing boats produced on the North Carolina coast developed a unique “Carolina flare” in the bow, which literally “throws water away from the boat and allows it to travel more smoothly through choppy waters.”
Shearline produces that same style of boat today. Watch the video on the Shearline Boatworks website at shearlineboatworks.com to see how it works.
King is a native of Greensboro. He graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and took a job selling boats in Beaufort. His passion, however, was not to sell boats, but to build them – the finest boats possible.
His wife, Mary Cheatham King, was his “high school sweetheart” in Greensboro. She is also a Chapel Hill graduate and a business owner – Mary Cheatham King Real Estate in Morehead City. The Kings have two children, Sally and Walter.
Modern-day boat building at Shearline effectively “marries the old with the new,” Chip King said. “We’re building traditional wooden boats, but we’re doing it with the latest in computer technology.”
“We begin with a blank slate, saying to the client: ‘You tell us what you want, and we’ll build it.’ It’s all up to the client’s imagination. We don’t have a list of standard features and there is no limit to one’s options.
“So, in effect, the boat goes from the client’s head to our heads, then to the design engineer. Using fully parametric engineering software, the design engineer creates a three-dimensional model to share with the client. Usually after several iterations, the design becomes finalized. It’s imperative that the client knows all the details about how the boat will be built,” King said.
“A computerized router cuts each piece of wood to the exact shape it needs to be. Then, by hand, we put the bones of the boat together. The rest of the project is built very much in the same way as traditional, Carolina boats.
“Ordinarily, hand-built construction of a boat takes one to three years, depending on the size and complexity of the boat. Every step is precision-based, and there is no way to speed up the process, if you want to do it the right way,” King said.
“Our boat owners are encouraged to visit the shop floor as often as they want. The more they are engaged during the entire process, the more equipped we are to build the best boat possible.”
Shearline is one of the local companies that is benefiting greatly from its connection and partnership with the NC Marine Training and Education Center (MARTEC), located on the campus of Carteret Community College in Morehead City, said the EDC’s Greg Lewis.
“MARTEC is the only comprehensive marine technology training center in the entire mid-Atlantic region, offering educational courses in marine propulsion, boat building, fiberglass technology, marine management and other related subjects,” he said. “It’s the epitome of what community colleges are supposed to do – serve the specific needs of local employers.”
King has high praise for Bryan Gray, who is the MARTEC curriculum coordinator, and he said Shearline personnel are more than glad to serve as guest lecturers and to provide demonstrations in the classrooms and working laboratories at the college.
“Bryan runs a great program, and our relationship goes back a long way,” King said. “The MARTEC graduates have been great additions to our team.”
In addition to building boats, Shearline can fix them. King said the company offers a full range of restoration and renovation services.
“Whether you are looking for a custom paint job, some teak accents, a new hard top or tuna tower, or a complete makeover, we can serve all of your boating needs,” King said.
“Our clients can be assured that the same attention to detail and the highest quality workmanship available will be applied to every boat that comes into our shop.”
Was that loud music playing in the background and trash talking going on among the work crew?
“Although we’ve come a long way since our original garage shop in 2000, some things have remained the same – and I hope they always will,” King said.
Call Shearline Boatworks a place were enthusiastic guys can have some fun … still betting on their dreams … and getting results.
There are more of them these days. The operation now employs 18 people (and their seven dogs).
“We’re contemplating a name change to Shearline Boatworks & Kennels,” he said jokingly. “The dogs add to the feel and culture of the place.”
King’s own dog, Mac, is a golden retriever that rules.
“Mac is Shearline’s CEO. We all work for Mac,” King quipped.