Throughout the 19th and 20th century Long Island has been the home of many boat builders, ranging from traditional boat builders such as Gil Smith of Patchogue, who constructed garveys and skiffs for local baymen, to the Scopinich & Maresca boat yards that outfitted coast guard vessels and commercial fishing boats. Champion Sail of Freeport continues a long line of sailmakers that is carried on by the Southard Family.
By 1920 the Scopinich and Maresca families began building Coast Guard vessels during Prohibition, as well as boats built for the baymen turned rum runners. The Maresca boatyard built pleasure boats and commercial fishing boats including trawlers, closing in 1993. After World War II new residents on Long Island longed for their own motorboats, leading to the creation of an enormous industry that continues today. Throughout these historical changes men like John Remsen, his son, and Paul Ketcham have built garveys for local baymen and fishermen. Recreational hunters used small wooden boats that could hold either one or two hunters, a tradition that has been passed down within the hunting community. Patchogue has been home to major boat builders since the 1800s, making oyster catchers, clam boats, ferry boats and recreational sailing boats.
Weeks purchased land for the boat yard that currently stands on Riverview Court off River Road in small increments. The boat builders were typically immigrants from Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Greece, alongside descendants of English and Dutch settlers. The Scopinich boatyard was founded by Fred Scopinich located at the foot of Woodcleft Canal, and was passed onto his son Fred. Founded by Phillip Maresca in the 1920s, their Freeport operations commenced after they moved an earlier boatyard from Hampton Bays.
In Freeport the Grover family began building skiffs, a shallow draft boat that could easily navigate the shallow bay waters of the estuary, yet withstand storms and ocean waves.
The traditional garvey is a flat bottom boat so that the baymen can easily navigate the shallow bay waters in the area, in as little as 3 inches of water. Commercial hunters also known as market gunners built specially designed watercraft that would enable them to remain hidden while providing clear shots for hunters.


The wooden fiberglass boats tend to be small, approximately 10 foot long, 2 foot high and 3 feet wide, with a hollow opening where the hunters sit.
John learned to build the boats from his father, who started building and selling boats in the 1930s.
Boat types constructed included trawler boats, ferry boats, Coast Guard and Navy vessels, recreational fishing craft, traditional duck boats and garveys used by baymen. In 1956 a€?younga€? Fred moved the boatyard to East Quogue, where the operation remains today, under the guidance of his son Fred. Although Phillip began his career as a printer, he turned to boat building during the Depression. In 1985 Al Grover broke the Guinness book of world records for the smallest outboard motor boat crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. The Remsens personally work with fishermen on the bay, as killey trappers and bait crab fishermen.
During the 19th and early 20th centurya€™s commercial hunters and boat builders constructed a€?battery boxes,a€? square boxes that lay flat on the water with raised flaps to hold decoys. The boats are camouflaged with marsh grass or other neutral color covering, so that the hunters blend in with the surrounding landscape. Gil Smitha€™s shop operated in the late 1800s until the mid- 1930s on the east side of Patchogue River near West Avenue and Amity Street.
Weeks was born into a family which made River Avenue in Patchogue, NY its home since the early 1700s. The Smith boatyard is currently the site of South Bay Boat Repair, located north of the Weeks Boatyard.
His son Everett began building boats as a young teenager, eventually running the business full time. The boats were traditionally made of oak and pine, a pattern that continues today, along with modern fiberglass to protect the boat from rotting. In the early 20th century the market gunners also used a€?punta€? boats which held oversized shotguns, until both types of watercraft were outlawed in 1918.


The non-motorized boats are pulled by small power boats to their location, where hunters sit for several hours. By the 1880s there were numerous residents who worked either directly or indirectly on the bay and ocean as fishermen, boatmen and captains. Their boatyard on Woodcleft remains, currently housing the Long Island Marine Education Center. While they continue to spend time at their bay house, both men have retired from both hunting and boat building.
Smitha€™s boats were known for their sleek design and flat bottom, which was necessary for navigating the shallow waters in the shoreline areas of the bay. After finishing school he worked full time for Martinas Smith who owned and operated a shipyard on some of the land that is today Weeka€™s Yacht Yard. The yard has been a resource for wooden boat owners and baymen, who rely on the expertise offered by longtime boat builder and restorer Charlie Balsamo.
These majestic clipper ships traveled the coast and inland waterways, transporting goods from New York and Long Island to other harbor ports. Columbia Bronze manufactured their propellers, supplying Navy and Coast Guard boats as well. The yarda€™s future is uncertain; the owner plans to convert the yard into a marina, removing the historic marine railway that hauls the wooden boats onto the property. The ships depended on wind for energy, leading to a major industry in sail making in New York City. Like other boat builders his business greatly expanded when the train arrived in Patchogue.
It is said that he paid for the building supplies for the boat by selling onions he grew behind his house.



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