People and Places with Pierce: Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center

BEAUFORT, N.C. (WNCT) – “Pretty cool office huh?,” remarked Grant Caraway, North Carolina Maritime Museum’s Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center manager.

“We are a working boat shop,” added Tim White, boat builder for the North Carolina Maritime Museum’s Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center.

But this isn’t your typical boat shop.

“Our primary mission is to maintain the museum’s collection of historically significant boats in North Carolina,” said Caraway.

Across the street from the North Carolina Maritime Museum sits the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center. Since 1991, it’s been the hub for boat building history in the Tarheel state.

“We have people that come in, probably 40 volunteers that come in throughout the week and work in the shop and get a lot of the jobs done,” said White. “We do a lot of restoration.”

“We’re the only place you can come and see what they used to do,” added Caraway. “We like to try to preserve those boats so future generations can see them.”

“This is a 1952 Barbour racer,” said White. “The boat was originally built by Mr. Barbour for his grandson to race. We painted it white and varnished the deck and took it to a show, the grandson showed up and said that wasn’t what his boat looked like. So we ended up bringing it back, got a picture from him, and this is factually what it was actually painted like with the numbers and name.”

But restoring boats to their former glory isn’t all the center does.

“We also do a lot of classes,” said White. “This boat here is an example of the boat in a day that we build.”

“We’ve had a lot of grandparent grandchild teams that have built that boat together and they come into it not really thinking they’re going to complete it in 8 hours and then when you leave with a boat that you can literally put in the water and paddle off with, it’s a great sense of accomplishment for those guys,” said Caraway. “It’s always fun to watch.”

One of the best parts of working for the watercraft center is getting the chance to take your creations out on the water. The Sea Wife is a 1950’s style shrimp boat turned pleasure boat built in Atlantic. It’s been beautifully restored and is now ready for a fun day out on the water.

“Every day’s a great day to be on a boat,” exclaimed Caraway. “So let’s get on a boat!”

“It’s extremely rewarding obviously but also its nerve wracking as well because you’re never sure exactly,” said White. “I’ve never had a boat that’s necessarily failed anyway.”

Sink or float: it’s always a great day to be on a boat.


Pierce is always looking for interesting and unique people and places to visit. If you have an idea, send him an email or a message on Facebook or Twitter.


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