I had the great good fortune of growing up on the waterfront in my father’s marine business. It was an immersive, hands-on experience that captured my imagination from the start. What more could a boy want than to be surrounded by boats, engines, and an endless stream of fascinating characters? Dad and his partner started out of a shack at the top of the dock, where my folks had been living aboard their boat, carrying charter guests for day sails and dinner cruises. The America’s Cup races in the 70’s and early 80’s brought people by the droves, all looking to get out on the water.
Newport harbor was at the intersection of significant forces that were rapidly changing the working waterfront in the yachting capital of the world. The Navy was leaving town, the shipyards were selling out to condominium developers, fishing docks were still plentiful, but the end was in sight. The town was going all in on becoming a tourist destination, but there was a lot of work still to do.
The early fleet of boats was a rag-tag collection of some handsome wooden launches - open decked, passenger carrying boats built anywhere from as far back as the 30’s to the 50’s. They were beautiful to my young eye, but tired, with clapped-out iron that both held them together and pushed them around. Patching and repairing these worn-out beauties was the winter’s work, all to keep going the following spring. Newer, fiberglass boats followed, which turned into supplying yacht clubs up and down the East coast, and sometimes beyond. The business grew as the mix of services grew to include a fleet of daysailers, bareboat charters, mooring rentals, marine engine sales and mechanical repair.
There were scores of characters around Newport when I was growing up. Fisherman, yachtsmen, families with boats, single-handed sailors, drunks, and almost anyone else who lusted after boats and the sea.
My father was the spark that lit a lifelong passion for the beauty in function and form. Simple elegance. The need to create. I filled pages and notebooks with sketches of animals, boats, and machines. I loved being out on the water, setting gear or delivering a boat - it didn’t matter - it was all magic to me. When it became clear that my path in the family business was not to be what I had hoped, I began to cast about. Boats were so ingrained in my life experience at this point, I knew that was where my happiness lay.
Seven Star was born from this great entrepreneurial spirit of Dad’s, and an antique Pratt and Whitney lathe that had been handed down to me through two previous generations on my Mom’s side of the family. The lathe had been back and forth across the country, once on homemade trailer with my Uncle, and then in the back of a rental truck with me. Setting about my own work, I was immediately lucky to find not only great colleagues, but great customers. We hit the ground running with some of the coolest boats and projects I could have ever imagined working on. We’ve been fortunate to this day, continuing to build these relationships with both our valued clients, and our team, virtually unchanged from its original line-up, only expanded to keep pace with demand.
Written by Teak Ackman, owner of Seven Star Marine
Photography by Maaike Bernstrom
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