Meet master boat builder John Martin. Growing up in the 1960s and early 70s on Charleston’s South Main Street, John built wooden boats with his Dad and four brothers and took them out on weekends. This bond to wood and water has anchored John ever since.
It was his job in the early 80s at Darby Marine on the Lowcountry’s Shem Creek where John received his hands-on wooden boat education. Rebuilding Navy minesweepers, circa 1907 to 1919, John pored over Navy manuals and library books by master boat builders to be sure he was following exact specifications. Most of these wooden ships had been in at least one war and required 85% to 90% rebuild. As his skills advanced, so did the opportunities to bring once-celebrated boats that had fallen into disrepair back to full authentic splendor and functionality.
John founded Martin Boats in 1985. Since then he has made or repaired over 200 wooden boats, and earned a stellar reputation for rebuilding the historically significant Simmons sea-skiff. Even with the attention he gained, John’s most notable recognition remains the building of an heirloom-quality, one-of-a-kind wooden flatboat named “Paramount.” The 21-foot by 18-foot boat can float in just over five feet of water with up to three passengers and can reach 50 miles per hour in 150 feet. It’s made entirely of mahogany plywood fastened together with only epoxy. No screws, nails or rivets, simply a clean-looking, long-wearing boat.
Most likely these days, you’ll find John in his shop in Cottageville, just a short drive from Charleston, or on his Whitehall rowboat, “Penelope.”
A true craftsman rich in life and talent, John Martin preserves maritime heritage one boat at a time.