Follow along on a day in the life of a 24-year-old boat builder

·2 min read

John Gaffney grew up in a small town in New York, right near the water, and his first job was working at a nearby marina. 

“I started out as a dockhand — cleaning boats, filling gas tanks, a lot of stuff like that,” Gaffney told In The Know. “And slowly transitioned to working on motors in the shop.”

Nearly a decade later, Gaffney is still working with boats and absolutely loves it. To him, there’s something special about maintaining something so old so future generations can still enjoy using it.

After high school, Gaffney spent two years at the International Yacht Restoration School (IYRS), where he learned pretty much everything he knows now. 

“They just kind of throw you into it,” Gaffney said of the IYRS. “Along the way, while you’re building these boats, you’re learning how to use hand-style hand tools, edge tools. They teach you how to maintain them, how to sharpen and how to read blueprints for boats.”

Now, Gaffney works at Tumblehome Boat Shop where he deals with particularly old restorations — the oldest boat at the shop is from 1896. He focuses mainly on a lot of electrical work and motor installs.

“We kind of specialize in the weird stuff,” he said. “That’s what they say around here at least.”

Restoration is a whole different beast than building a new boat from scratch. Gaffney and the rest of the employees at Tumblehome are trying to replicate something that’s been around for hundreds of years and trying to keep things as original as possible. Deconstructing boats takes a lot of time, patience and organization.

“One of the most interesting parts about this job is just the history,” Gaffney explained. “We do a ton of research — just looking through old catalogs and finding old magazine articles that have this stuff in it.”

Although he’s only 24, Gaffney loves his career. 

“I wake up every morning with a smile on my face to come to work,” he said. “Boats will be part of my life for a very, very long time.”

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