He was just a teenager when he first helped his dad build a fishing boat, and now at age 63 he's still building boats in his Destin back yard.
"I'm addicted to it," said Capt. Harold Staples, who's been building the 36-footer in his backyard on Stahlman Avenue for the past three years. "Some people are addicted to some things, mine is the water and being around boats — it's my passion.”
Staples hopes to launch his new boat, tagged the Silver Hook after his dad's last boat, sometime next week.
"All that's left to do is paint the bottom and finish the wiring," Staples said. "It's a big thing when you put it in the water and see it floating out there. Then you get on it and make it go.”
When she hits the water, the Silver Hook will be a fiberglass, six-passenger charter boat, but it didn't start out that way.
"Fiberglass boats are everywhere and you can buy them for little or nothing," Staples said. "There is nothing wrong with them; usually the engine goes bad, but the hulls are usually in great shape most of the time. So if you find one, and kind of like the way it looks, you can get it for a song and a dance. And you've got a good project to work on.”
From derelict to done
Staples said the Silver Hook was originally one of a pair of lobster boats from New England.
"This one was called the Touché and it's sister ship was the Broadbill," he said.
Both boats were equipped with inboard, outboards and were rigged for long-lining swordfish.
The Broadbill was lost at sea during Hurricane Opal in 1995, and the Touché found its way around town.
"It was sitting around for several years in different peoples yards and they were going to fix it up, but nobody ever did," he said.
Staples said he had seen the boat near Industrial Park, then over in a yard off Siebert. Guy Santucci finally bought it and had it sitting at his business on U.S. 98, Coastline Tree Service.
"You could see it sitting up behind Half Hitch," Staples said. But the boat was in pretty bad shape.
Not long after, Santucci was over at Staples’ house grinding stumps, when Staples asked him what his plans were for the old dilapidated boat.
Santucci told Staples he was going to rig it up for commercial fishing, but because it was going to cost about $100,000, his wife said no way.
Staples wound up buying the boat for what Santucci had in it.
"I gave Guy $3,000 for the hull and the little cabin area on the front, and it's been a three year project at the house here — just working on it in the winter time," he said.
When Staples took possession of the boat, the engine had been taken out and there were two big holes in the stern. Most of the deck was gone. Holes had been cut in the fuel tanks, which were made out of plywood and fiberglass.
"They were full of leaves and water. There was no saving them," Staples said.
The boat had had a huge fish box that would hold about 10,000 pounds of fish.
"I had to completely gut all that and take out the old fish box… and get down to the bare bones," he said.
But before any of that could take place, Staples had to convince his wife, Carolyn, of taking on the boat building project.
"It took me six months to talk my wife into letting me get it," Staples said. He finally gave Santucci the money, plus a little extra to deliver it to his 30-foot by 60-foot carport in the back yard.
Staples, along with his son Allen, Caleb Brown, Pat Meyers and others have all had a little hand in the project.
"It was basically just a hull,” Staples said. "I had to fix the holes in the back. I built the strut. The engine I bought brand new from Two Tony's and the fuel tanks were built by James McArdle and it holds 300 gallons of fuel."
Staples said it has a 430 diesel engine it, "so hopefully it will scoot along pretty good."
His plans were to launch it this week, but due to bad weather, he's looking to put it in the water next week at Joe's Bayou boat launch.
Not his first rodeo
This is not Staples’ first time to build a boat in his back yard.
"Nawh, this is my third one," he said. The first was the Striker, a 32-footer and the second was the Al-Lin, a 44-footer that he currently charters out of Fishing Fleet Marina.
The Striker took two years.
"Me and my dad put it together while I was teaching school," he said. "The Al-Lin was a seven-year project because I was still running the Striker and building my house and starting a family ... that was all in the same seven-year period," he said.
Although he had to talk his wife into letting him get this one, she's proud of his work.
"It's just amazing," says his wife Carolyn. "How did you know how to do all this?" she asks him.
"I had a good teacher," he responded.
It’s Harold’s attention to detail that most impresses Carolyn.
"He knows where every little wire and every little screw goes," she said. "I'm very proud of him."
"My dad was the craftsman," Staples said. "He always had a boat going in the yard somewhere."
As a matter of fact, Staples has a board on the wall of his workshop with a list of 10 big boats that his father has had a hand in. Several were named after family members and one even after a neighbor.
In addition to building boats, his dad also crafted his own fishing lures. Staples still has the molds in an old wooden box in his workshop.
Staples says he learned most of what he knows about boat building from his dad, Harold Sr.
"The rest of it was from trial and error and using common sense and seeing what needs to be done," he said.
With Staples just days away from putting the Silver Hook in the water he said, "I've got another one lined up after this one — if she'll let me do it. It's a little 22-footer."