Destin charter boats get shipshape at Fisherman's Boatyard in Freeport

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Busy, yes. But not overwhelmed. 

The Fisherman’s Boatyard in Freeport was busy this week with about a dozen charter boats from Destin on blocks undergoing basic maintenance.  

“All the guys that are here now are doing a little repair and paint; they are not long projects. The fleet is in good shape, so it goes quicker,” Boatyard Manager Mike Snell said Wednesday morning.

Most boats are in and out in two weeks. 

More:23 fish last 31 days on the Destin Fishing Rodeo overall leaderboard

Snell said he has had as many as 22 boats in the yard at one time. Of course, not all 65-footers, but a mix with some 32- to 38-footers. 

On Wednesday, most of the charter boats were in the 45- to 55-foot range; not many small boats. 

Destin fishing boats are stacked up for dry-dock repairs at Fisherman's Boatyard on Four Mile Creek in Freeport.

“It might be the election year, it might be the COVID, but I don’t see many of the little boats … they are kind of waiting. I haven't even got them on the calendar for February, and spring break starts in March,” Snell said. 

“I’ve been in the Boatyard for 30 years, and every year when there’s a new president ... there is always nervousness,” he said of possible policy changes and new restrictions. 

More:It's a wrap for the 72nd annual Destin Fishing Rodeo

Although Fisherman's Boatyard is not crammed with the smaller boats yet, crews are still working on the bigger boats and getting them shipshape. 

Some captains had their boats in the yard back in November and December. 

“They are ahead of the game and are at the house right now waiting for spring break,” Snell said. 

But for now, crews are hauling boats in and out weekly.  

“Most of the boats are doing basic maintenance, painting a boot stripe, painting the bottom. It’s all light maintenance that everybody is doing now,” Snell said. 

Capt. Stan Phillips uses a grinder to clean marine growth from the bottom of his charter fishing boat, Destination. Phillips' boat is one of many that are undergoing dry-dock repairs at Fisherman's Boatyard on Four Mile Creek in Freeport.

Capt. Stan Phillips of the Destination, a 55-foot charter boat, was one of the light maintenance guys. 

“Doing mostly the bottom … sanding and painting,” Phillips said. 

Phillips said it’s a yearly thing for him. The Coast Guard requires an inspection of the vessel every other year. 

More:Fish Flash: Anglers bring in good catches in final days of 2020

Capt. Joe Quaranto of the Silver Lining, a 46-foot wooden hull boat, said he’s been at the yard since Jan. 4 and hopes to be out by Jan. 25. He’s had to replace planks and realign shafts, and Wednesday he was starting the painting process. 

“We’re making 2021 improvements on a 1971 boat,” said Nino Bright, who was helping Quaranto. 

Capt. Joe Quaranto makes some repairs to his charter fishing boat Silver Lining at Fisherman's Boatyard on Four Mile Creek in Freeport.

Capt. Don Dineen of the Sure Lure, a 40-footer, said they hauled his boat out Monday. 

“We’re doing a basic bottom job and a boot stripe,” Dineen said. 

Capt. Rusty Gilbert of the Done Deal has been at the boatyard longer than most. He hauled out the 54-foot charter in mid-December but took time out for the holidays. 

He had a list of things he’s been working on, such as resealing rub rails, installing underwater lights and sanding and painting, just to name a few. On Wednesday, he was working on the boot stripe. 

Being a captain is more than just fishing.  

“You’ve got to be a jack of all trades,” said Capt. Dean Cox of the Seahorse.  

Capt. Dean Cox paints the bottom of his charter fishing boat Seahorse at Fisherman's Boatyard in Freeport.

The Seahorse, a 47-foot charter, checked in at the yard Tuesday.  

“We’re doing a regular bottom job,” Seahorse deckhand Billy Lorren said. 

“We do a lot of the work ourselves,” Cox added. 

A bottom job on a boat takes about two weeks, according to Snell. 

“Look around here right now; they’re in good shape. We don’t have a trashy fleet, they are looking good,” Snell said. "None of them have missed a trip. None of them have flunked Coast Guard and they all look good, so we must be doing something right.”