Summerfield Boat Works

Summerfield ceased to exist in 2006, having succumbed to then-skyrocketing land values and the push to squeeze maximum dollars from every square foot of waterfront land. The last time I was there, everything had been wiped off the lot to build a rack-o-minium or some such thing. I think the lot is still empty.

Summerfield employed I would guess about 3 dozen people: welders, mechanics, carpenters, crane and lift operators. It hauled very large boats on a 70-ton TravelLift for painting and repairs, had a 25-ton crane for hauling smaller craft and pulling out masts and engines and such. With its  6 huge boat sheds, Summerfield was also a storage destination for snowbirds who wanted to go north but leave their boats south, and there was a fair amount of open wet storage all over the yard.

Summerfield also had an unusual piece of gear: a marine elevator. The advantage of a marine elevator was a little like a drydock, except that it was lowered and raised by big cables instead of by buoyancy. The boat would be lifted on the platform, blocked at many points to spread out the weight.  This would help keep a fragile wooden boat from being racked or crushed by its own weight. A TravelLift is a lot faster and flexible than a marine elevator, but the straps can put a hurting on a wooden boat if you’re not careful (and sometimes if you ARE careful). So the elevator was sought out by those who for one reason or another preferred not to risk the TravelLift.

It was said that Mr. Summerfield (long-dead when I was there) built the elevator, and it was a rare piece of equipment! The platform was a massive frame of steel I-beams decked over with planks so you could walk on it. It was lowered by eight 3/4-inch steel cables which were all wound around a pair of huge drums. The drums were turned by a gearbox, which was in turn driven by a 6-cylinder Chevy truck engine and 3-speed manual transmission. You would operate the clutch with a tall handle, put it in forward or reverse depending on which way you were taking the platform, and let out the clutch. Oh, yes, and a massive strap brake to stop the thing from dropping like a rock. Oh, it was a hell of a thing!

Anyway, I know Summerfield left its mark on me. It was a community of boat people and oddballs of all stripes, and we all had a lot of fun getting paid to do something we really liked doing anyway, which was messing with boats.

If any of the former crew of Summerfield runs across this website, I’d love to hear from you. If you have pictures, send them to me and I’ll post them here.

 

mast-yard

Here's the crane, adding another "stick" to the mast yard, where masts were stored or worked on. We had a 70-foot boom on the crane plus a 20-foot extension ("fly") we could add for extra tall masts.

da-crane-boss

A pretty good shot of the crane, hauling a boat with a special spreader bar to hang the straps. What you didn't want was to lilft something too heavy and tip the crane over. We did come close more than once.

elevator-1

A good shot of the marine elevator, which is the platform between the boat shed on the left and the sailboat on the right. The sailboat is in the process of being transferred off the elevator, sideways on railroad tracks, to a place for it to be worked on. This way, you could have several boats out of the water at the same time.

elevator-2

Here you can see the platform a little better, and the tracks running left to right to transfer boats off the lift.

elevator-aerial

This shot was taken from the top of the crane. At the top of the picture is the side of the big boathouse. Immediately next to that is the elevator platform. The sportfisherman has been transferred off the elevator to a work space.

haulout-slip

This is the slip we used for hauling out boats with the crane. The straps would be lowered into the water, then the boat pulled in over them. The boat would be lifted and then swung to a workspace where it would be blocked up. We move the crane from spot to spot so we could swing the boat from the slip to the various work spaces. the smaller the boat, the further you could "boom down" to place it. Heavier boats had to be blocked up immediately next to the slip.

elevator-aerial-3

A lot to see here. The fellow to the very far right is John Lee, my old boss. He is operating the electric transfer winch, which hauled on a cable that provided the force to move boats laterally about the yard on their railroad cars. Depending on the direction of movement, you would run the long cable through any number of big snatch blocks. It was possible to pull a boat right up into that boathouse dead ahead if it needed indoor work. The fellow in blue with his back to us is Ronnie DeBlock, who was a crane operator. And that boat with the varnished transom is none other than the famous "Stingray."

east-basin

We called this the "East Basin," where we would pack the boats in for storage or in-the-water repairs. See the way they are rafted together and all tied together? That's the way the boathouses looked, too ... three big boats across and usually three deep, with every other space filled by a small boat. Moving boats could be a time-consuming puzzle -- but FUN.

two-for-one-1

The fellow in the boat is the owner of both the boat and the little red MGB dangling from the crane. He was headed north and wanted to take his boat AND his car. In the foreground is Bob, an outside carpenter who frequently did work at the yard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

two-for-one-2

We got called on to do weird stuff sometimes. I can't remember how we rigged the MGB for the lift without tearing the fenders off. That's John Lee giving the crane operator the hand signal to "boom down." Next to him is the owner of the car and boat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

two-for-one-3

Sure it was weird, but it WORKED. Now he just needs a crane to get the car back out at the destination.

7 Responses to Summerfield Boat Works

  1. Tim says:

    I lived (part time between cruises) at Summerfield and also did work part time painting and wood work back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Everyone in the yard was like a close knit group, I won’t say family, but like a bunch of friends that put up with every kind of nut case or boat drifter that put into the place. I’m sorry its gone, but it was meant for another time period and would not fit in today.

  2. Geoffrey H Teetor says:

    Summerfield holds so many great memories for me. I grew up in the Abaco islands in the 60’s, my father had a 1930’s 57 foot hereshoff sloop that was too large and too “Woody” to be hauled anywhere in the islands so every year we took her to Summerfields where my father, my two brothers and myself would carry out all needed work on her hull while living on board, on the “Hard”. The place was a mecca for old salts, master craftsmen, tallented boat builders and riggers, malcontents, misfits, mechanics and maniacs. You know “A REAL BOATYARD”.

    We left the Bahamas when they gained independence and moved to Ft. Lauderdale and years later I found my way back there where i worked as a mechanic/carpenter until they closed down. I miss it. These boat yards are unfortunitely going the way of the town blacksmith shop. The party’s over, time to go home.

    GH Teetor

  3. Mary Warner says:

    I lived and worked and sailed from Summered Boat works starting in the early mid sixties until around 1972. It was home to me.. I always had work refinishing or cleaning boats and lived on some interesting sail boats. We were like a family.. I miss everyone from that yard and those years..
    Mary L. Warner

  4. GRAT CORRELL says:

    My father, Tom Correll, was the manager at Summerfields for many years. I worked for him during the summer months while in college, and remember well the people and places you have documented above. The company logos in the photos, were designed by a close family friend (an artist/professor at The Atlanta College of Art) and I painted them on the sheds and crane. I remember the concrete boat because it was so unusual. Nice job documenting a piece of South Florida history.

    • Preston Larus, CPC, ELI-MP says:

      Hi, Grat, sorry it took a while to respond, lost my password! I have nothing but fond memories of your dad Tom. I reported to John Lee, who reported to Tom, but I saw Tom pretty much every day for the 2 years I was there, about 1989-1990. I remember I rode with him to Opa-Locka once for some kind of errand and the highlight of the trip was a stop at the empanada place, which was a destination for him — probably the real reason for the “errand!” Near the end of my Summerfield employment, I realized that as a young guy of 30 with a family to support, I needed to either get a big pay raise, or make a move out of the Yard. Tom could not pay me what it would have taken for me to stay, but he was kind and decent about it and sent me off with his blessing and good wishes, and I will always remember him like that.

      • Preston Larus, CPC, ELI-MP says:

        By the way, that logo was a masterpiece of design. I still have many examples, like keychains, sweatshirts, and stuff. Still swearing over the Summerfield coffee cup my cat broke 15 years ago, but I glued it up and it holds pens now. Still after all these years, probably Summerfield was the happiest time of my life.

    • Mary Warner says:

      Thank you so much for all of your replies. They mean so much to me. The last time I stayed at Summerfield Boat Works was actually 1980 from there i moved to the Keys, then Miami for work. I miss South Florida and those days. I am sure we all know a lot of the of the same people. I first came over in the 60’s from the Turks and Caicos Islands where we sailed a large freighter from Delray to Providenciales. There was not any development then. The sail Boat was the Anna and it was owned by Bob Kellogg (a member of the 7 Dwarfs.) He also owned the Zingara which was formally owned by Errol Flynn and I lived on the Zingara at Summerfield’s for a long time. . I also was swimming in the underwater Shows at the Marlin Beach Hotel as well as doing boat work. We had a lot of adventures.
      Mary Warner

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: