With the majority of the fleet opting to lay on Wednesday and fishing still slow for the dozen that ventured offshore, it was the perfect opportunity to walk the docks of the Pirate’s Cove Marina and admire the gorgeous sportfishers in their slips. A curious passerby tourist asked Tournament Director Heather Maxwell why all the boats looked the same. Her reply? “Because they are all built here.”
With its expansive coastline, long maritime history and sport-fishing culture, building boats in North Carolina has always been a tradition. The local scene got its start when charter captains would craft the next work boat in their barns during the winter off-season. Plank over frame construction was the initial method, but jigs, composite materials and computer-assisted design and aerospace technology are more common these days. Burch Perry, the general manager of Albemarle Boats, has witnessed many of the changes over the years.
“This is the 45th year Albemarle has been in business,” Perry explains. “It was a private family operation to start before it changed hands a couple times. In 2015 we were acquired by Murphy Family Ventures, a very successful North Carolina farming company. When that occurred, we were able to focus on the building side of things and customer service with the support from the Murphy Family to grow and expand.” Albemarle is now marketed as Albemarle, The Carolina Classic, after the acquisition of the latter brand.
With a desire to build a larger model than the Albemarle flagship 41, Perry approached charter skipper-turned-builder Paul Spencer about the possibility of collaborating on the design of a larger offering. Spencer, who has grown his own successful line of custom sport-fishing yachts, agreed to help. But he also asked to join the effort as a partner because, in his opinion, the 50-foot niche was the ideal tournament boat size with its agility and fishability. The new Albemarle 53, with input from Steve French Design and Marine Concepts Tooling, is the result. It will make its debut at the 2023 Miami International Boat Show.
“With the design, it will look like it came from Spencer in Wanchese, but in actuality it will come from a mold in Edenton,” Perry explains. “We expect it to be a 45-knot boat with standard Caterpillar C18 engines.
“There are a few distinct characteristics that mark a Carolina boat,” he adds. “It starts with the ability to surf through the rough, shallow inlets that are common here. The pronounced Carolina bow flare, the deep entry, flatter stern or deadrise and dropped sheer line are the most distinguishing features. There have been a bunch of innovators over the years, but it all goes back to charter guys building boats in the winter as a means to get out on the water to make a living. And of all those, Omie Tillet and Warren O’Neill are the godfathers of the Carolina style sportfishers.
“I’m prejudiced, obviously, but to me the Carolina boats are beautiful. They are crafted yachts that travel the world to fish. You can be in Los Suenos, Costa Rica and see a boat pull into the marina. You may not recognize the exact builder, but you know immediately that it’s a Carolina boat.”