By Nichole Osinski
Jim Weaver started fishing when he was around 20 years old, but it wasn’t until the 80s when he first competed in the White Marlin Open. A Maryland native, Weaver claims it was that tournament that got him hooked on sportfishing. Fast forward to the late 90s and Jim had started a construction business and now had his own 55-foot Ocean Yacht, as well as friends who had custom boats built. Something that Weaver would see as a challenge.
“They were a million dollars and I said, there’s no way it costs a million dollars to build those boats,” Jim recalls. “I decided we were going to build a boat.” In 1998, in Deale, Maryland, Jim began to clear out a shed in his backyard and completely reoutfit the structure in order to make it ready for boat building. “That was a project in and of itself,” he remembers. Even though Jim’s background was rooted in the construction business, he’d already experienced a taste of boat building as his father-in-law was a boat builder—he’d been building from about 1956 to 1968. When he was 18, Jim had even helped his father-in-law build a 30-foot boat that had been commissioned.
However, Jim points out that since the way he wanted to build his first boat would be very different than others, that he’d basically be going in with a blank canvas. From the use of fiberglass on the hull to the amount of horsepower he wanted to use for longer fishing trips, this would be a completely new challenge. But with the backyard open for business, he and a group of about five were ready to begin construction on what would be the 58-foot Dream Weaver.
At the time, Jim did not have a naval architect and decided the best way to start would be to go out and measure as many boats as he could. “I finally hauled up an Island Boat Works boat and measured it and lofted it off of an existing boat. I knew what I liked about the boat and I knew what I didn’t like about the boat. So, we designed and corrected the things we didn’t like about the boat.”
It was decided the platform would be cold-molded, a deviation from the plank on frame boats that were common earlier on. Jim and the rest of the crew started building the boat during nights and weekends and soon realized that if this was going to be finished on time, they would need to put in more man hours. Jim decided to put someone in charge of running the construction company so that he could focus on building the boat full-time.
Two of the biggest challenges faced during the build process were trying to find the right place to buy the materials and, simply, time. “We worked on it pretty much 24/7,” Jim says. “We worked on it every day just because we wanted to get it done. I remember building my first and thought I was about a third of the way done and this old boat builder came and said, ‘Son, you’re only about 15 percent done.’ It’s a very labor-intensive process.”
There were a few lessons along the way as well. “When I started, I wanted to be the first to have whatever was the latest and the greatest and I did that three or four different times. I got in trouble every time because what was the latest and the greatest wasn’t always that great.”
Jim also quickly decided that he did not want to be a naval architect. “I did that boat on my own with no naval architect and I quickly realized how lucky I was that my boat ran well. I knew that was really a risk, I could have spent a million dollars and it not run well. And if they’re not designed right, built right, you can’t fix it.”
From the second boat Weaver built onward, Donald Blunt was brought onboard to fill that position as the naval architect. But despite not having an engineering discipline at the time, fifteen months and a million dollars later, the Dream Weaver was complete.
A large part of the build was focused on it being a good running boat that was large enough to go fishing anywhere, anytime, which meant the build culminated in an extended trip to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, for Jim and his family. How did the boat hold up?
“Everything was good and worked well,” Jim says. The trip had a surprise ending that would essentially be the launching point for Weaver Boatworks. “I thought I was done. I built a boat and that’s what I wanted to do. I was taking my family and we were going fishing and that was the end of it,” Jim says. “We took the boat to Mexico and on the way back home a guy saw the boat in Palm Beach and wanted to buy it. So, I sold it to him and came back home and built another one. And then somebody wanted to buy that one so now I don’t have a boat and all I do is build them for others.”
A lifelong resident of southern Maryland, Jim only had Dream Weaver for about eight or nine months before she moved hands to a new owner, something he says was harder for his wife than him, but she’d accomplished exactly what she’d been made for. Now, with more than 20 years of boat building experience, Jim has his own solid advice for anyone looking to take the financial risk and try their hand at building a boat. “Go talk to boat builders before you do. It’s dirty, dusty, it’s a lot of work, it really is, and a lot of people try to build a boat themselves and I knew numerous ones that attempted it. I only know two people that finished. The number of hulls that I know that are just sitting there in somebody’s yard that they started and have never finished, there’s quite a few of them.”
He’s also upfront when letting people know just how much money goes into building a boat. “People don’t realize the things you buy to build a boat that never goes in the boat, the stuff that you use one time and throw away like acetone, alcohol, latex gloves and sandpaper. The dollar amount is very, very high. And that can be 10 to 15 percent of the price of the boat.”
Before building Dream Weaver, Jim poured over pictures of a boat a friend had built and started learning from the image itself. For him, a picture really was worth a thousand words. “You like this about this boat, you like this about this other boat, and they can be all different builders and they can be productions builders, whatever. But you take the best of all the things that you see and try to incorporate all those things into one boat.”
“I tell everybody that if you have a mechanical mind you can go to my website and look at my pictures, because I take pictures throughout the build, and if you couldn’t look at those pictures and build a boat, then you shouldn’t be building a boat.”
As for what pushed Weaver to complete hull #1, it was simple. “Just pride and determination that you’re going to finish it.” That pride and determination has paid off. Dream Weaver is on her third owner, and still cruising the open sea taking her crew to where they need to go to stay in the bite.
Read about more first builds here.