By Dave Ferrell
Although he’s spent his entire life on the water as either a mate, charter boat captain, private boat captain or even commercial fisherman, John Bayliss has only been a boat builder since 2002. On April 15th of that year, Bayliss and a small crew of boat builders started work on what would become the first Bayliss, a 60-footer to be aptly-named Endeavor.
Bayliss jumped into the boat-building business in a time of upheaval just after September 11th, 2001.
“Nobody knew what was going to happen. I’d been working on a private boat for a longtime friend and after the attacks with all the uncertainty, I came to the conclusion that I needed to get out and do my own thing. I’d already done the charter fishing, working for a boat factory, working for another factory…so I decided to put a couple of feelers out to see if anybody wanted to build a boat,” says Bayliss.
Mike Atkinson met up with Bayliss at Pirate’s Cove Marina and after a beer or two and some specifications scribbled out on a napkin, they came to an agreement and Bayliss Boatworks was born.
“When we first started talking about the boat it was going to be a 60-footer with a pair of six-cylinder engines. It was a simple, straightforward fishing boat…really nice but nothing crazy,” says Bayliss.
“Then along comes Charlie Barker (he owns a 92-foot Viking now) and he becomes a partner in the boat with Mike. Barker asks me if I think we can put V12s in the boat, so I ask Robert Ullberg if it would take them and he says sure. Soon the boat became a three-stateroom, three-head boat with a washer and dryer and a mezzanine, which were just coming out at the time.
It went from a boat that was being built to fish on the East Coast, to one that was meant to travel and fish in places like Costa Rica. In fact, that boat is now named the Uno Mas and is still doing an incredible job catching fish down in Los Sueños for Brooks Smith. We are still very proud that she’s the first one.
“That boat became a classic example of how the owner and crew can kind of drive, or push the boat builder in a different direction. I was just going to build a really durable fish catching boat, but it became a yacht on the very first one. And that really helped us a lot, since before we started on that first one we had three other guys under contract as well, and they wanted a nicer boat, too.
Those first two guys somehow saw something and they wanted to push us a little further. Luckily, for us, our next guy was better, and the next guy after that was better still. They all pushed us to bigger and better things. We’ve built 25 boats now and we’ve never built the same one twice.”
Although Endeavor grew beyond all of Bayliss’ expectations, its unique look was intentional from the beginning.
“When I started the company, I wanted this boat to pull into a marina and have people say, is that boat a Carolina build or a Florida build? We wanted to combine the best aspects of those looks,” says Bayliss. “That was a very different boat for around here at the time. That boat has very little flare and we designed it that way on purpose. That look caused me a lot of sleepless nights. When we had the boat on the jig upside in the shop I had prominent boat builders telling me that I couldn’t build the boat the way it was…that is was a mistake and I was messing up. I went back to Ullberg again and told him what the guys were saying and he pointed out that the boat was exactly what we had on the computer in 3-D and that I should just shut the door and build it. And that’s what we did. I’m glad I had friends like him to keep me pressing on. Too much self-doubt can lead to a not-so-good boat…and then you become a one and done. Our first one turned out to be a really good one.”
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