Soon after moving to Port Aransas, Museum director Rick Pratt started a small business building wooden rowing and sailing craft. Interested in the traditional boats from the island, he interviewed Doyle Marek for the following article published in the Fall 1982 Coastal Bend Vacation Guide.
Boat-building is a Practical Course in Port A
The first thing you notice about Doyle Marek is his sheer physical size. Sitting across from him during an interview, I felt like I was being faced down by one of the Cowboy front four. Soon, though, you forget about his size and become impressed instead with his capability. The man is an amazing combination of technical skills and down-home knowhow. He put all of these gifts together one day while assisting in the planning of programs for the new Port Aransas High School. The principal asked for ideas for a vocational type program and Doyle Marek said, “Lets teach the kids to build boats.”
Port Aransas is a very boaty place. You see boats everywhere from the moment you step off the ferry boat. Boats in the water, boats tied to piers, boats on the move, boats under houses, boats everywhere.
You see anything from johnboats to tankers, from rowboats to sailboats. Soon, however, you begin to notice one type of boat more than all the others. Skiffs. More to the point, Port Aransas skiffs, a type evolved over many years to fit our local conditions perfectly. These simple and handsome boats will look as through they came from the same family; not exactly alike but obviously “kinfolks”. They are flat bottomed with a high stem and a very long run to the transom. The boats range from 14-foot to around 20-foot and are invariably powered by outboard motors. These graceful little boats are capable of running in very shallow water and through stiff chop. Perfect for Port A.
These were the Boats Doyle wanted to teach the kids how to build. This way, they would be getting a dose of their local heritage as well as learning a skill usually reserved for very few.
Most people didn’t think it could be done, of course, but Doyle headed along his merry way anyhow, making lots of progress in his accustomed manner. Soon, there were seven kids ready to learn boatbuilding. That was in 1975. Today, there are 30 kids in the class and their boats have become famous throughout the Coastal Bend. Their latest effort won handily in the Coastal Bend industrial arts competition held recently in Kingsville, taking first in class and third overall. That, folks, is progress.
Skip forward thirty years to 2012, when Doyle helped get the Farley Boat Works off the ground by teaching another class of eager students the art of building the Port A skiff. This graduated group of volunteers is now the backbone of the Museum’s boatbuilding school, and Port A skiffs are making a strong, and beautiful, comeback on the flats.