Skip to main content

Maine native still builds boats at 92

Jarvis Newman’s boat shop on Main Street in Southwest Harbor, Maine, is a living museum of the early fiberglass construction of Down East boats.

Part of the appeal of the shop is a regular visitor, a neighborhood boatbuilder named Steve Spurling, still going strong at 92.

Spurling, who lives with his wife, Arlene, two doors down from Newman’s shop, has been a boat captain and boatbuilder all his life. He still builds small craft, including Whitehalls and dinghies of his own design, in a shop behind his house.

“He keeps the rowboats out there for sale,” Newman’s daughter, Kathe Walton, told the Bangor Daily News. “He keeps building them. That’s what he does. And Arlene sews. They stay so busy. They’re both remarkable.”

Spurling grew up on Great Cranberry Island. As a young man, before World War II, he rode on Raymond Bunker’s boat every morning from the island to Southwest Harbor, and back in the late afternoon, so he could work for Southwest Boat Corp. The first boat he worked on was a 90-foot wooden dragger, which was being built outdoors; the crew had to work in all kinds of weather.

From there, Spurling began a career odyssey that had him working with some of the legendary Maine boatbuilders of the 20th century.

Click here for the full profile of a true marine character in the Bangor Daily News.



Industry Pushes Back Against Speed Restrictions

A NOAA Fisheries proposal would restrict boats 35 feet and larger to a 10-knot speed limit along the East Coast to protect right whales from vessel strikes.


Magonis Opens Connecticut Office

The Spain-based, electric-boat builder offers an 18-footer that’s available with motors from Torqeedo and Mag Power.


Bill Seeks to Increase Youth Fishing

The bipartisan Coastal Fishing Program Act of 2022 would ease barriers to accessing the outdoors in underserved communities.


Fall Is in Full Swing

With the autumnal equinox ushering in a new season today, the fall boat-show circuit is in high gear. Here are some recent reports and a look at what’s to come.


Manufacturer Confidence Drops

Still, U.S. builders remain largely optimistic despite ongoing constraints with the supply chain and workforce, as well as yesterday’s interest rate hike.


Defender Adds TEMO Electric Boat Motor

Defender Industries is the official U.S. dealer for the French company’s lightweight, portable electric motors.


Twin Disc Sells Belgium Facility

The transmission manufacturer is still using the facility in a leaseback transaction as it looks to reduce costs.