Carson R. "Buddy" Davis Jr., who designed and built Carolina-style sportfishing boats from 28 to 78 feet, died Monday at his home in Marathon, Fla., after a lengthy illness, his wife, Barbara, said. He was 62.
A native of Manteo, N.C., Davis was the son of Carson Ralph Davis and "Nonnie" Etheridge Davis, and the sister of Anne Davis Creef.
Davis' boats were designed and built mainly under two companies: Davis Boat Works, which he founded in 1973, and Davis Yachts, which he formed in the mid 1980s, according to his wife, Barbara Davis.
"Through some pretty tough times, Buddy was absolutely a survivor," said Dean Travis Clarke, a longtime friend and the executive editor of Sport Fishing and Marlin magazines. "Even though he suffered some great setbacks in his career, somehow he always came back."
Davis kept coming back because his boat designs were sought after and he had a reputation as one of the best boatbuilders around, Barbara Davis said. During his 45-year career, Davis built some 400 yachts, according to the family.
Clarke knew Davis for 25 years and tested many of his boats. "He was one of the original group of Oregon Inlet charter boat captains who became boatbuilders," Clarke said. "They went from that tiny town of Wanchese and the Manteo area [of North Carolina] to a global presence. They have boats all over the world. He had an extraordinary reputation for building very seaworthy and smooth-riding boats."
A master at capturing the Carolina look, Davis designed and built boats that were known for their sharp entries and dramatic bow flare, Clarke said. His hull designs were all about function, but Davis also brought a level of luxury to the sportfishing boat that had not been seen before, Clarke said.
Clarke said Davis was a "pleasure to be around."
"He was a charming, quintessential soft-spoken Southern gentleman, a gifted fisherman," he said.
He loved to build fishing boats because he loved to fish, Barbara Davis said. "He didn't want to be anyplace that didn't have access to a boat," said Davis, 60. "He loved to go out there and slay the dolphin."
Davis leaves his daughter, the Hon.Amber Davis, 44; his son, Carson Wade Davis, 40, who works at Spencer Yachts; his former wife, Elaina Davis; and two stepsons, Tres Midgett, 37, and Matthew Midgett, 34.
— Chris Landry