David Walters, the founder of David Walters Yachts, designer and builder of the Cambria series of cruising yachts and co-founder of Shannon Yachts, died January 17 in Fort Lauderdale at the age of 75. Friends say that for Walters designing and building boats was a “lifelong passion and one he was always eager to share.”
He started honing his sailing skills in 1953, competing in junior one-design classes near his home in Connecticut at the Riverside Yacht Club. Racing his Blue Jay, Boomerang, in 1960 Walters amassed the highest percentage winning average of any junior sailor in any class on Long Island Sound. Two years later, Walters won the Blue Jay Class National Championship. He founded and led Bucknell University’s sailing team to numerous victories including a Middle-Atlantic team regatta at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1964. In 1967, Walters sailed with Dick Carter on “Rabbit II” on the U.S. Admiral’s Cup team and with E.W. “Skip” Etchells on the prototype of what is now the International Etchells Class.
Professionally, Walters began his career at age 23 as a broker for Allied Boat Building Co., which manufactured the first fiberglass boat to circumnavigate the globe. He worked closely with company president Howard Foster and was promoted to general manager of the company’s Mamaroneck, N.Y., location.
In 1971, Walters established the Sound Yachts Boatyard in New Rochelle, N.Y., while continuing his brokerage and sales for Allied. His new yard also offered Ericson and Morgan yachts. Four years later Walters partnered with Walter Schulz to establish Shannon Yachts in Bristol, R.I.
When Walters founded Cambria Yachts, his wife Betsy was by his side and together they formed the company known for building high-quality cruising yachts.
In 1991, Walters joined Luke Brown & Associates and began offering new-build consultation, custom design work and brokerage services. Seven years later, he opened a sales office in Fort Lauderdale and in 2011, the brokerage became known as David Walters Yachts.
In 2016, Walters asked Amanda Noon and Josh McLean to continue the legacy he’d spent his life building. David Walters Yachts was left to their trust. “We couldn’t be more humbled to follow in the footsteps of a man like David Walters,” said McLean in a statement. “We made a promise to him that David Walters Yachts will always be guided by his founding principles.”
Walters is survived by his wife, a son David E. Walters, Jr., and wife Tina of Coconut Grove, Fla., a son Christopher W. Walters and wife Georgia, of Longboat Key, Fla., his brother, Kenneth Walters of New Haven, Conn., sisters in law Mary Butler and husband Dan Hebert of Troy, Vt., Jane LaTour and husband Russell Smith of New York, N.Y., and Susan Morin of West Springfield, Mass., as well as nephews and nieces.