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Maine Boat Builders Hope for Smoother Seas After the Recession

The state of Maine has a long boat-building tradition. Ralph Stanley has spent most of his eighty years designing and buildings boats in the town of Southwest Harbor, Maine. RALPH STANLEY: "Takes a lot of skill to work with wood, to build a boat out of wood. Those skills are something that have been acquired over thousands of years and passed on to people. And, if somebody doesnt keep on building out of wood, it will be lost." Stanley is retired from boat-building. But he worries that many builders are using materials like fiberglass to make copies of the boats hull, or body of a boat. RALPH STANLEY: "Fiberglass came along and I thought about going into fiberglass. But if I did, I would have to have a mold and I could never change that mold. And every boat Ive built I see something I would like to change on the next one." Stanleys son Richard also builds boats. Richard Stanley says wood is able to take up the full energy of shocks. He says fiberglass is thicker and beats back the shocks. Kerri Russell is head of Maine-Built Boats. The group provides support for the states boat building industry. She says many boat-builders have good reasons for using use fiberglass. Russell worked for a company that makes boats with fiberglass. She says it strengthened the hulls, weighed less than wood, and required fewer repairs. CUYLER MORRIS: "This boat sails away for three hundred eighty-five thousand dollars." Cuyler Morris is head of Morris Yachts, an award-winning builder of sail boats. Those boats sell for up to one million four hundred thousand dollars. Morris says his company is always looking for the best materials and using them with the best design. He says usefulness is an important quality. Morris father started the company thirty-eight years ago. Morris Yachts now uses electrically-operated parts instead of hand-powered ones. CUYLER MORRIS: "There are all sorts of things that have made boating easier, like this little jiffy sail cover here." A machine-powered sail cover protects the sail until it is needed. Morris says the device is better than hand-powered winches. A winch is the name of a device used to open and close the sail. Kerri Russell says many boats are equipped with new technology because boat-builders want to increase sales among busy families. Russell says technology is helpful for people who might not have time for traditional boats. Cuyler Morris says something is special about boats built in Maine. He says Maine is all about quality -- whether you want a small wooden rowboat or a super sailing yacht. People just do it the right way. The recession has deeply affected Maines boat industry. But Morris is hopeful about the future. CUYLER MORRIS: "Seventy-two percent of the world is covered with water. People are always going to boat. There is always going to be a demand for boats built in Maine because of quality, so Im really optimistic." The future is less clear for builders of wooden boats. Ralph Stanley now spends a lot of his time playing a fiddle made from the wood he long used to build boats. I'm Shirley Griffith.
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