Farley Boat Works' Rich Maritime Heritage in Port Aransas - The Bend Magazine

Farley Boat Works’ Rich Maritime Heritage in Port Aransas

Farley Boat Works serves as a living museum, educational hub and incubator of Port Aransas’ rich maritime heritage.

A vintage photo from Farley Boat Works in Port Aransas, Texas.

Bill Farley with a Munsell Speedboat | Photo provided by Farley Boat Works

In the salty air of Port Aransas, where fishing culture runs deep, Farley Boat Works stands as a proud guardian of maritime heritage. With a history that stretches back more than a century, this place is a living, breathing tribute to the fishing soul of the community.

Initially established in 1915 near the Coast Guard station on the water, Farley Boat Works underwent several relocations over the years due to storms and changing needs. The devastating hurricanes of 1916 and 1919 took a toll on the early structures. However, the resilient spirit of the community prevailed, leading to the construction of remarkable buildings that still stand firmly today. The current location is the last vestige of the original Farley Boat Works. It was reopened in 2011 by the Port Aransas Preservation and Historical Association Inc. (PAPHA) to preserve its historical significance. 

A current photo from Farley Boat Works in Port Aransas, Texas.
Photos courtesy of Billy Wuneburger

At the heart of this business lies a rich history shaped by both triumph and challenges. Ashley Harris, chief operating officer of PAPHA, shared one of those historical moments: “President Franklin D. Roosevelt came to the area to tarpon fish with his son; it gained a lot of attention. He brought his own boat and struck out,” Harris said. “The captain suggested going on a Farley boat because the local guys knew what worked. These boats received a lot of attention, and most will argue they were the first sportfishing vessel built on the Gulf Coast, if not the first built in the United States.”

The team takes pride in its commitment to education and community outreach; the organization offers boatbuilding classes to pass on traditional woodworking skills and knowledge. Spearheaded by the passionate teacher and community member Doyle Marek, the boatbuilding program is led today by volunteers inspired by Marek’s teachings. They continue to share the art of boat construction, helping people of all ages build over 130 wooden boats since 2011. 

A vintage photo from Farley Boat Works in Port Aransas, Texas.
Photo provided by Farley Boat Works

The pièce de résistance of Farley Boat Works is the “Port A Skiff” or the “Marek Skiff.” These flat-bottomed beauties range from 14 to 20 feet and are designed to glide through shallow waters like a fish on a mission. 

An event of significance to Port Aransas is the Wooden Boat Festival, hosted by Farley Boat Works, which features boatbuilding competitions, engaging presentations on boatbuilding techniques, coastal market vendors, food trucks and live music. This festival celebrates the success of Farley Boat Works (about 120 boats have been built there since it reopened) along with other wooden boats built and designed by individuals and kit companies from across the country. Festival goers will be able to experience the craft and history of boatbuilding firsthand. 

With its boatbuilding classes, preservation efforts and engaging events, Farley Boat Works remains a cherished cornerstone of the Port Aransas community.  

A current photo from Farley Boat Works in Port Aransas, Texas.
Photos courtesy of Billy Wuneburger

Contact: 716 W. Avenue C, Port Aransas   |   portaransasmuseum.org

Interested in learning more about local history? Check out our list of 30 defining moments in Corpus Christi’s history.