DSB In The News


FIO/USF R/V W. T. Hogarth Launch


ST. PETE TIMES : April 2005 

TARPON SPRINGS - The atmosphere was tense as a crowd of about 250 awaited the launch of the E.S.S. Endeavor into the Anclote River last weekend.

At 165 feet long and 600 tons, the red and blue commercial clam boat was an awesome sight. But as the ship sat on temporary launching rails at Duckworth Steel Boats, there was no guarantee that its transfer from land to sea would go smoothly.

Junior Duckworth, 62, has built more than 60 boats in his 27 years as owner of Duckworth Steel Boats. Watching him oversee the launching of his latest project, it was obvious that each launch is serious business fraught with risks.

Once the ship made its dramatic splash into the water, however, the cheers of the crowd gave way to a festive air Saturday afternoon.

Joe Duckworth, 36, Junior's son and vice president of the company, said he felt relieved once the boat was in the water, but he was quite tense beforehand.

The ship's owner, Arthur R. "Dick" Myers, and his wife, Mary, and son, Rick Myers, 46, were also there. Moments before the launch, Mary christened the ship with a bottle of champagne.

The E.S.S. Endeavor is the third ship the Myerses have purchased from Duckworth Steel Boats, which is on Island Avenue on the north side of the Anclote River.

"They're the best," Myers said. "They do beautiful work."

The E.S.S. Endeavor will hold 500,000 pounds of clams, which will be kept alive on board with refrigerated seawater. Once ashore, they will then be shipped via refrigerated trucks to Myers' factory, Eastern Shore Seafood Products in Mappsville, Va.

Mary Beth Kersey, whose fiance is an employee at Duckworth Steel Boats, said it was amazing to see the near-finished product after having watched the construction, which took 14 months.

"They start with a piece of steel and build up and up and up," she said. She also admired the kitchen and its restaurant quality side-by-side refrigerator-freezer that will serve the captain and crew of seven.

The E.S.S. Endeavor still has about three months of finishing work to be done. All in all, the $8-million project will have taken about a year and a half and about 65,000 man hours.

Duckworth has built a wide range of boats in his career, including ferries, commercial fishing boats, lobster boats, casino boats, even a replica of a pirate ship.

It all started in 1972 with a 42-foot boat Duckworth was building for himself. He worked on the boat, he said, for three years in his spare time. Before he had a chance to finish it, he had a buyer. He immediately started on another, a 50-footer. This also got sold to someone else. After that he met a man who wanted a 95-foot tuna boat, so he took on that job. By 1978 he was building boats full time.

Of his boat-building, wife Joann Duckworth says he has been "blessed with a talent." She says he can envision each new boat "in his head,"  and is able to create his own blueprints and that he oversees all aspects of the boat-building.

Duckworth has 36 employees. Almost a third are family. Many have been with the company for years.

"This is a great family business and a wonderful place to work," said office manager Barbara Danapas, sister of Mrs. Duckworth and a 25-year employee. "We're very fortunate."

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