March / April 2023

The Remarkable Career of Steve White

An era of transition and innovation at Brooklin Boat Yard
Steve White

BILLY BLACK (BOTH)

During his tenure of more than 30 years at the helm of Brooklin (Maine) Boat Yard, Steve White (inset) has led the company’s dramatic growth and its construction of increasingly complex cold-molded yachts to a wide variety of designs, including many from the yard’s own progression of in-house staff. He is in the process of transferring ownership to the employees, which will probably be concluded by the end of 2023.

Even on a calm autumn morning, it’s hard to imagine that it was ever quiet at Brooklin Boat Yard. The yard has been a Maine boatbuilding institution since naval architect Joel White bought out his boatbuilding mentor, Arno Day, to found the business in 1960. Arno had found it all getting out of hand, too big, what with three employees in addition to himself and Joel. These days, the parking area fills in quickly in the morning with ten times that many boatbuilders, who nod their greetings as they arrive at work and the first machine noises inside break the morning stillness. On an autumn morning in 2022, their work focused on the construction of two new racing yachts and the restoration of a large motorsailer.

In the summertime, dinghies crowd the yard’s Center Harbor floats. Although the buildings have been much expanded over the years, yachts are easy to see coming and going beyond the same little shed that has been at the end of the pier for as long as anybody can remember, with the same little half-dory flower box under a white-painted six-over-six window sash. There’s always something new, from freshly launched yachts to those merely paying their respects. The mooring field, though more crowded, still has a high proportion of classic yachts.

Many of these changes have occurred on the watch of yard proprietor Steve White, Joel’s son, who started casual work at the yard in his early teens. By the time he came home to work full-time here in 1978, Arno had long since left, and Steve became the fifth person on staff; for years now, the yard under Steve’s leadership has averaged more than 50 employees. He’ll turn 70 in December of this year, his target age for retirement. By then, the company’s transition to employee ownership will have been completed, or nearly so.

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