By Olivia Carolyn Hagios, Contributor
What could we possibly love more in a small town than a family business that’s carrying on to its next generation? Not much, I’d say, and this is precisely what is happening at Darling’s Boatworks right now. For the past 40 years, Pam and George Darling have run their boat repair business side by side from their shipyard workshop on Ferry Road in Charlotte. Now the family business is being sold to their son, Sam. Sam didn’t always know that he wanted to take on the business though. As any kid would, he put in many hours at the shop throughout high school and college during summers. After graduating from Massachusetts Maritime, he sailed commercially for three years, but he began longing to return home to Vermont to be around family and started to seriously consider running the business.
I met with Sam and George to discuss this transition, as well as to understand how the boat business was faring from the impacts of the pandemic. Many businesses have either sunk or swum this year, and Darling’s Boatworks has thankfully continued to swim strong. They described to me how many families found themselves homebound last year and in search of activities that would take advantage of Vermont’s pristine nature. This resulted in an abundance of new boat owners. Now, as these families prepare for another summer of staying close to home, Sam and George say that they have been busy preparing an influx of boats of all shapes and sizes for the upcoming season. As Sam was giving me a tour of their indoor workshop, I was struck by how smoothly they were able to manage multiple large boats in the space they had and asked if it ever gets tricky handling them all. He responded by praising how their amazing and flexible crew, who, like family, work wonderfully together as a unit to handle the large crafts.
Darling’s Boatworks isn’t just restricted to the shipyard on Ferry Road though—they also work in large part out of Point Bay Marina in southern Charlotte. During the summer, the community at Point Bay will often see Darling’s Boatworks trucks coming and going as they not only work with customers’ boats at the marina but also enjoy setting sail out on the lake themselves when the day allows it. Although these two locations are the primary heart of their boat repair business, Sam and George also described how they find themselves taking day trips over to other marinas to work individually with a customer’s boat every now and then, “The relationship that we have with our customers is really important to us,” says George, “We will go troubleshoot and get them going again.”
They have always worked with a broad range of boat types at Darling’s Boatworks and will continue to throughout this transition. “We have a really strong team right now and feel confident about moving forward,” Sam says in regard to taking on the business. After talking to those at Darling’s Boatworks, their passion for their work becomes crystal clear. They describe boats as being like cars, in that their owners don’t enjoy repairing them themselves, which ultimately works out well for the team, who each enjoy the art of carefully treating a boat in need of repairs. Whether they’re working with fiberglass or wooden hulls, repainting or varnishing, they thoroughly enjoy taking the time to work closely with each boat and get them shipshape for time out on the water.
Olivia Carolyn Hagios is a life-long reader and writer who graduated from CVU high school last spring and is now majoring in English at UVM. During her time as an at-home freshman this year, she has been working hard on her writing in the forms of poetry, short and long stories, and is now beginning to dabble in local news articles. She is very excited to be working with The Charlotte News and eager to continue writing.