Behind The Scenes At Derecktor Shipyards

Derecktor Shipyards started on the dirt floor of a Mamaroneck building when Robert E. Derecktor (“Bob”) decided to learn how to build wooden boats—with tools he made himself, no less—in 1947. Nearly 70 years later, Derecktor still occupies that same nondescript building (and has since taken over a few neighboring buildings) on Boston Post Road. 

Since its founding, the company (which also has a shipyard in Dania, Florida) has become a behemoth in the ship- and custom-yacht-building industry, working on projects ranging from the 1987 America’s Cup-winning boat to a 124’ catamaran passenger ferry for the Bahamas to Cakewalk, a 281’, 2,950-ton yacht—the largest yacht built in the US since the 1930s. As a custom-boat builder, the company does everything from conception to all structural, mechanical, and plumbing work. And, in the spirit of Bob, all work is completed on machinery built by the company. A large chunk of the business, though, is the repair and maintenance of both commercial and privately owned boats (woodwork, painting, extensions). If that’s not enough, the company also builds custom dry docks, like the 80-foot dock it built for Billy Joel. 

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Luckily, we got inside for an up-close and personal view of all things Derecktor. 

The view of Derecktor Shipyards from Harbor Island Park in Mamaroneck. Seen in the photo is the boatyard’s crane—a 110-ton crane that Bob Derecktor purchased from a Korean mining company and adapted for use in the shipyard. 

Joaquim Santos, a 12-year employee of Derecktor, gives New Age, a commercial fishing boat, what they call a “shave and a haircut,” in which Santos power-washes the bottom of the boat before making any minor repairs and giving it a paint job. Derecktor does about 30 of these “shaves and haircuts” throughout the summer months. 

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Paulo Santos, a trained carpenter and woodworker from Portugal, repairs the teak deck of a 63-foot Sunseeker yacht inside Derecktor’s woodshop, where all woodwork takes place (building of cabinetry, decks, extensions, railing, etc.). Over time, teak decks get worn out, fading to a white color. So Santos cleans and sands the boards, and fixes the grooves between the planks to give it a refinished look. The bottom photo gives an up-close look at Santos hand-scraping and cleaning the teak cover for the Sunseeker’s diesel-fuel hatch. 

As Santos works on the Sunseeker in the background, woodworker Joaquem Valente, a 22-year veteran of Derecktor, shapes and cuts a small board to add to a template he’s working on in the woodshop.  

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 A view of the 63-foot Sunseeker from Newport, Rhode Island, inside the woodshop. As it sits up high on jacks, workers like Santos use lifts to reach different areas of the boat that need repair, like the teak walkways on the side of the yacht.

Maintenance worker Carlos Morales (front) re-staining the wood trim of a 35-foot sailboat, which was one of the early wooden boats built by Bob Derecktor in the early 1950s. In the background, Carlos Gutierrez works on a larger 60-foot boat (also built at Derecktor), repairing the controls for the boom and main sail. 

Another worker re-staining a hatch cover for the same sailboat Morales is working on. The wood on the boat requires three to four coats of stain and about six coats of sealer to stand up to the conditions of the open seas.

A closer view of Joaquim Santos cleaning the bottom of the commercial fishing boat. He’s using an air hose to chip off old, flaking paint before the ship is repainted. 

Tony Paroleiro (left) and Lakraj Dhanraj (right) align the stern tube for installation of the shaft line under the hull of the 65-foot R/V Spirit of the Sound research and classroom boat Derecktor is building for The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Connecticut. Since they need to get all measurements correct within 5,000ths of an inch, they run piano wire through the shaft line to align everything. 

  The aluminum structure of the R/V Spirit of the Sound, the 65-foot catamaran for The Maritime Aquarium. The month-and-a-half building process will be a historic one, as the boat will be the first and only research vessel in the US with hybrid-electric propulsion, allowing it to run virtually silently on electric power for the Aquarium’s two-hour “study cruises” on the Long Island Sound.

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