Dan Thaler with one of his handcrafted canoes.
Dan Thaler has lived in Yorktown for 50 of his 60 years. Though he’s worked as a mechanic since 1980, in the last eight years he’s found his true calling — handcrafting kayaks, canoes, and longboards. Thaler and his company, Moonlight Marine, have been winning awards left and right — or perhaps port and starboard — including multiple Best in Show and Best Kayak at the Okoumefest, a prestigious boatbuilding contest held annually in Maryland. The INSP channel’s Handcrafted America took notice and followed Thaler through the building process during an episode that aired in November.
“Wood can be tailor-made for the kayaker,” Thaler says, “and I’ve always found plastic to be uncomfortable.” Depending on the crafts, Dan will spend 100–350 hours on individual projects. The prices are negotiable, but his heirloom-quality craft have sold for as much as $20,000. “The kayaks and longboards I make might look delicate, but they’re meant to be used; they’re meant to be on the water.
“There is something special about being out on the water in something you carved with your own hands,” he continues. “It’s something we’ve done for thousands of years. Native Americans built canoes out of wood and sailed the same waters and saw the same sights as we do today. It’s meditative.”
See the gallery below for more of Dan’s work.