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Story #54Artisan BoatworksRockport, ME

It’s one of those businesses that really thrives on the process as much as the product.

Thinking of coastal Maine instantly conjures images of boats lined up in misty harbors, waiting to set sail. For Maine native Alec Brainerd, being on the water is a way of life, so it seems only natural that it would also become his small business, Artisan Boatworks. Founded in 2002 in Rockport, Maine, Artisan Boatworks specializes in the building and restoration of classic wooden boats, ranging from small sailboats to custom yachts.

Brainerd grew up sailing wooden boats, and rather than pursuing a conventional career path, took sailing jobs that allowed him to travel around the world and hone his skills on the water. Around the age of 18, he “made the mistake of buying [his] own boat.” Realizing he didn’t know enough to put it back together after taking it apart, Brainerd went to boat building school, and began laying the foundation for his business.

“I think it’s all building, right?” He says, “Either you’re building relationships, you’re building a team, you’re building a shop, it’s all sort of the same.” Brainerd now has a team of 12 employees, and puts strong emphasis on the word “team.” He hesitates to even call himself the boss, viewing his role as that of a facilitator. “It’s artisan boat work at the end of the day that deserves the credit.”

The boating industry is not a small one, and competition with larger, more well-funded boatyards is a constant challenge for Artisan Boatworks. Brainerd hopes that they can ease the strain by doing more maintenance work, a more stable business than custom construction and restoration. One thing that won’t change is his happiest moment as a small business owner: every time a new boat is launched.

“Everyone comes together and you crack the champagne on the keel and go sailing… that’s what we live for.”


Photos by Luke Boelitz

  • Alec Brainerd takes the Haas' for a test sail in their new boat.

  • After a long day at the shop Alec Brainerd takes a final phone call from his backyard as his daughter, Adella, plays on a rope swing.

  • Back at the Artisan Boatworks shop, Amber Nuite and Garvin Morris are busy putting a new coat of paint on a boat about to be splashed for the summer season.

  • Alec Brainerd climbs the mast of the Buzzards Bay 15 Foxfire to adjust a spreader that came loose during the test sail.

  • Alec Brainerd takes Bob Haas's new boat for a test sail in Rockport, Maine. Brainerd and crew always love seeing boats they've worked on return from their maiden voyage, having taken on a spirit all their own.

  • Alec Brainerd takes Bob Haas's new boat for a test sail in Rockport, Maine. For him, the happiest moment as a small business owner is every time a new boat sets sail. "That's what we live for."

  • Alec Brainerd's wife Erin and daughter Georgia prepare to go for a spin in their pink rowing pram. Spending time with family is one reason Brainerd is starting to think about what retirement might look like.

  • New owner Bob Haas watches as Alec Brainerd and Tom Kiley of Artisan Boatworks maneuver the mast of his boat into position in preparation for her test launch.

  • Alec Brainerd, owner of Artisan Boatworks, on board the recently completed Buzzards Bay 15 Foxfire. Brainerd grew up in coastal Maine sailing wooden boats, and always knew that he wouldn't follow a conventional career path.

  • Tom Kiley of Artisan Boatworks pulls a newly built Buzzards Bay 15 Foxfire out of the storage shed in preparation for her test launch.

  • Alec Brainerd and Justin Ward of Artisan Boatworks discuss an upcoming repair in their Rockport, Maine, shop. The business has a team of 12 employees, and owner Brainerd puts strong emphasis on the word "team."

  • Alec Brainerd uses a disk sander while employees, Freeland Ackert and Timo Foster, work on hollowing out two long sections of wood that will join together to form a mast.

Business Details

Proprietor: Alec Brainerd
416 Main St. Rockport, ME 04856
PH: 207-236-4231 / Website
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