Barbour Boat Works was an important to the economic landscape of coastal North Carolina for over sixty years.
When Herbert W. Barbour first opened his boat shop on New Bern’s Trent River in 1933, his focus was on the repair and construction of small commercial vessels. Hard work and a good reputation earned his small boat yard US Navy contracts for rescue boats.
As World War II began, Barbour Boat Works helped meet the demand for ships, large and small, with construction of wooden hull minesweepers for the Navy beginning in 1943. With a payroll of more than 1,200 employees, the war years brought continued growth for the small town boat yard.
After 1945, Barbour Boat Works changed its business focus from supporting the war effort to supplying tugboats to the Coast Guard and ferries for the state’s Department of Transportation.
Barbour Boat Works also embarked on a successful endeavor to produce a wide range of powered pleasure boats.
The new line of glamorous power boats, constructed of fine Honduran mahogany, ranged from 16-foot runabouts to 21-foot cruisers. Many of these pleasure boats still pull skiers on local waters and are considered great nautical treasures for boat collectors.
The Barbour Boat Owners Association will be available during the Annual Wooden Boat Show. Please stop by their booth next to the Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center.
You are welcome to visit the North Carolina Maritime Museum to see the exhibit dedicated to Barbour Boat Works.
In the late 1990’s a club was formed for Barbour boat owners. It had over 40 members.
Eventually the club faded as the boats began to go out of service from the effects of time. Note that any wooden pleasure boats built by Barbour Boat Works would have been at least 40 years old since that part of the business generally shut down in 1960. The Barbour owners who grew up with old wooden boats from the 1950’s were also getting older while the time needed to maintain their old wooden boats increased.
About two years ago a few people who owned Barbours began to cross paths at boat shows. They all had a common goal of promoting the preservation and restoration of Barbour boats. Soon they developed a community face book page “Barbour Boats” that currently has around 145 followers from 16 states and 5 foreign countries.
They post photos of Barbour boats and write about Barbour boats as well as share general information anyone who likes old boats may enjoy. The group was given the original banner from the previous club. They proudly display the “Barbour Boat Owners Association” banner whenever they put up our memorabilia tent and Barbour boats on display. The group is not limited to present day owners of a Barbour boat but are an informal organization. They consider those that have fond memories of growing up with an old wooden boat our friends and “members”.
The organization has a “parts closet” to help owners find parts for their restoration projects and sometimes offer at cost some fun items like Barbour caps and decals. Another important work of the club is to match up buyers with sellers of ready to ride Barbours as well as restoration project boats.
If you see the Barbour Boat Owners at boat shows, stop by and trade memories.