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.
In the late 1990s 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 1950s were also getting older while the time needed to maintain their old wooden boats increased.
Then a few years ago, 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 Facebook page “Barbour Boats” that had 145 followers from 16 states and 5 foreign countries. But after the page’s administrator, Richard Askins, passed away in 2018, the group was left in limbo.
Step in Joe Peacos. Peacos, who owns a 1961 Barbour vacationer and a 1949 utility Barbour, started up the Barbour Boat Enthusiasts Facebook page to fill the void. He posts photos of Barbour boats, updates on projects, videos and any other information of interest to Barbour owners and fans. He also created a history/memorabilia tent including printed foam-core panels and banners to share the Barbour story.