In March of 2017, I sat down with Frank Parish- We met up at Cuts Edge Boatyard in Sarasota Florida, minutes away from the original Aquarius Pilot Cutter facility. What follows is a transcription of a brief interview with the man who started it all..
An Interview with the designer, builder, and founder of the APC..
“I moved to Sarasota in the late 60’s- early 70’s, and I moved here to be a boat builder. I was about 40. I had sold my Plastics Company that I ran for 8 years in Maryland that was very profitable. I sold everything I had, cashed it all in – threw all my tools in the back of my car and said goodbye.
I got a job with Win Durbeck , building a few trawlers and sailboats. (Durbeck Yachts). Then I worked down in Casey Key Sarasota repairing older boats, learning the trade. I worked at Endeavor as well for some time- building the molds and plugs for the 43. – Also out in Whitfield Park Sarasota. It was amazing to me that someone would let me do that all day long everyday and still pay me.
And then when I started- actually I was going along fat dumb and happy- and I rented a garage sort of place. Out in Whitfield Park Sarasota. And I was going to lay down the lines for my own boat.”
What was you inspiration for the Pilot Cutter?
-Ill tell you ( i got the inspiration for the design from a guy) – I can’t remember his name. And there was a picture of it on the cover of a magazine- and it’s a beautiful boat. A wooden boat. So I called him on the phone- and I said I’d like to talk to you about converting your drawings to make the boat out of fiberglass. The designer wasn’t happy- he didn’t want me to build the boat out of glass. He said no. I went on and on- and finally I said sorry I asked. After that one telephone call I never did talk to him again. And you know the more I thought about it I said it’s not a proprietary thing- I saw the boat on a magazine. So I dusted off my drawing board and six months later I had the hull. The designer didn’t give me a damn thing except the idea- and the basic shape- the concept.
So I moved my drafting table out to Whitfield Park. I had been drawing her for some time- and finally got some plywood. I made my own ducks and I laid down the lines. I made the forms and set them up myself. Then I planked it with a material that was a mat which was stuck to unidirectional stringers of pre-cast fiberglass. I wet it out and let it kick real slow- so that you had plenty of time to do it right. And then I started to lay her up- alternating layers of mat and roving until I hit this thick (Frank holds up a space between his index and thumb which spans more or less two inches). I had Richard Porter of precision yachts help me with the layup. He was very experienced- he was a glass man. And that was the prototype boat.
Friends came by and said “oh gee I’d like to have one of those!” “I’d buy one of those!” – And they kept doing this so I said okay put your money where your mouth is! I’m only going to build one for myself. It was my boat. I was going to sail her. I hadn’t had any idea of going into business at that point. I had been in business for myself before but I didn’t want any of that anymore. I didn’t like to run companies- what I really liked to do was create. Companies are a pain in the butt and they’ll drive you into the ground – he chuckled. So I didn’t want to go into business. But my friends kept coming around and I said alright- we got a bunch of money together and I said I would build the boat- so I did. I think like an entrepreneur – I always have.
What happened with the boat is macroeconomics stepped on me- he laughs. Under president carter the feds jacked up the interest rate, the economy slowed, gas was expensive, and no-body was buying boats. So boat companies were going under. And that was the Beginning and the end of Topsail Yachts. It was originally named, by me – Topsail Yachts Incorporated. The company just died. So I looked for somebody to fund the building and run the business – and John Waligora fit the bill. But I stayed on as the plant manager. Like I said what I wanted to do was build- I didn’t want to run the company. But he got tripped up too. He fell in the same mud I did with the economy. It was not a good time to be building boats. And I thought at that point that leisure time industries would not come back in my lifetime. At least not like they were. And so I said I need another career. I said I’ve run all these businesses I’ve done all of these things but I am running out of steam. And so I went back to Grad school. I went for computer sciences. And then I worked for the Sarasota County School System until I retired.