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Making Waves: Linwood Parker III and Parker Boats

Parker Boats Photo by Helen Aitken
Parker Boats Photo by Helen Aitken

Linwood Parker III grew up around boats, always wanted to work on the water, and attributes his career to his upbringing on Harkers Island, N.C., an area historically famous for boat building. “I had the advantage, in the 50s, growing up on the island where there were probably two dozen people who could – just from an idea or a length and a width basis – build a boat, and some of them wouldn’t even put it on paper. You’d just cut the keel stock, the stem and frame it from that.”

He grew up working on backyard trawlers before heading to school.

“When I first came back from college, I did what was known as post-engineering, which was going in and documenting what some of those guys had done,” says Parker. “They didn’t have the ability to work from drawings, so I would go in and draw it for them.”

Today, this family-owned business is in a 250,000-square-foot production facility in Beaufort, N.C., about 25 miles from his hometown. It produces on demand about 450 mid-range classic style, sportfishing boats a year. Parker Marine makes three styles: Center Console, Walkaround and the Sport Cabin.

“Our boats look good, with classic designs, built heavily so it’s going to last,” says Parker. “It has a lot of endurance and it doesn’t go out of style. We chose to build 18- to 34-foot boats. From a manufacturer’s stand point, we can put a big boat together just like a small one, it’s just more steps. This puts us in a niche and we know where our market is. Our dealerships can work comfortably with these boats and we choose the dealerships that are compatible with our philosophy.”

Parker Marine boats are more expensive than entry level vessels. “We’re not looking to be a custom builder; most of our clients have owned four boats before realizing that a Parker boat is the one to have,” says Parker. “We have earned the reputation for a quality product, you don’t have to spend a fortune to purchase one, and it’s a pleasure to own because it isn’t difficult to maintain. It has everything on it that you need but at the same time, nothing you don’t.

All the accessory parts like padded seats, electronics and fishing towers are made in the United States, shipped to Parker Marine for installation and a boat is typically finished in six weeks. With tough standards, Parker Marine Enterprises boasts less than 1 percent in factory warranty claims.

The hulls have enough sheer and flare to make it aesthetically pleasing. Avid fans follow the products and share their ideas and stories on an owners’ website, www.classicparker.com. One change came when customers requested color options for the boats. “It used to be that customers could pick any color, as long as it was ‘Parker white’,” says Parker laughing.

Even the industry identifies this beige-white color as “Parker white.” Since UV radiation tends to oxidize (fade) dark colors, especially in southern climates, Parker Marine didn’t use them. At the customers’ behest, fade-resistant pale colors were developed. Parker colors now come in yellow, blue, green or “white/white.”

Since 1969, Parker Marine has seen four economic downturns, with the mid-range boat market taking the worst hit. At one time, the facility produced almost 1,000 boats a year. Currently, some states, like California, have few sales while Texas sales are booming. Other factors affecting the industry, according to Parker, include regulations, taxes, health care for employees and biofuels. These increase the bottom line, which eventually is passed on to consumers.

Nevertheless, Parker Marine looks for ways to enhance their boats to bring in more clients, while creating an exceptional product. The company sticks to the mantra of simplicity, strength and seaworthiness. Parker boats are tough enough for commercial use, university research, the armed forces, and recreational or high-tech sportfishing worldwide.

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