Our days here in Titusville have not been wasted on idle lounging or, shall we say, other indoor activities. We've also been exploring the history of our boat. As I have mentioned before Why Knot was built here by Nelson Yachts back in 1988. And a lot of people refer to these boats as Thompson Nelson trawlers. They were first made by Thompson Boats also here in Titusville. Thompson’s ship yard was on the north side of the marina, Nelson on the south side. We walked up to what was formally Thompson’s shipyard where there is another custom ship builder now. (They build commercial specialty boats.) The lady at the front desk found a guy there that used to work for Thompson and he was happy to tell us a bit of the history and story of Rodney Thompson and the ship yard.
Rodney Thompson is a bit of a story himself. Originally from South Carolina he was making a good living building small commercial fishing boats. He moved down to Titusville in the 1960s and converted one of his successful hulls, a forty-four foot job, to a live-aboard pleasure craft. This was the original forty-five foot boat like Why Knot. He built somewhere around one-hundred-twenty of them. He also built a limited number of thirty-three and fifty-two foot versions. But he made his money from the forty-fives. He then decided to get into building some really big boats, a ninety foot long boat. And at the time it was the longest fiberglass boat on the planet. But his zeal (and costs) to build this boat got out of hand. He liquidated all of the tooling for his smaller pleasure craft to a guy named Greg Nelson to finance his project. That unfortunately did not work. Thompson soon had to call it quits and he closed up his shipyard and soon opened a local seafood restaurant. And in the spirit of all great entrepreneurs, he developed a machine that automatically shelled rock shrimp. He made his fortune back with this invention His restaurant, Dixie Crossroads, is also a success (fine good eating, too) and his story ends happily.
|Lisa with...we'll call him Rodney.|
|Darrell and Rodney. We're BFFs.|
|Besides being a greeter Rodney also catches the special of the day.|
Now, about Nelson.
I walked down to the other boatyard which is part of Midland Marina, formally Nelson's Midland Marina. I met a guy named Rick who worked there at the time Nelson was in the yacht business. He told me that Nelson is still around but is kind of a hermit now. Nelson built eighteen or nineteen boats one at a time. This according to Nelson himself in a talk he gave to a Thompson Nelson rendezvous some years ago, a transcript of which was transferred with all of the boat’s papers. Rick asked me who the original owner was. The guy’s name was George Redmon. Surprisingly Rick remembered him and he was able to give me more info on our boat. Unlike most of the other boats which were delivered only half finished to other boat finishers for things like the interior and exterior components, Nelson built our boat fully finished as a spec boat that he would sell outright ready to go. Unfortunately the great yacht bubble was beginning to burst with the final blow being the luxury tax imposed in 1990. Our boat was actually on display along the main highway in town for two years before George Redmon and his wife bought it, right before Nelson closed his business in 1991. So, according to Rick, our boat was the last Thompson/Nelson boat built and sold. Wow. The last of the breed. In between our boat and the business closing Nelson tried to hang on re-outfitting other yachts. But he couldn’t keep it going. He now has a cottage business restoring Corvettes.
If there is one word to describe our time at Titusville it would be “history”. We learned and experienced so much about the history of this nation’s amazing space achievements. And we learned about the history of our home, Why Knot, the last of the Thompson Nelson trawlers. And as we have said many times, our boat is the best boat in any marina…always!
PS – I gave Titusville Marina a 5-star rating on ActiveCaptain. Nice facility, incredible staff. Also, Phil Scanlan of Mims Mobile Marine Service is excellent. Upon reading our review the marina manager sent us a nice note saying that he had seen many T N trawlers and ours was by far the prettiest. He is obviously a man who knows his boats.
PS2 – Here is a link on why the 1990 Luxury Tax was a failure. Interesting reading.