By Lisa Leigh Connors
When the owners of Pease Boatworks were ready to sell the business more than a year ago, the stars aligned for Woody Metzger and Jim Donovan. Metzger had known the brothers for years and even worked at Pease before buying the boatyard a year ago with Harwich native Jim Donovan, who had been running his own home building business in St. John. “Traditional boat building drew me back and this sense of place,” says Donovan, a Harwich native.
After purchasing the boatyard on Mill Pond in Chatham at the end of 2016, they renamed it First Light Boatworks, a reference to First Light Seaventures, a charter company owned by Pease and run by Metzger many years ago. The boatyard also sells a boat called Monomoy First Light. “When we came to name the company, I said, “Let’s bring it back around and pay homage to the brothers,” says Metzger.
Other than the name, very little has changed. The talented and experienced crew of nine continues to build, restore and service wooden boats. “When something gets launched here,” says Metzger, “it doesn’t feel like technology made it. It has energy and you have a connection with it.”
Their love for the craft runs deep: Donovan, the grandson of Harwich fisherman Fred Bennett, built his first boat with his grandfather when he was 12. Metzger, whose dad was a commercial fisherman, grew up on Town Cove in Orleans and his earliest memories are of wooden boats and being on the water. Currently, the First Light crew is working on a beautiful, hand-crafted plank-on-frame 36-foot vessel that will take a year and a half to build. “Every piece of this boat has been gone over with human hands multiple times,” says Donovan, “and it feels different when you’re on a boat like that.”
First Light Boatworks & Marine Railway
43 Eliphamets Lane, Chatham