Hoyle’s business has been in Kemah, in the heart of the local boating community, for two years, and he spent 30 years before that operating in Seabrook. With so few restoration businesses still open in the country, Hoyle said, he works on boats from waters near and far. Customers have brought boats to him from as far as Fort Worth and Texarkana.
“I really love these old boats,” Hoyle said of the primarily wooden powerboats he restores. “I fell in love with the restoration.”
His mentor, a British shipwright named Len Kirkham, is the business’s namesake. Kirkham learned building and restoration techniques as a British shipwright, and he single-handedly sailed across the Atlantic Ocean twice before going into the restoration business. Kirkham left Hoyle the Bay Area business after teaching him about the process.
The annual Keels and Wheels Concours D’ Elegance event, which takes place in May at Lakewood Yacht Club, helps Hoyle with his business, he said. Most customers are interested in repairs to keep the boats operational, but depending on the age of the boat, some need further restoration, such as replacing the entire bottom.
Most projects take anywhere from six months to a year, and Hoyle works by himself on as many as 10 boats at a time. The customer base is mainly older boaters who have maintained their classic watercraft for many years, Hoyle said.
“I like to take these little wood boats apart and put them back together again,” he said. “People like for me to work on their boat.”
Wooden boats are made to last about seven years before they need major repair; maintenance, such as a new coat of varnish, is necessary every five to ten years, for example, Hoyle said. He is currently working on some older boats, such as a 42-foot sailboat from 1938 and a 51-foot watercraft from 1941.
The boats come to Hoyle in various states. He prefers not to modernize the older crafts but rather to preserve their original integrity and charm, he said.
“I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” Hoyle said. “I can’t imagine doing anything different, or [anything] else.”