1.Picture: Front Row… Jim D, Curt, JW, Dot Whiticar. Back Row…Deva Dragseth, Tara Darvill Shelly (Laura Kay’s Daughter), Scott Shelly, Laura Kay Darvill Whiticar, Jill Roller (Joanne’s Daughter), Joanne Talley,JW, Laura Kay, Joanne siblings of Curt
G. Curtis “Curt” Whiticar, founder of Whiticar Boat Works, first came to the Stuart, Florida area in 1917 with his parents and two brothers. Addison Whiticar, Curt's father, would hand-line commercial fish during the winter months and make a decent living due to the abundance of fish at that time. Summers were spent fishing in Fortecues, New Jersey. Due to competition from commercial net fishing in the late twenties, Addison started to use his boat more frequently for sport fishing.
Initially splitting time between his native New Jersey and Stuart, Whiticar worked with his father in the fishing industry as a kid, coming to Florida in the winter for the warmer temperatures and bountiful catch.
He eventually settled down on the Treasure Coast, raising his three children with his late wife, Elsa, in Stuart.
Curt built his first boat when he was 14, and by the age of 23, he had designed and built a 33-foot single screw boat called the “Shearwater.” This fishing boat, based on local inlet problems and demanding fishing needs, is the backbone to the design of the modern Whiticar sport fisherman of today. Addison - more fondly known as Capt. Add - had Curt build him a boat shortly afterward in 1938. “The “Gannet,” a twin screw 38-footer was Capt. Add's pride and joy.
"He was a remarkable man, and a living library full of history of Martin County," said Rick Crary, himself a member of a longtime local family and historian. "I had dinner with him a few years ago, and the story that impressed me most was when he told us about the day Gov. John Martin came to Stuart to celebrate the creation of the new county bearing his name. Curt pointed out the spot where Martin gave his speech in 1926, a few months after the county was formed in 1925. Curt remembered because he was there, a teenager of about 14."
By the late 1930s, had begun to make a name for the family with his craftsmanship. By the 1950s, his boats were in demand by anglers who wished for good sea boats built to handle the sometime choppy Treasure Coast waters offshore. They were known to have a sharp entry bow and steep deadrise, which made them perfect for slicing into a 4-to-5 foot high wave. More than 60 Whiticar boats have been built since Whiticar assembled his first.
Due to ever increasing demand for these boats, Curt moved the Mess Hall from Camp Murphy, at what is now Jonathan Dickinson State Park, and reassembled the wood on a slab at its present location in 1947. The first boat built at the new facility in 1954 was the 38 ft “Hobo” – made for Curt's brother, Jack. Powered by a pair of 225 horse power Chrysler engines, it proved to be fast and exceptionally seaworthy
Before founding Whiticar Boat Works in 1947, Whiticar ran a charter fishing business that came to include seven boats called the Whiticar Fleet. Considered among the early conservationists in the area, he devised a plan to present anglers who were coming to the “Sailfish Capital of the World” with a special golden pin if they released the billfish back into local waters. This would allow tourism to the area to continue without putting the fish's population in danger. The mission was taken up by the newly formed Stuart Sailfish Club, which included local fishing charters like Whiticar's, in 1941.
*Captains Johnson Whiticar (left), Curt Whiticar (kneeling), Addison Whiticar and Jack Whiticar (right), all of Stuart, work on a boat's motor in this 1950s era photo. (Photo: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY JOHN WHITICAR)
The 70’ by 90’ building became the foundation from which Whiticar Boat Works evolved. In 1949 Curt hired his brother-in-law, John Dragseth, to help him run the company. The company’s success came as a result of quality repairs and the famous line of custom fishing boats. John Dragseth and Curt Whiticar relied on a trained staff and attention to customer needs for Whiticar Boat Works to become a known destination for the East Coast recreational boater.
Much the same way that a father teaches his son to fish, it was fitting that both John Dragseth and Curt Whiticar had sons join the company and continue the family tradition of excellence in marine service and repair. Sons Jim Dragseth and John Whiticar were at the helm as the recreational boating life style continued to grow and become more demanding. To maintain the ability to meet the needs of the boating community Whiticar Boat Works established new divisions of the company, including: Shearwater Marine in 1996; Whiticar Marine North in 2003; Whiticar Yacht Sales in 2004; and Whiticar Custom Boats in 2000.
Whiticar retired from the boat building business in 1986 when he was 75. But he continued to play golf three times a week at Martin County Golf and Country Club well into his mid-90s. He may have played longer except a friend accidentally hit him in the knee with a golf cart and he was unable to play without pain after that.
Whiticar dedicated also more time to painting, a favorite pastime. He gave some of his works to family, friends and even the Historical Society and Stuart Heritage Museum. At the age of 96, he wrote a book about what life was like in Stuart in the early 1900s.
Whiticar celebrated his 106th birthday on Feb. 13, shortly after which he was presented with a Legendary Captains & Crew award by the International Game Fish Association.
"Everyone uses the word 'amazing' and 'great' and 'accomplished,' and I think probably the one word that probably says it all is 'accomplished,'" John Whiticar said, recalling how people often referred to his father. "He's an accomplished fisherman, boat-builder; he was an accomplished golfer—he wasn’t the best golfer, but he was dedicated… just an all-around great person."
Curt Whiticar is survived by his children, Laura Kay Darvill-Whiticar, Joanne Talley and John Whiticar; John's wife, Dot Whiticar; eight grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
There will be a celebration of Whiticar's life April 9 at Indian RiverSide Park in Jensen Beach at a time yet to be determined. In lieu of flowers, the family asks to make contributions in his name to the Stuart Sailfish Club, the Stuart Heritage Museum, or Treasure Coast Hospice.
Killer, E. (2017, March 9). TCPALM. Retrieved from http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/2017/03/09/curt-whiticar-boat-builder-charter-and-commercial-fisherman-golfer-and-artist-dies-106/98968126/
Llorens, I. (2017, March 8). Curt Whiticar, Founder Of Whiticar Boat Works, Dies At 106. Retrieved from Stuart Magazine : https://www.stuartmagazine.com/up-front/noteworthy/curt-whiticar-founder-whiticar-boat-works-dies-106