Smooth Sailing for Scarano Boat Building Brothers

America 2.0, built by Scarano Boat Building with help from SBA 504 program and ESCDC

When 10-year-old John Scarano added a mast to a World War II-era bomber fuel tank and set sail on Kinderhook Lake in the Adirondack Mountains, it was the launch of a lifetime career in the boating world. For the past 40 years, John has built a business transforming his ideas from paper to port-side. John’s brother Rick joined the startup company in 1984 and together they have steered Scarano Boat Building on a course for success.

“We first took a boat to the Newport Boat Show in 1984 and realized we couldn’t compete with the larger sailboat companies that were in the market. So we changed to the passenger vessel boat market, which was easier to get exposure in, and built the 65-foot Dutch Apple II in 1986,” says Rick.

After five years, the brothers moved Scarano Boat Building into its permanent home, an 88,000-square-foot warehouse in the Port of Albany, NY. The former chemical plant features soaring ceilings, huge garage doors, and most importantly, access to the west bank of the Hudson.  The location is essential for Scarano Boat Building’s continued success: “You may not think of Albany as a seaport, but from our dock, it is 120 miles down the Hudson River to New York and the Atlantic Ocean,” says John.

Using wood, aluminum, composite and steel, Scarano designs and builds custom boats for individuals, other businesses, and government agencies. U.S. Coast Guard inspectors routinely visit Scarano to certify all boats built to carry more than six passengers are fit to sail. The company has built larger boats that carry up to 400 passengers, with one currently operating on Lake George, but that size boat is an outlier from their typical niche market.

Scarano is particularly well-known for building historical replica vessels, ranging from 30-foot canal boats to 140-foot schooners. Scarano built the largest operational sailing vessel in the past 100 years to fulfill a 1996 contract with the U.S. National Park Service. The Friendship of Salem is a 171-foot historical replica of a 1797 East Indiamen ship, currently serving as a stationary museum ship most of the year at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site in Salem, MA. Scarano’s most famous schooner, America, was designed and built in 1995 as a replica of the 19th-century racing yacht America, the first winner of the America's Cup international sailing trophy.  Scarano’s schooner America carried the Olympic Torch to the 1996 Olympic sailing venue in Savannah, GA before starting charter duty in New York City, Newport, RI and Key West, FL. Now operated by Dennis Conner, America returned from San Diego, CA to sail in a preliminary race for the America’s Cup in New York City this May.

Scarano used SBA-backed 504 loans through the Empire State Certified Development Corporation (ESCDC) to build the 1920’s classic style Manhattan yacht in 2006 and the America 2.0 schooner in 2011. The Manhattan, America 2.0 and six other Scarano-built boats are used in the company’s boutique tour operator business, Classic Harbor Line. Classic docks vessels mainly in New York City at Chelsea Piers, and also in Boston, Newport, and Key West. Tourists and New York natives alike enjoy viewing the Manhattan skyline year-round on the Manhattan and can cruise seasonally April through November on the other five boats. Thirty percent of the revenues for Classic Harbor Line are generated through clients for special event charters.

Today, John designs the boats on state-of-the-art computer programs instead of line drawings at drafting tables for increased efficiencies in the custom design process.  Scarano Boat Building added a computer-numerically-controlled (CNC) cutting table machine to enable precision cutting and joining of wood, aluminum and plastic components. Even the tour operator line has been brought into the 21st century: “More and more tickets are purchased online. One of our most popular tours are the circumnavigation trips for the island of Manhattan that feature American Institute of Architects (AIA) of New York docents, similar to Chicago’s famous architecture boat tours,” Rick explains.

While the times have changed since the Scarano brothers launched their boat business 30 years ago,  highly-skilled craftsmen continue to execute president and lead designer John Scarano’s vision for fast boats with classic style and modern materials. Scarano Boat Building has developed a national reputation for vessels featuring innovative technologies, custom construction, and unusually low maintenance. With John and Rick at the wheel, Scarano boats will continue to find smooth sailing ahead.

Company Name: 
Scarano Boat Building
Location: 
Albany, NY