Pat Ball, owner of the Sarasota homebuilding company Ball Construction Inc., first met legendary local boat maker George Luzier when he was just 12 years old. Ball encountered Luzier at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron, which Luzier had founded in the 1940s. Ball was in awe.
“George had the fastest boat on the bay,” Ball remembers. “It could go 40 miles an hour.”
Luzier came from a long line of boat builders, but he, along with his brother Homer, was possibly the most prolific. At first, he worked out of an old military barracks near the airport, then later moved to a warehouse on Princeton Street. He made dozens of boats—everything from prams to cruisers to schooners to sloops, all designed with a unique simplicity of line. His customers valued his high level of craftsmanship.
“His Windmill boats, for example—they set the standard for that type of boat design,” says Ball, who calls Luzier “a friend and a mentor” and who bought multiple boats from him. According to Ball, Luzier’s team would take from one to three years to put together a boat, working on multiple projects at the same time. “They had a work ethic like no other,” says Ball.
Luzier died last August at the age of 96. In tribute to him, Ball has restored his old shop, converting some of it into office space for his business while also keeping the doors open for those who love to come by to maintain and refurbish their own wooden boats.
“There’s a small cadre of Luzier boat owners here,” says Ball, “and they love to work on them here. We’ve got the equipment. And all together, we have about as much knowledge as George had in his little finger.”
Ball bought one of Luzier’s boats, The Baby Doll, a 26-foot sloop built in 1962, some 10 years ago, and restored it with Luzier’s help. “How else are you going to get a good boat?” Ball says Luzier asked him. “That was a wonderful experience,” says Ball. “We never talked about my buying this shop, but he knew I wanted it, and two years before he died, he called and told me he was ready to sell.”
While the shop interior has been altered, using shipping container parts for Ball Construction’s workspace, the outside retains its original look, like a “rusty tin can,” says Ball. Ball’s love of the classic boats that found life here is evident, as is the respect he had for Luzier. “George is my hero,” he says. “This building is my link to George, and I didn’t want to lose it.”