Catch of the Day: Hilton Head Island Native Kevin Barker

Hilton Head Island native Kevin Barker is making ‘the Bentleys of bay boats.’

Story By Hilary Kraus  +  Photography by Jason Arnold

Some folks fish off piers — rod, bait and tackle box in tow — where the expectations and entertainment value are limited. And then there’s fishing in grandiose style off a gorgeous, custom-made bay boat, where inshore or offshore fishing offer unlimited enjoyment.

Barker Boatworks, presented by Hilton Head Island native Kevin Barker, brings you the latter. “We’re the Bentleys of bay boats,” said Barker, whose business is in Sarasota, Fla. “We use the best components and parts we can find.”

Local Ties: Family played a big influence in the affection Kevin Barker, owner of Barker Boatworks, has for fishing and boats. Here, a young Kevin is with his dad, Maynard D. Barker Jr., at South Beach on Hilton Head Island.

Barker’s venture into starting a high-end boat manufacturing business launched in 2014 after spending nearly 10 years in the industry. His goal was to design and build the “ultimate bay boat.”

Like many who grew up on Hilton Head Island and surrounding coastal towns, Barker’s introduction to fishing and boating came at a young age. His grandfather, Maynard D. Barker Sr., was an avid fisherman who passed down his passion to Barker’s father, Maynard D. Barker Jr., and then onto the next generation. Some of Barker’s earliest memories with his grandfather were fishing off the Calibogue Sound beach on Sea Pines’ South Beach.

“At an early age, I spent a lot of time on the water fishing, tubing and doing the things young kids did on Hilton Head Island,” said Barker, who is 50 and has an older brother and younger sister. “And, of course, hanging out at the Sandbar on May River.”

Barker’s parents, Marianne and Maynard Jr.’s, first boat was a 15-foot Boston Whaler. Today, Barker, his wife, Sarah, and their three children, ages 18 to 13, enjoy family outings on one of his company’s custom fishing boats. The couple’s 16-year-old son, Ty, already is helping out in the shop and is showing an interest in getting into Dad’s business.

Sports played a significant role in Barker’s early life, particularly football. After graduating from Hilton Head Prep, he received a football scholarship at Syracuse University. After graduating college, he began working in the insurance business, first working out of state before returning home to work at the family’s Coastal Plains Insurance Company.

But Barker’s interest in the boat manufacturing never waned. “In the back of my mind I always wished I could be in the business,” he said. He took the big leap in 2005, accepting a job in Sarasota running the sales and marketing onshore division of the fishing boat manufacturer Yellowfin Inc. “I was always involved in fishing and initially the jobs was a sales position that morphed into management,” Barker said.

After spending close to 10 years in the industry, Kevin Barker ventured out on his own with one goal in mind: to design and build the “ultimate bay boat.”

After close to a decade of experience at the yacht company, Barker said he decided it was time to go out on his own and founded Barker Boatworks. The niche business that caters to sophisticated buyers has proven successful as the company continues to grow with close to 40 boats on back order. There are 28 employees, including Kevin Basirico, an original employee and now general manager. Basirico also is from Hilton Head and his father, Rich Basirico, was Barker’s high school football coach and is currently athletic director at Hilton Head Prep.

The company builds two models — the 26 Calibogue Bay – fondly named after the Calibogue Sound — and the 26 Open. Barker hired Naval architect Michael Peters to design both models. Peters also has built offshore race boats.

Both boats are capable of floating in 14-inch water and entering offshore water. The biggest difference is the Bay has a large casting deck on the bow and stern that boaters can fish off. The Open is a true three-piece constructed boat that gives it additional offshore capability and comfort.

The base cost of the boats run from $145,000-$165,000 to the most extravagant $250,000 vessels. The company also is in the mold phase of High Performance Fishing Catamaran that will start at $600,000.

“Until I actually put the boat in the water, I was a little bit nervous,” Barker said, recalling back to 2015 when the first 26 Calibogue Bay was launched. “Once we ran the first boat, I knew we had something special.”

 


 

Boat Length Beam Draft Deadrise Weight Max HP Fuel Standard Fuel Capacity Freshwater
26 Calibogue Bay 25 feet, 6 inches 9 feet, 3 inches 14 inches 18 degrees 4,500 pounds 627 90 gallons 120 gallons 15 gallons
26 Open 25 feet, 6 inches 9 feet, 3 inches 14 inches 18 degrees 4,500 pounds 627 90 Gallons 120 Gallons 20 Gallons

 

One-of-a-kinds All Barker Boats are “built to order” to the exact specifications of the customer’s request. Therefore, there will never be two of the same boats that leave their Sarasota, Fla., facility.