BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Over the years, master craftsmen built wooden boats to sail the Gulf of Mexico. Today, most sail boats are constructed with fiberglass and other composite materials, but there's nothing like a classic wooden vessel crafted by a master boat builder.
Sail boats have long been a part of our culture in coastal Mississippi. Boats have worked the seafood industry and provided playful adventures. Over the years, master boat builders like Bill Holland have brought classic wooden boats to life. Holland works on several designs at a time in his D'Iberville boat yard.
"This is a 20-foot sloop," explained Holland, showing off one of the vessels he's currently constructing. "It's going to be a show piece. It'll be at many boat shows with whoever ends up with it."
The boat is a speculative project. Holland builds it and hopes to sell it. Other jobs are custom commissions, like the 14-foot sail skiff patterned after the historic Biloxi cat boat design that he's also building.
Holland grew up on boat yards in Biloxi, learning his trade. He says there is nothing quite like a hand-crafted wooden boat.
"I enjoy working with wood," he said. "And the boats are like a piece of art. Each one is a different design."
One of Holland's most significant jobs came in 1989 when he completed the Biloxi Schooner, the Glenn L. Swetman. The boat is kept at the Biloxi Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum pier.
However, craftsmen like Holland seem to be a disappearing breed.
"The way it looks, I am the last one along the coast who is a master boat builder," said Holland.
But while there may not be many artists like him left, Hollands says he has no plans to stop doing what he loves any time soon.