Richard Honan may have officially retired 20 years ago, but between the time he spends boatbuilding and his active community involvement, he keeps himself busy enough for a 60-hour work week.
After coming home from serving in the Vietnam war, Honan started his own sign-making business. Born in Winthrop, Massachusetts, he now lives a mere 300 yards from the house he grew up in.
Above: Honan installing a sign he built
Growing up on the coast and sailing since the age of five, Honan’s love for boats continued to grow over the years. When it came time to retire, he decided to combine his woodworking skills with his passion for sailing, and started building his own boats.
Above: Honan prepping to fiberglass a build with TotalBoat High Performance Epoxy
In addition to boatbuilding magazines and books, Honan started to find resources online, and quickly became an active member of many boatbuilding groups on Facebook, including his own Facebook page. Nearly 15 boat builds later, his skills have earned him the ability to educate as well as experiment.
“So many people say I’m never gonna build a boat, but they can see my pictures, read the specifics to see how I problem-solve and gain confidence for themselves.”
He has loved all the time he’s spent with his grandchildren building a wide variety of wooden boats that are exclusively human or wind powered.
Above: A sketch for one of Honan’s boat builds
“I was never interested in doing power boats. I like that the skill of hand-crafting boats remains, for the most part, for those who are willing to put in the work even after it’s launched.”
Above: Honan glassing the hull with High Performance Epoxy
Honan has been a TotalBoat customer since day one, but it wasn’t until the 2014 WoodenBoat Show in Mystic, Connecticut, that he met the TotalBoat family in person. Filled with enthusiasts and vendor booths, the show lets 20-25 boat builders show off their recently completed work. Honan won Best In Show with his 16-foot Melon Seed that year, something he came over to the TotalBoat booth with, thus securing a spot as a TotalBoat ambassador for his next builds.
Above: Honan using TotalBoat Thixo adhesive for a glue-up
When TotalBoat first launched High Performance Epoxy, he loved it right away, and continued to try the new TotalBoat products as they were introduced. “If it didn’t do the job, I wouldn’t use it or promote it. Not only the products themselves, but I can always call up the TotalBoat Tech Support Team and talk over a problem with someone to find a solution.”
Above: Honan applying TotalBoat TotalProtect epoxy barrier coat primer
Above: Honan and his granddaughter painting with his favorite TotalBoat Wet Edge topside marine paint color – Sea Foam
Above: The final build on display at the WoodenBoat Show in Mystic, CT
In addition to High Performance Epoxy, Honan’s other TotalBoat staples include Penetrating Epoxy to seal the wood, Thixo epoxy adhesive for glue-ups, TotalFair epoxy fairing compound for its long working time, TotalProtect barrier coat to prevent pitting below the waterline, and Wet Edge topside paint to finish the builds off nicely.
Not only has Honan become a staple in the New England wooden boatbuilding community, he talks to people across the globe. When his beloved shop companion, Lucky, passed recently, the response was overwhelming.
“I had been sharing Lucky for years, but to see all the comments and sweet messages coming in, even from Europe, helped ease the pain of losing him knowing he made an impact on so many others.”
Above: Lucky, Honan’s shop buddy, sitting on a boat build
Being born and raised in Winthrop has made Honan the ‘off-the-record Mayor’ – never interested in politics, but always finding ways to make the community better, especially with gardening. His philanthropic work doesn’t end there, though. When his daughter’s friend was deployed to Afghanistan, he sent along a care package of shampoo, nail polish, and some non-perishable foods. As a US Army veteran, he remembers the loneliness that can set in, so he figured sending along a hand-written note would help, too.
Above: Honan, team, and post office workers sending care packages
What he didn’t expect was that he would start a care package program, with over 44,000 pounds worth of packages sent so far. Each package contains a hand-written letter – which adds up to 15,000 letters!
“A smile on their face, a smile in their stomachs, and a smile in their hearts is the saying I’ve come up with.”
Above: US soldiers in Syria receiving care packages in 2019
Not only does Honan build boats in what is now his nephew’s workshop, he also works on driftwood art, some signs, and even oil paintings, which have been displayed in local galleries. The creativity is overflowing!
The best part though? Like most of his endeavors, boatbuilding is a family affair. “I’ve been able to spend so much time with my grandkids while building. They may not do it themselves, but boatbuilding gives them the ability to learn some problem solving and see a set of plans being executed and built.”
Above: Granddaughters Anna and Emily assisting on a boat build
He worked closely with his granddaughters, Emily and Anna, in 2020, when they were home from school due to the pandemic, and he knows they’ll carry those memories with them. Two of his grandchildren have even become sailing instructors.
All of his builds have been named after family members, the next one being Oonagh, an 11 ft. 8 in. Doug Hylan designed rowing and sailing pram, the name a Celtic nod to his daughters.
Above: Granddaughter Lillian checking out the TotalProtect primer work on Honan’s current boat build
Honan tries to just focus on one build at a time, saying “I always think ‘this is going to be the one’ during each build process, but I just keep going. And that suits me just fine.”
For more details, you can follow Richard Honan on his Facebook page, and sign up for his email list to get all the wooden boat build and family updates!