They just couldn't stay away: Tommy Hancock and Dale Martin are back in the boat-building business.
Several years after selling their interests in Sea Pro Boats and Key West Boats, respectively, the men have come out of a retirement of fishing and golfing to form Sportsman Boats Manufacturing.
"We got a little bored and were missing the industry," Martin said Wednesday. "We know what to do and are just excited about getting back in and are looking forward to it."
"This isn't work for us, this is play," he said. "This is what we enjoy doing."
Sportsman has leased about 20,000 square feet in the East Port Industrial Park off U.S. Highway 78 in Summerville, and the owners are in the process of designing and tooling up their molds.
Martin hopes to have a boat ready for the Charleston Boat Show next month.
The plan is to build six models of "affordable, better" fiberglass boats, ranging in length from 20 to 25 feet, Martin said. The off-shore fishing boats will be center-console with deep, V-shaped hulls, and the bay boats will have shallower sides and lower decks more suitable for recreational boating nearer to shore.
Hanckel Marine will be Sportsman's local dealer, but Martin said he plans to ship Sportsman's boats from Texas to New York.
To make it all happen, Sportsman intends to hire 30 people in 2012, mostly experienced boat builders.
"We run a skinny ship here," Martin said. "We're going to make money."
Martin, 56, and Hancock, 50, seem to know something about that.
Martin said Hancock was the co-owner and founder of Sea Pro Boats, which was sold, along with Sea Boss Boats, in 2005 to Brunswick Corp. for $51 million. Brunswick closed the Sea Pro factory in Newberry in May 2008, citing high fuel prices, housing woes and an uncertain economy.
For his part, Martin said he was the co-owner and founder of Ridgeville-based Key West Boats, which has been in business for 25 years, before selling out in 2003.
Sportsman chose to set up shop in Dorchester County because it is "boat-builder friendly," Martin said, referring to the associated fiberglass industry there and a knowledgeable workforce.
In addition to Key West, Scout and Zodiac make the same kind of boats nearby.
"We got a little boat cluster going on up here," said Jon Baggett, Dorchester County director of economic development.