(DGIwire) – Can a watercraft be a work of art as well as a mode of transportation? For many kayak enthusiasts, plying the waters is just part of the excitement: the quality and beauty of a craft adds considerable value to any marine adventure.
Dan Thaler and his wife, residents of New York’s Lower Hudson Valley, had purchased two 13-foot plastic kayaks and used them for a season before he sought out something lighter, faster and more comfortable. Having always worked with his hands—from painting Victorian homes in San Francisco to restoring fine automobiles—Thaler decided to build his own. After constructing kayaks for family members, he opted to make a go of doing so for others.
Today, Thaler’s rapidly growing business, Moonlight Marine, makes him the only professional wood kayak builder in the New York metro area. Specializing in the construction and maintenance of wood kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards, Thaler’s custom-built craft are both functional and beautiful. He also offers assistance to other enthusiasts building their own watercraft.
“By using carefully selected lumber and clear finishes, the natural beauty of a wooden kayak shines through,” Thaler says. “An all-marine plywood kayak takes about 80 to 100 hours to build; a kayak with a plywood hull and cedar strip deck, about 100 to 130 hours; and an all-cedar strip kayak, from 200 to 350 hours. Each kayak is different, as it is tailored to the individual paddler.”
Thaler is earning widespread recognition for his craftsmanship. Every year from 2011 to 2015, Moonlight Marine kayaks have won honors at the annual OkoumeFest small boat builders’ competition in Maryland sponsored by Chesapeake Light Craft, including Best In Show twice. The Journal-News, which serves the Lower Hudson Valley, recently ran a profile of Thaler. In addition, his work was featured on a November 2016 episode of “Handcrafted America,” which follows artisans who make products the old-fashioned way, on the television network INSP.
An active member of the local kayak community, Thaler belongs to the Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club and is a board member of the Hudson River Watertrail Association, an advocacy group promoting the use of human-powered vessels in the Hudson River. He also serves as an occasional guide for Hudson River Expeditions.
“Kayaks are usable works of art,” Thaler adds. “I build my kayaks to be used hard. My boats have circumnavigated Manhattan. But they also look great hanging on the wall.”