Reid Bandy stands about 6‘7“ (2m) and weighs maybe 235 lbs (106.6 kg) depending on the day. It’s a wonder how he can fold himself up to reach the tight corners in a boatbuilding project. “I have long arms,” he says.
Most shops have employees of various talents and sizes to do the crawl-space work. But Bandy works alone in a 4,500-sq-ft (418m2) building on the grounds of Casa Rio Marina in Edgewater, Maryland. The shop and Bandy’s tight outdoor parking spaces are filled with various boat and collectable car restorations, and there’s always something out of the ordinary happening inside.
Reid Bandy’s story begins in Baltimore under the tutelage of his father, Stephen, a keen sailboat racer of similar physical stature and inquiring mindset with a string of championships under his keel. Together they modified the boats, designed and built their own sails, and won a bunch of races. His dad’s invention of radial-sewn genoas proved positive and subsequently became a design infringement consideration for the big sail lofts that eventually arrived at the same concept. “We think Dad’s compulsions and hyperfocus on finding a better way to do things could have registered him on the spectrum,” Bandy says. “I believe I got that from him.”
As he came of age, Bandy’s obsession turned to fishing and relentless efforts to succeed, beginning with finding the perfect boat for the Chesapeake Bay challenge. Meanwhile, he pursued an electrical engineering degree at Drexel and the University of Maryland until he realized that the path was leading to a desk-job career. Preferring hands-on work and cars, he got a job in an auto body shop, where he learned about working under pressure, the demands of production, and paint. In 1981, he opened his own shop in Annapolis. The next 10 years of body-shop sweat, success, and expansion allowed him to acquire a used Jersey Dawn 40 (12.2m) convertible to join the bluewater fishing scene of Ocean City, Maryland.
“After 14 or 15 White Marlin Open Tournaments and the boat’s shortcomings—especially how it wallowed and washed out in a following sea, and it was just as scary in a steep head sea with green water coming over the bow—there just had to be a better way,” he recalls. Docked next to him during the tournament was Ricky Scarborough’s Baby Doll, a 34‘ (10.4m) Carolina-style boat with twin outboards. “I had to leave the dock three hours early to beat that boat out to the Canyons,” he said. As he studied the competition along the Ocean City docks, he noted that a disproportionate number of winners seemed to come from North Carolina builders. “I saw the wisdom of the Carolina evolutions. The boats weren’t the same, but they all had similar lines and performance. I wanted one.” So he bought Jarrett Bay hull number 6, a juniper plank-on-frame 53-footer (16.2m) from an Oregon Inlet charter captain and ran her back to Ocean City.
Along the way, he started thinking about the racing sailboats he knew so well, and how they were all about saving weight to achieve better performance. “In powerboats, it seemed to be mostly more performance through bigger and bigger engines, which means more weight, more fuel capacity, more expense…and so on,” he says. Bandy also recalled how as a teenager he helped his uncle pull miles of gill nets for the commercial striper market in a 21‘ (6.4m) Sea Ox and how well that boat handled the conditions, loaded or not, on any day or night—a well-made, simple boat built to do a specific job.
From Light to Lighter
In 1998 he sketched an idea for a 26‘ (7.9m) Carolina-style fishing skiff he wanted to build out of DuraKore strips similar to balsa-cored racing sailboats. Bandy had gotten to know Bruce Farr and other heedless drivers from the Farr Yacht Design office in Annapolis when he repaired their fender-benders. So he took his skiff idea to Mick Price, a designer and CAD software jockey for Farr. Price worked out the weight and laminate details and introduced him to the magic of Rhino 3-D modeling software. Together, they arrived at the scantlings to meet Bandy’s goal of a much lighter Carolina-style boat. (Price later left the Farr office to design and build the Eastport 32 express cruiser with co-designer Tom Weaver of Annapolis.)
Bandy built a tent in his yard while a sign-making supply shop CNC-cut the jig frames, and he began learning about WEST System epoxy, fiberglass, balsa, and large-scale fairing and sanding. “My car shop experience helped with all that,” he says. “It took me about a year to build the boat, and I put a used Evinrude 225 on her and ran it to death.” He fished the boat more than 2,000 hours in all conditions without any issues. In 2000, he opened a second car shop and sold the boat to a customer on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Bandy reports, “He brings it back for basic service every year, and the boat’s holding up quite well.”
Meanwhile, he thought he could go a step further to save weight and improve performance by using high-density closed-cell foam instead of DuraKore. He bought a Rhino license and learned the program with tutoring from the folks at AeroHydro, which had a Maryland sales and support office at the time, and in 2003, he rented shop space at Casa Rio on an open-ended lease.
“Looking back, I suppose I could have gone to an established custom boatshop to have them build what I wanted, but it didn’t seem there was anyone in my orbit who was inclined to push the envelope. So I figured I’d just do it myself. Plus I like the math,” he says.
At the International Boatbuilders’ Exhibition and Conference (IBEX) he developed a friendship with renowned structural composite expert/naval architect Al Horsmon, who advised, reviewed his drawings, and calculated panel loads and dynamics, panel spacing, stringer placement, laminate weights, and foam densities. The design spiral led to a 35‘ (10.7m) tournament-rigged express with a single 700-hp CAT C-12 engine and a shallow shaft angle in a tunnel/pocket, all laminated with E-glass fabric and nonblushing MAS marine epoxy.
In developing the hullform, Bandy credits all that he learned from observations and on-the-ground discussions, as well as advice from Ricky Scarborough, Omie Tillet, Paul Spencer, John Bayliss, and other Wanchese-based builders and artisans on the south end of Roanoke Island, North Carolina. In particular, “Jeff Hathaway, who is the metalwork and engine-installation wizard on the island, walked me through the concept of Scarborough’s ‘rocking-chair’ bottom—deep forward V and flat aft sections that allow a boat to settle into the waves instead of pounding—and how it planes easily with minimal bow rise. It’s brilliant,” says Bandy.
Bandy then set up the Casa Rio shop for the build. He says that he benefited from extensive body-shop production training from the Sikkens/AkzoNobel people for his workflow. The project commenced, squeezed in among boat and car restorations, running his car shops, and bluewater fishing excursions. It took three years to complete. He used David Gerr’s Propeller Handbook to pin down the wheel dynamics, and the result is a boat that turns 38 knots wide open and cruises easily at 30. He ran her straight to Ocean City to fish and demonstrate how she could go quickly out and back to the Canyons some 140 miles on 45 gal (170 l). She turned some heads.
With that, he found himself in the boat building and repair business, plagued by obsessive thoughts about the next boat and what could be better. Carbon fiber was showing up in aeronautics and grand prix race car applications, but it was not yet allowed in most racing sailboat applications, and as far as Bandy could tell, the major powerboat builders weren’t touching it. But why not?
Bandy’s Spec Boat
Bandy’s car shops were booming under good managers and his arm’s-length oversight, which allowed him time in the boatshop. Bandy: “I just had to build a spec boat to see if my thoughts would work. I couldn’t wait for a suitable customer to come along. I just had to see results as quickly as possible. I was going to take the risk.” In 2005 he opened his sketch pad and Rhino with an idea for an open 27‘ (8.2m) Corecell boat with a carbon fiber inner skin, E-glass outer laminates, and a secondhand 350-hp (261-kW) Yamaha 4-stroke on the transom. He sourced the fabric on eBay and had Chesapeake Light Craft CNC-cut the jig frames. Nine months later he painted the boat purple, launched her, and jumped her right up to 50 knots without a worry, as expected. He took her to the 2007 Annapolis Powerboat show, where he had a robust cockpit discussion with Kevin Haley, then head of sports equipment manufacturer Under Armour’s innovation team. They talked about weight, strength, performance, and fuel prices—the beginning of a long-running discourse about what might be possible pushing the limits in a new boat.
Word got around about Bandy’s Corecell boats, resulting in a call from a gentleman with shipbuilding expertise who had taught at The Landing School (Arundel, Maine) and had an idea for something similar and suitable for Montauk, New York, waters but with more freeboard and other Northeastern characteristics. Working from the customer’s sketch, they came up with a design for a 27‘ E-glass-on-
Corecell express sportfisherman. Bandy delivered the boat to Long Island in 2011 with what he calls a Grady-White warranty, referencing what some call the best guarantee in the production-boat business. There have been no warranty issues, and the two remain friends.
Boat repairs, antique outboards, and cars filled the shop for a while, and Bandy kindled a fascination with the Rybovich legacy and the beautiful boats that defined the Florida sportfishing ethos. He came across two derelict 1950s-era 36‘ (11m) Rybos, #12 and #18, in a Florida shed.See also He and a friend bought them in 2016 for almost nothing and hauled them to Maryland for recovery and restoration (see “Rybovich x 2“ Professional BoatBuilder No. 170, page 20). The boats filled the shop for the better part of four years, consuming sandpaper, sweat, sawblades, angst, wood, skin, fabric, epoxy, money, and brain cells—and convinced them to “never ever do anything like that again.”
Midway through the Rybo projects, Bandy needed a mental-health break to address a persistent question that was brewing while he sanded off his sanity: “What about a skinny boat with a small engine to just go fast?” He had a roll of 20-oz 12K, 2×2 carbon twill, some 5-lb Corecell, and an old 2-stroke Yamaha 90 in the corner of the shop, so he booted up Rhino and renewed his quest for a better ride. What came out was a frameless 24‘ x 6‘ (7.3m x 1.8m) Carolina-flared skiff weighing a scant 385 lbs (175 kg) without the engine or fuel. Knowing that she would be a bit tippy, he built extra-wide side decks (often called washboards around the Chesapeake) to encourage passengers to remain in the center, and he located the console right in the middle to center the weight and make room for a couple of anglers. The experiment was a success. I had a chance to run her with Bandy—together about 415 lbs [188 kg], and she lifted onto a plane with no bow rise, like a hovercraft, and topped out at 32 knots as she flew over the Chesapeake Bay chop without pounding, slippage, or hobbyhorsing.
A certain confluence of circumstances is essential to put a visionary builder together with a boat owner who has the patience, experience, and resources to realize a project. Bandy has often filled both roles in his builds, but his conversations with Haley had continued as the Under Armour designers were developing products for elite and paralympic athletes. Haley recalls, “We had some of the best material-science people in the world on the team, and carbon fiber kept coming up in the discussions, mostly about how it was solving challenges in helicopter blades, aeronautics, and other critical structures. We were developing elite running shoes with removable carbon plates that return energy to the runner.”
Haley’s history of boat ownership goes back to a childhood of running, breaking, and fixing the family Boston Whaler, canoes, and runabouts. After college and law school, he rapidly accumulated promotions, responsibilities, a spouse, six kids, and an ever-changing fleet of boats, including a Bertram 25 (7.6m) Moppie, Hatteras 45 (13.7m), 19‘ (5.8m) Mako, 17‘ (5.2m) Wetsig, 19‘ Triton, 45‘ Hatteras, 25‘ Parker, Intrepid 33 (10.1m), and inflatables and skiffs. “We always had at least the same number of boats as we had kids,” he recalls. His current full-family ride is the Intrepid—“a great family boat, but when we put the hammer down, I can just imagine the oil industry folks doing back handsprings,” he says.
Most of the family’s boating happens on the notoriously shallow Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries and around the rocky New England shoals. “Looking back over my chart plotter history, it’s clear that most of our time is spent in less than 5‘ [1.5m] of water. Even when we vacation at Mattapoisett [Massachusetts], we spend a lot of time fishing and playing in areas where the chart says, ‘DON’T GO HERE.’” He was looking for a shallow-running boat big enough for the family but trailerable and most especially efficient. “The Parker did a good job of that, but the family was growing out of it,” he says. So he started looking at what the professional guides were running—the Conch 27 (8.2m), Whitewater 28 (8.5m), Contenders, Jupiter 30, and such—all solid fiberglass boats with upward of 600 hp (448 kW) on the transoms. “At Under Armour, we learned that, as you go through a design spiral, things that have nothing to do with what you want to achieve start to drive design decisions—pricing, retail process accommodations, frills, accessories, market competition, or whatever,” he says. “With boats, as you spiral up in size, features, and weight, pretty soon you’re burning 90 gal [341 l] an hour, and you need a much bigger tow vehicle. All I wanted was an efficient and seaworthy boat to get to beautiful places to swim or fish inshore and with the range and comfort to go for striped bass, bluefish, tuna, or whatever around Martha’s Vineyard, Cuttyhunk, Buzzards Bay, and the Chesapeake.” Bandy’s purple boat and talk about saving weight and making a level-riding boat seemed to match up with what Haley was thinking. They kept talking.
Bandy’s shop is an easy trip across the West River to Haley’s waterfront home, so they got together to take a spin on the 24‘ carbon boat. Haley started thinking, “Maybe something like that, only bigger. It seemed that some production builders were beginning to make boats lighter with carbon fiber in closed-mold, resin-injected processes but just so they could accommodate more features and emerging technology like gyro stabilizers and more stuff. I was interested in a simple boat completely designed for carbon fiber on foam core, focusing on weight savings, improved performance and fuel economy, and an efficient building process.”
After wrapping up the Rybovich restoration, Bandy produced seven refined drawings for a 32-footer, and they sat on it for a while until Haley’s son turned up with a required high-school senior-year assignment and wondered if maybe he could build a boat. Dad said, “Hell yes” or something to that effect, seeing it as a proof-of-concept opportunity. They called Bandy, who scaled the 32‘ design down to 14‘ (4.3m) and invited them into his shop to cut some frames, build a jig, glue and laminate the hull and deck, paint it, and hang a 94-lb, 20-hp (42.6-kg, 15-kW) Tohatsu engine to match the designed weight distribution for the 32-footer. Then they took it for a spin. “It was scary fast,” Haley recalls. He subsequently switched down to a 6-hp (4.5-kW) Yamaha, and tried to catch up to his two daughters, who planed away on it at 17 knots. From this exercise they were able to answer the question “Would a single outboard be adequate for the 32-footer?” Indeed, a single 300-hp (224-kW) Mercury four-stroke would be more than enough, and they could even reduce the transom deadrise from 14.5° to 13.7°. The student aced the assignment, and Bandy got the order to start building the 32.
“I’d have been happy to just go buy a boat somewhere, but what I was looking for just didn’t exist,” Haley said. “Building a custom boat from design to finish is just an investment in time, really.” When they started building the jig, Haley felt he had found “a capable one-man factory” and that there is an economy of smaller scale with a craftsman building a unique boat essentially right next door. “I was looking for a positive answer to the question ‘I want a boat that will do this. Can you build it?’” Bandy echoes, “Yep, it’s a cost-efficient way to build a boat—less bulk material, no tooling, no tooling storage, no big payroll, no labor issues, no extraneous distractions or worries to speak of.”
Bandy returned to Horsmon for guidance on the laminate schedule and structural details—stringers, frames, etc. The result was a carbon fiber inside skin over 1“, 5-lb Gurit Corecell foam panels and a carbon/E-glass outer skin. Reid Bandy chose Gurit’s heat-tempered M80 foam to accommodate the expected heat of an all-black hull, with 12-lb foam in the engine/Porta Bracket-mounting area. The inside skin would be a layer of 11.5-oz 2×2 carbon fiber twill underneath a layer of 5.5-oz carbon 2×2 fabric. The bottom panels would be the same 5-lb M80 core material and carbon fiber inner skin but with a tough outside layer of 17-oz #1700 (no mat), 45×45 E-glass backed up with two layers of 18-oz, 0-90 E-glass fabric. The topside outer skin would be 17-oz, 45×45 E-glass with a layer of 11.5-oz carbon fiber fabric on top for strength and to show under a clear-coat finish. He would build the decks with 11.5-oz carbon fabric on 5-lb foam. The transom would have as much as 10 layers of E-glass and carbon fiber to tie the engine loads to the transom braces and stringers. (Bandy ended up using nearly 40 linear yds of 17-oz Fabmat tape to make those connections.)
He built topside and bottom samples, weighed them to confirm expected weights of 1 lb to 1.33 lbs per sq ft, and performed some destructive testing to confirm the structural durability. They also addressed galvanic corrosion with carbon fiber, a known issue.
Carbon fiber reinforced composites (CFRC) are twice as strong as the strongest steel. That’s the primary benefit. CFRC also features low crack growth from impact or fatigue and can be cost-effectively and strategically laid up to address strength and loads. However, carbon is highly conductive and electrochemically noble, which means a metal that is electrically connected to carbon fiber will be highly susceptible to galvanic corrosion. All that’s needed to start trouble is carbon fiber, metal, an electrical connection between the two (contact), an electrolyte (salt water), and oxygen (from the water). The situation becomes worse when carbon fiber (i.e., a boat hull) connects to metal (fastenings, through-hull fittings, engine mounts, etc.). You might think that this could be mitigated in saltwater applications with aluminum anodes, but no. Polarization curves of aluminum and carbon indicate that seawater produces an extreme rate of oxygen reduction, which means extreme corrosion. The same holds somewhat true for stainless steel for localized corrosion but is not as bad as aluminum. Titanium does not cause such a problem, as it is approximately as noble as carbon and forms a durable, insulating oxide layer. But titanium is essentially unobtainable in these applications due to limited sources and high cost.
Furthermore, galvanic corrosion around a fastener can produce localized blisters similar to the rampant pox we’ve experienced in legacy polyester/fiberglass boats that spent most of their time in the water. The good news is epoxy resin is substantially resistant to this issue, and an epoxy/fiberglass outer laminate is helpful in that regard while also protecting the carbon fiber from minor impact damage. Carbon and epoxy are fine together, so the answer to the corrosion concern is to insulate metal fasteners from the carbon with epoxy. Just as in wood/epoxy boatbuilding, where water intrusion to the wood is a concern, it is prudent to overdrill holes for hardware and attachments on a carbon fiber hull, fill them with epoxy putty, and properly redrill the hole to receive the screw. Another solution is gluing in PVC or other insulating bushing material to avoid the electrical connection.
With that in mind and to save weight, Reid Bandy built the console, T-top, seats, and decks out of carbon and E-glass on foam and taped them in place with generous laminates and vacuum-bagged some of the coves and fillets. He glued ¼“ (6mm) neoprene spacing strips and blocks to the custom 92-gal (348-l), 5⁄32“-thick (4mm) aluminum fuel tank and set it snugly inside an insulating E-glass “bathtub.” He glued down synthetic-teak (Flexiteek) nonskid deck panels. Thus, there are no metal fasteners in the boat other than the Porta Bracket engine mount, transom-mounted sonar transducer, Power-Pole mount, and I-Carbon titanium pop-up docking cleats. And in all those installations no carbon fiber is directly exposed to seawater.
The owner wanted to clear-finish the carbon fiber topsides, which put pressure on the builder to achieve a cosmetically perfect layup. Bandy accomplished that with care and 11 coats of clear Awlgrip G3005, with the first seven coats rolled and tipped and the final four coats sprayed to achieve a 20-mil thickness. Then he moved her out into the sun to bake, essentially effecting a C-stage epoxy cure with daytime surface temperatures upward of 120°F (49°C) for a few days.
With that, after 15 months, she was ready to splash and test-run, weighing a mere 4,100 lbs (1,859.7 kg) fully loaded. (She weighed only 1,900 lbs/ 861.8 kg before installing the engine, tanks, and batteries.)
On entering the West River on the way to the bay, she quickly lifted onto a plane at 10 knots with essentially no bow rise, only the sensations of acceleration, torque, and power you might expect in a Tesla. She topped out at 40 knots. Fuel consumption gauges indicated 4 mpg at 20 knots and 2.5 mpg at 35 knots. Haley: “We kind of knew what the boat would do, but the emotional first ride was pure excitement.”
Subsequent runs after dialing in the right prop pitch and size established the family’s comfort zone settling in at 3,100 rpm, burning 6 gal (22.7 l) per hour at a tick over 20 knots. Haley reports that the boat will run like that in most any sea condition all day long. “The harmonics are good, and there’s no sense of stress on the boat or passengers at that speed. It’s all we would want for our usual transits.”
At the time of this writing, the Bandy 32, named 31 in reference to the I-195 exit number to Mattapoisett, is bobbing on a mooring just off the Massachusetts shore or perhaps resting on a Power-Pole within easy wading distance to the beach. In talking about how he got to this point, Haley recalls his tenure with the Under Armour innovators—“I just hired people who are much smarter than me. It all comes down to people and relationships, and that’s how it went with Reid. We got to test each other, challenge things, and figure out if we could work together.”
After one of several prop-test runs Haley’s sons started wondering if Bandy would ever let him have the boat. Haley compared it to the relationship with the folks who built his house. “Fifteen years on, they still reach out to remind me to put some bleach in the sump, or to prepare the drains for an upcoming storm, or just to follow up on how everything is doing. Same with Reid. It’s actually his boat. I just get to use it and pay for it, and I’m fine with that. You see, Reid and I share an addiction, but instead of a 12-step program, we just build another boat.”
About the Author: Joe Evans was a sail designer (North Sails) and sail loft production manager before building and repairing performance boats; building race-ready Bruce Farr, German Frers, and Rob Humphreys designs; powerboat tooling; and a couple of first-generation carbon fiber racing sailboats for the Ultimate Yacht Race professional series. He left the industry to produce films and articles for National Geographic, CuriosityStream, HBO Max, and various sporting magazines. He was editor-in-chief of Chesapeake Bay Magazine for a while and now is an Orvis-endorsed Chesapeake Bay fly-fishing guide and freelance writer/producer.