by Dan Smith
You may think history is a dry subject, until you meet Rick Tinsley who runs the new Maritime Museum at the Daytona Boat Works on South Beach Street.
Rick's enthusiasm for our area's watery history bubbles to the surface at the slightest prompting. He is all too happy to bring you up to speed on the Boat Work's long association with the local racing scene and can even tell you about some of the important history of Volusia County's rivers.
Until I spoke to him, I did not realize there was a Civil War battle at Ponce Inlet or that Disappearing Island was formed by a shipwreck. All good stuff, but the best was to learn of the famous racers who toiled at the Boat Works.
Beginning in 1902, the marine facility downtown had the first engine/ma- chine shop in this area and the car guys naturally gravitated there to use their equipment. Early on the place was also in-volved in speed boat racing. Back in 1928, Sir Henry Segrave brought his Miss England there to prepare it for a successful try at the world record. He was assisted by none other than Florida's most famous boat builder and racer Gar Wood and the former land speed record holder Sig Haugdahl.
During World War II, the product was submarine chasers and one of those constructed in Daytona Beach actually sunk a German Sub. It was the only sub chaser to do so. In the 1950s, local racing mechanics would move from one shop to another and usually end up at the Boat Works.
Big Bill France even put time in there. In the '60s, the shop at 645 S. Beach St. became the world center of speed boat racing when it began turning out turbo charged General Motors engines converted for marine use. The big 409 cu. in. power plants were the fastest thing on the water for more than 10 years. Especially popular in Europe, where boat racing was all the rage, the shop could hardly keep up with the orders for the big V-8 engines. In 1965, the British racer "Holocaust" was the world's fastest boat and it was powered by a Daytona engine. In those days, a Daytona-engined boat held the speed record between Miami and New York for 17 years.
I met Rick and his wife, Dottie, a few years ago when they came to one of my signings for my fishing book. His enthusiasm for local history immediately drew me in and soon I was at their house in Port Orange to see their collection of marine artifacts.
I can tell you it was impressive, but I was more impressed with Dottie for allowing Rick to fill their lovely home with so many ancient items. Every available space was crammed full. Now the pair have moved their collection to the Boat Works and Marina in downtown Daytona Beach. Amazing photos and interesting literature are mixed with anchors, dive helmets, antique boating electronics, nautical flags and much more. There is a photo of Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s yacht "Sunday Money" and at this time of year you may even get to see some of the current drivers' yachts that are tied up there.
Rick has done a great job putting this all together and I hope he can sustain it. The Daytona Maritime Museum is surely a plus for our community.
If you or your relatives were employed at the Boat Works and have some history to share, Rick and Dottie would love to hear from you.
Any artifacts or newspaper clippings you may own from this facility's past would also be of great interest.
The museum tour is by appointment only, but you don't want to miss this. Any fan of local history will be amazed at the wealth of material they have put together in a short time. Call (386) 451-0264 for your trip into liquid history.
Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society and The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of two books, "The World's Greatest Beach" and "I Swear the Snook Drowned." E-mail questions and comments to email@example.com or call (386) 441-7793.