Were you to encounter him in person, Bill Womack likely wouldn’t strike you as a structural engineer with a lifetime of high-profile tunnel, bridge and road projects under his belt. He has a snow-white, Imperial-style beard and a friendly, softly weathered face. He wears a baseball cap, flannel shirt, wool sweater and wire-rimmed glasses. He looks like anyone you might find poking around docks and boatyards just about anywhere in New England.

Perhaps the look is fitting, considering that most of Womack’s work these days centers around sails, sawdust, varnish and the sweet smell of sawn lumber. He’s the owner of the Beetle Cat Boat Shop in Wareham, Massachusetts, the current iteration of a company that, since 1921, has been building the stately but simple Beetle Cat. It’s a 12-foot, wooden, gaff-rigged sailing dinghy that Womack fell in love with near Onset, Massachusetts, during summer vacations as a kid in the 1940s and ’50s.

This story was originally posted on Soundings (Feb. 5th, 2021).
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