When His Ship
Patrick Flaherty built his first
model boat at age 12, and then proceeded
to do what any 12-year-old boy might: He
blew it up with fireworks.
These days, the lifelong Bethesdan’s
focus is on building and repairing model
boats, rather than destroying them. He
works with collectors on a name-your-price basis, and also maintains the model
cars and boats for the Clyde’s restaurant
chain, which has 10 Washington, D.C.,
area locations, including Chevy Chase and
“I just always had a feeling for the boats
and the water,” says Flaherty, 73, a retired
executive assistant at the Department
of Veterans Affairs. “I’m not so much
interested in powerboats or steel boats and
war-type [boats], but it’s the old ones, the
old wooden classics.”
Building boats means entering a world
free of distractions, he says. He has built
about 15 from kits, though he notes that the
kits offer only strips of wood and metal—
leaving the rest up to the builder.
In his basement workshop, Flaherty
listens to ’50s rock ‘n’ roll or light bluegrass
as he tackles a project. Sometimes he’s
so focused that his wife will yell down to
switch the album.
He has repaired and restored more than
100 model boats. It’s time-consuming work,
he says, taking six months to several years
to build one, and sometimes he has to
disassemble a boat to repair it.
Flaherty also makes model cars, black
powder guns and wine. But model boats
remain closest to his heart.
“This is not a part-time thing,” he says.
“This is part of your heart.” ■
Flaherty keeps scrap wood handy for epairs. “It’s just a pile of sticks,” he says. “You surround yourself [with these things], so everything is immediately available to you.”
A friend received this modern replica
of a shrimp boat as a gift and didn’t
want it, so Flaherty jumped at the
opportunity to own it.