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Designer, builder, broker, sailor David Walters remembered


David Walters, founder of the brokerage firm David Walters Yachts and designer and builder of the Cambria series of cruising yachts, passed away of a brain tumor on Jan. 17 in Fort Lauderdale. He was 75.

“It’s been six months and he’s missed every day around the David Walters Yachts family,” said Josh McLean, president of the brokerage firm Mr. Walters started in Fort Lauderdale in 2001. “Such an incredible man.”

Mr. Walters’ passion for sailboats and sailing spanned 63 years. In 1953, he competed in junior one-design classes from his home Riverside (Connecticut) Yacht Club. In 1960, he amassed the highest percentage winning average of any junior sailor in any class on Long Island Sound. Two years later, he won the Blue Jay Class National Championship.

At 23, he began his career as a yacht broker with Allied Boat Building Co. Much of what he learned about designing and building yachts he attributed to his work with Allied under the mentorship of company president, Howard Foster. He was soon general manager of the Mamaroneck, New York, location.

In 1971 while still in his 20s, he established the Sound Yachts Boatyard and Marina in New Rochelle, New York. Though owner and manager of the yard, he continued his brokerage and new sales for Allied, and also began offering Ericson and Morgan yachts.

In 1975, he partnered with Walter Schulz to establish Shannon Yachts in Bristol, Rhode Island. This would be the first of two companies he founded to earn accolades in “The World’s Best Sailboats” by Ferenc Maté. The second was Cambria Yachts.

At the founding of Cambria Yachts, and throughout the rest of his life and career, was his wife, Betsy. Together they assembled a team of craftsman and boat builders and built high performance cruising yachts. They also had two sons, David Jr and Chris.

Mr. Walters at the helm of a Cambria 44, a yacht he designed and built in the mid- to late 1980s. “The Cambria design was one of Dave’s proudest achievements, a true reflection of his eye for design, taste for good looking boats, and his ability to really make a boat move through the water,” McLean said.

“Characterized by unmistakable elegance, performance and strength, combined with comfort and practicality, each boat he built was a direct reflection of his character and the family of individuals he employed,” according to a company statement announcing his death.

In 1991, Mr. Walters joined Luke Brown & Associates where he began offering new build consultation, custom design work, and brokerage services.

In 1998, he opened a sales office, representing Nautor’s Swan among other builders, in Fort Lauderdale. In 2001, 11 years after the closure of the Cambria yard, this sales office became known as David Walters Yachts.

In September 2016, Mr. Walters stepped down from his company, selling it to McLean and Vice President Amanda Noon.

“We couldn’t be more humbled to follow in the footsteps of a man like David Walters,” McLean said at the time. “We made a promise to him that David Walters Yachts will always be guided by his founding principles.”

Following decades of offshore racing, Mr. Walters sailed his final of scores of races to Bermuda in 2016, this from Annapolis on Brad Duncan’s Cambria 46 Pandion, the company statement said.

“During one of my last visits with David, I brought along one of his original sketches of his Cambria 44,” McLean recalled. “I sat there, a bit stunned, as I listened to him describe each facet of the boat’s design, why each carefully drawn line was the way it was. Even all those years after drafting it, I could see him studying his own work, critiquing himself and thinking about how it could be improved.

“Then, after a long while, he instructed me to grab a pencil and paper,” he said. “Time to ‘update a few things’, he said. I started taking notes, carefully and diligently not to miss a single detail, as he described to me the changes he wanted to make. The final edit to his design. That last moment with Dave, I’ll cherish forever.”

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About Lucy Chabot Reed

Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher and founding editor of The Triton.

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