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Shrub Oak Man Follows Passion, Sells Custom-Made Kayaks

Dan Thaler. Contributed photo.
Dan Thaler. Contributed photo.
Dan Thaler is an auto mechanic who is also a fine craftsman. He spends hundreds of hours building, sanding, smoothing and coating kayaks at his Yorktown home. As time consuming and pricey as it can get, it has become a bit of an obsession for him. 

Now, he has turned his passion into business. He incorporated Moonlight Marine, Inc. in May 2012 and builds kayaks and canoes for others to enjoy. 

"I had already acquired the tools and really enjoy the process so I wanted to be able to continue building even though I have built boats for myself, my wife and other family members," Thaler said of his decision to start a business. 

When he first started kayaking more than a decade ago, he remembers being unsatisfied with the kayaks he used, so he decided to build one on his own. He has completed five kayaks since 2009 and has two more in the works.

Thaler said there are many benefits to having your own custom-built kayak and can accommodate any orders he gets.

"You have an heirloom-quality craft that will be admired and passed down through the generations with proper care," Thaler said. "It will be tailored to fit you. Store bought boats can sometimes be uncomfortable. I make sure that will not happen to you. Despite common perception wooden kayaks are lighter than other boats and quite strong."

Thaler said a plywood kayak will take about 80-100 hours of work depending on the design. A hybrid kayak will take 110-150 hours or more depending on the design of the boat and the deck pattern that the client wants. An all-cedar strip kayak can take anywhere from 175-300 hours, also design dependent.

The starting price of a custom-built kayak is $3,500, but Thaler said he occasionally has used boats available and seasonal sales. 

"I have expanded my business to include maintenance and repair of all kayaks and canoes," Thaler said. 

The boats he has built so far have been mostly sea kayaks, he said. They include: three Shearwater Hybrids (a day touring kayak with plywood hulls and cedar strip decks); a Great Auk 14 which is an all cedar strip boat mainly for sheltered water; a Petrel which is 17-foot cedar strip boat designed for rougher seas. 

"I can, of course, build whatever the client is interested in," Thaler said. "The first time you put a new boat in the water is always rewarding."

Thaler said he strongly suggests to anyone who hasn't kayaked before to rent a boat and take a tour, which Cortlandt Manor's Atlantic Kayak Tours offers.

"There you will be given the opportunity to try out many boats before you decide to buy one," he said. 

Thaler is a member of the Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club and became a board member of the Hudson River Watertrail Association. He has won various awards for his kayaks, which include Best in Show (2011 for his wife's Shearwater 16), Runner up Best Kayak (in 2012 for his Great Auk 14) and Best Kayak (in 2013 for his Patrel). 

For more information visit www.moonlightmarine.net. You can reach him at moonlightmarinekayaks@gmail.com or 914-715-7245 or Moonlight Marine, Inc. PO Box 734 Shrub Oak NY 10588.
Dan Thaler January 20, 2014 at 06:04 PM
I have 3 boats available right now and it's still not too late to get an order in for spring paddling.

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