An American dream

Published on August 19th, 2021

by Capt. Michael L. Martel, Points East
But it’s not fiction, not at all. German-born Jens Lange exchanged his three-piece suit for a woodworking shop apron, his fountain pen for a varnish brush and he has never looked back.

Jens Lange founded his dream enterprise, Baltic Boat Works, LLC, in a small, cold, Bristol, R.I., work shed in 2010, after walking away from a high-paying job in the automobile industry. This all unfolded just as he was finishing the two-year building and restoration program at IYRS, the International Yacht Restoration School, in Newport, R.I.

“I grew up in Germany, near the Baltic coast,” he says. “After high school, I went to college and earned my MBA and got hooked on the automotive industry. I spent almost 20 years in the corporate world, and the automotive industry brought me to the U.S., to southeastern Michigan, in ’98. And then, in 2008, I felt it was time to make a change and follow my passion, which I realized was boats rather than money.”

Jens signed up for the program at IYRS and loved it. While in the program, he began working on boats on the side. He began with a little bit of refinishing work, he recalls, and as he got into his second year in the program, he took on his first restoration, which happened to be a Herreshoff S-Boat, a much-beloved racing class in Narragansett Bay. “I began sailing on one,” he remembers, “and that’s how I got into that group.”

“One thing led to another, and, suddenly, somebody I’d briefly met on a Six Metre called me up and said, “Hey, how about restoring an S-Boat?” And I took on the project. Even though I was still in school at IYRS, I hired two of my fellow classmates to work with me, nights and weekends, on that restoration. We launched that fully restored S-Boat 10 days after I graduated.”

Jens’ desire to work in wood-boat building and restoration did not, however, include a desire to work for anyone else. “By then, I knew a few people in the boating world, and I decided that, with a few clients already established, I could get started on my own. I rented a 2,000-square-foot shop in Bristol, and took in a few boats for the winter.

“That first winter was cold and lonely, as I was working for myself, but it was actually a dream come true. And, from there, that winter of 2010 into 2011, things just took off, and more boats and more projects and deeper restorations came my way.

“Fast-forward 10 years, and here we are in 2021. I now have a 12,000-square-foot shop, in a different location, but I’m still in Bristol, and it’s packed with wooden boats and a few fiberglass boats to work on in between.” – Full report

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