Photo right Dr. Conkle and friend Scott Kerrigan
Dr. David Conkle likes to fish, everything from the catching and releasing to the boat handling. That's why he has built one boat and has another under construction. Rather than buying a ready-made boat, Conkle says, "Building my own boat has been a much more personal type of situation. The boat comes out as an expression of myself and the things I feel are important when I fish. Production boats are nice, but they don't have the individuality of a custom boat."
Conkle has loved fishing since his boyhood days growing up on a farm in West Virginia. "I never did any saltwater fishing until my family moved to Pensacola in 1978. There, my partner, who trained with me at Vanderbilt, and I got a 25-foot Bertram and named it Pair of Docs. We owned several boats with this name, each bigger and bigger."
In 1992, Conkle took delivery of his first custom-built boat, a 41-footer constructed by G&S Boats, Inc., in Freeport, Florida. "I named the boat Miss Babbie. That's my wife Barbara's nickname. I kept it until 2004."
He adds, "It was always a dream to build my own boat. I enjoy the boat handling as much as I do the fishing. I run the boat, do it all myself, and even help the mate clean up afterwards. The mental health I enjoy from the whole operation is great."
Conkle chose G&S Boats because the company is held in high esteem and because the company built most of the charter sports fishing fleet in Destin, he says. "They build wonderful boats. Form follows function. Everything is where it should be. There are no surprises and as a cardiac surgeon I've never liked surprises. Owners Buddy Gentry and Steve Sauer love what they do and it shows. They're dear friends. There are few builders who will build a boat on a handshake these days and it speaks volumes of these two gentlemen."
In general, G&S boats are referred to as one-off structure boats. Mass production boat builders such as Viking, Hatteras and Bertram use a fiberglass mold for their hulls. G&S consults with its customers on hull design to accommodate individual use. All of the hulls are made of fiberglass.
Conkle made his first and only big trip, an 1800-mile cruise to St. Thomas from Pensacola, aboard Miss Babbie. "We fished for marlin on the Drop and I enjoyed participating as an observer in the Boy Scout (USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin) Tournament," he says. "We've also gone to Louisiana, but that was just a 120 to 130 mile trip."
In May 2004, Conkle sat down with Gentry and Sauer to design his new 50-foot G&S boat. "I learned a lot building the first one so the specs were easier the second time around," he says. "Buddy and Steve knew what I liked in terms of the cockpit space, bridge and general layout. The boat definitely has a distinctive G&S appearance. The inside of the boat is more personal. My wife likes to go, but doesn't fish, so we've designed a large salon. We've picked a unique wood, lyptus, a hybrid of Eucalyptus, imported from Brazil. The grain is like mahogany, but it looks like cherry. It'll give the salon a unique appearance. The forward area of the boat is primarily bunk space with three single berths."
The brand new Miss Babbie will have twin QSM11 Diesel engines and a 15 kw Phasor Generator. It will carry 900 gallons of fuel and 150 gallons of water.
Conkle launched the boat in June.
"Having a boat has always been important to me," Conkle says. "One reason, is that as a cardiovascular surgeon I had a time consuming job. Out boating was always a great way to spend time one on one time with my three sons. Some of our best memories center around fishing. I'm retired now, although I do volunteer at a free clinic in Pensacola, but I can generally enjoy much more time on the boat. I suspect lately, on a good year, I'm out 75 to 100 days. Being out on the water, with people I like, is the maximum enjoyment to me," Conkle says.
As to his view of the future of sports fishing, Conkle comments, "Ideally, the opportunity to let the fish swim is important to me. The sport has evolved tremendously in this area with catch and release."
06/14/06 Miss Babbie Splashes.
07/29/06 Miss Babbie fishes first day and is 2 for 2 on whites!