Onslow Bay Boatworks has consolidated its operations into a brand-new facility in Holly Ridge.
Growing up in Hampstead, Brad Knight started building boats at age 13 by helping his dad. An airline pilot, Knight’s father grew a side venture in the early 1980s into a business that became known as Carolina Coast Marina. Knight followed in his father’s boat-building footsteps and started his own boat business, Onslow Bay Boatworks, in 2005.
For years the Onslow Bay Boatworks operation had been scattered among several sites in Hampstead and Wilmington. In September 2020, with business on the increase and with a need for more space in a single location, Knight and his team opened a new, 50,000-square-foot facility on Betty Taylor Wood Drive in Holly Ridge.
After his father’s business closed and after graduating from college, Knight spent some time in the spa and bathtub business, but he was drawn back to the boating business and decided to launch Onslow Bay Boats. The company had been operating partially out of leased space in Wilmington, where parts for the 41’ boats were assembled and trucked to the Hampstead space, which was partially owned and partially leased.
As business grew, Knight decided it made more sense for everything to be under one roof, in a facility that the company owned.
“The Holly Ridge location was not too far from our existing shop (in Hampstead), so our current employees could still travel there without any problem,” Knight says, adding that “it was also the only place where we could find the amount of land we needed with the necessary utilities.”
The boat-building business has thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic. Knight chalks that up to people not going on vacation and looking to “enjoy where they’re living.” In the Topsail area that typically means being near or on the water.
Onslow Bay Boatworks are designed for the “avid offshore fisherman” and “built for the ocean,” the company claims.
“They are unsinkable and built to withstand anything a fisherman can put it through,” Knight says.
Onslow Bay’s customers include some new boaters, but most are primarily seasoned tournament and offshore anglers looking for a step up from their current vessels. Most customers know what they want, but Knight says he has had to tell a few that “I don’t think this is the boat for you.”
In addition to locals, customers also come from neighboring areas in North Carolina, such as Raleigh, Fayetteville and Greensboro. Many of those customers have a second home or frequently vacation in the Topsail area. Knight notes they have sold boats from the Great Lakes to Texas and as far away as Mexico. Onslow Bay builds a 27’ Offshore Edition, a 27’ Offshore Edition XS, a 33’ Tournament Edition, and a 41’ Tournament Edition, all center consoles. They are working on a 37’ model and then plan to add a 25’ to 27’ boat to the mix.
Knight says that the new facility in Holly Ridge is working well for their business.
They have ample room for safely maintaining proper distances and they “wear personal protection equipment anyway,” he says, so they are able to continue working during the pandemic. In fact, as their boat business is booming, and they will be adding to their 22-member team as demand increases.
Onslow Bay does some service work for boat owners as well. In addition, they have an online shop offering boat gear, t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and other boat-related items.
Knight and his team at Onslow Bay Boatworks are happy to be in their new facility in Holly Ridge and are excited about what the future holds for them and for offshore boaters.
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Onslow Bay Boatworks
400 Betty Taylor Wood Drive, Holly Ridge