With a family tradition of maritime trades, a passion for small marine business and a dedication to Newport, Rhode Island’s working waterfront, Teak Ackman is the founder and president of Seven Star Marine Engineering.

“I had the privilege of growing up in Newport and working in the family business, Oldport Marine Services,” Teak recalls. “When I was 7 or 8, my folks found a little fiberglass Skimmar dinghy that I could keep across the street from our house and drag down the driftway to get out on the water. I learned to row in that boat, and started sailing the Herreshoff Bullseyes and Pearson Resolutes in Oldport’s bareboat charter fleet.”

“My Dad, Ron Ackman, and his partner Mike Muessel started Oldport in 1972, operating out of the Treadway Marina (now Newport Harbor Hotel & Marina). They built the business doing just about everything they could with a few clapped-out old boats: launch service, mooring service, towing, and salvage. Charters and harbor tours came along as the fleet was upgraded. It was a family affair that we all pitched in on, and it captured my imagination from the start. I loved running boats around the harbor, the bay and beyond as the business grew to include Block Island and Edgartown.”

“Dad inspired me with the gift of creative thinking, and perhaps less fortunately, to be self-reliant. I spent a lot of time splicing with him, mostly mooring pennants and dock lines. I’m lucky to have a lot of hands-on thinkers, makers, artists and engineers in my family. I had an uncle who was an amazing jeweler and artist, and a great uncle who was a spectacular machinist and tinkerer. In fact, his daughter Sue has kept the administrative side of Seven Star on point since the very beginning.”

“At Oldport, through Mike’s parents’ connection to the sailing offices for races like the OSTAR and BOC, we’d meet the finishers off Brenton Reef Light, mark their finish, and tow them into town. It was fascinating to see the set-up of these boats, the competitors, and the evolution of both through the years, from before a professional career in sailing was possible up to the earliest professionals. A Japanese competitor in the BOC (and taxi driver by day), Yukoh Tada, would tie up at our dock for weeks afterwards. He’d tell fascinating stories and play music on an ancient, wind-up Victrola lashed to the bulkhead of his boat.”

“I and my two closest friends growing up, Charley Adams and Stephen Grimes, were given the opportunity to do boat building and run shore crew for Charley’s dad, Bob, in a number of his Solo/Twin and singlehanded racing endeavors. Bob ran an Ulmer Kolius loft in East Greenwich and had clients looking for crew, which got us into big boat racing. Later, in the opportunity of a lifetime, Bob gave me a job working on a pair of Open 40s he and a partner were building in Sochi, Russia for the ‘98 edition of the Around Alone Race.”

Teak incorporated Seven Star Marine Engineering (sevenstarmarine.net) in 2006. “At some point it became clear that a generational transition at Oldport wouldn’t be possible, so I set out to find a path that would keep me in and around the waterfront without competing with my Dad and Mike at Oldport. I found some great clients and projects right off the mark, and we haven’t looked back!”

Teak, his wife Zoe and children Maru, Isla, Ry and DD live in Middletown, Rhode Island. “Zoe had a somewhat similar upbringing, in Nova Scotia,” he says. “Her family had improbably started what began as a small boat shop (eponymously named) on Covey Island. They’d set out to build and repair local fishing boats, but grew into larger and larger cruising vessels and yachts. It was a wild and free existence that set her onto a passion for sailing and adventuring. She apprenticed as a sailmaker, completed a marine trades program at the New England School of Technology, sailed all over the globe as a yachtie, and more recently completed a Masters in Social Work, before ‘giving it up’ to come work at Seven Star and devote more time to raising our kids.”

“Seven Star is a group of really talented individuals – riggers, hydraulic specialists, machinists, welders and fabricators – operating toward a shared goal of excellence. You’d be hard pressed to find a more determined and resourceful bunch. We have a dual track of service and manufacturing. The service side, providing marine engineering solutions for yachts and commercial vessels, really got us off the ground. Hydraulic and mechanical/hydraulic systems have become our specialty, and building custom hardware was a logical offshoot.”

“We’ve been fortunate to have some really amazing projects and challenges come through the doors. Our contribution to Foggy [an incredible 74-foot German Frers-designed daysailer – Ed.] was another chance of a lifetime – a collaboration between Brooklin Boat Yard, Stephens Waring Yacht Design, North Shore Composites and Seven Star to design and supply a set of carbon fiber/titanium retractable stairs that’s both boarding ladder and access to the tender garage (lazarette). We’ve just finished hardware for an exquisite new rig for the 1938 S&S yawl Blackwatch. Sometimes it’s a small project where design and execution come off just right to provide a customer with a solution that truly improves their use and enjoyment of the boat.”

“We’re inspired by the digital revolution in manufacturing, the Internet of Things, and Industry 4.0,” Teak explains. “We try to incorporate some of the amazing technology developed and driven by much larger market sectors into products for the marine industry. Generative design and 3D printing are going to have a huge impact on the way boats and the associated hardware are designed and built. We want to be at the heart of it!” ■

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