Growing up, Alan Woodyard never though sewing would become his passion.
The 30-year-old Hartford County native majored in mass communications but worked odd jobs after graduation.
"I couldn't really find something that I wanted to do and I realized that was because I wanted to be out on the water," Woodyard said.
He packed up his belongings and moved to Florida for a three-month course in boat repair at the Chapman School of Seamanship. He spent the next four years living and working aboard yachts that took him from Los Angeles to Tahiti.
During his travels, Woodyard started using a portable sewing machine to repair rips his boat's canvas. Word spread about the quality of his work, and Woodyard soon found himself working on repairs for other boats.
"This really clicked," Woodyard said. "Even before I got back to land I knew I was going to try to figure out how to make this work as a living."
When he returned to the United States, Woodyard settled in Annapolis and worked for Quantam Sails Design Group doing marine canvas work until this December when he decided to break out on his own and open W Marine Canvas at 326 First Street, Suite #101 in Eastport.
The shop specializes in custom making bimini tops, dodgers and boat enclosures, but Woodyard said he can create or repair canvas for any part of a boat. He even reupholsters seats. The only fabric that Woodyard doesn't custom make or repair is sails.
Right now the shop is a one-man operation, but Woodyard hopes to be able to hire at least one person by summer. He acknowledged that he's competing against at least half a dozen marine canvas shops in Annapolis, including his former employer.
"There's definitely a lot of competition, but there is also a lot of work," Woodyard said. "Being a really small shop right now allows me to focus on every detail. Sometimes when a shop grows the person who made the name no longer has time for that."
In addition to launching his business, Woodyard and his wife also are expecting their first child in January.
"It's a little bit crazy," Woodyard said.
He wanted to make sure he worked out all the "kinks" in his business before people start de-winterizing their boats in the spring.
To lure customers in during the winter months, he's launched a giveaway on his website that will entitle the winner to a custom-made Sunbrella sail cover. To enter the giveaway, click here.
"There's already been more interest that I would have expected for the middle of winter," Woodyard said. "I have a good feeling about this."