Nashville’s Boston Whaler Magician

Read Fasse’s painstaking restorations of vintage Whalers keep the classic boats turning heads for generations to come

Photo: Matt Hayes

Read Fasse’s restored 1979 15-foot Boston Whaler Striper on Center Hill Lake in Tennessee.

If you ask Read Fasse how a former record executive and classically trained violinist ended up restoring vintage Boston Whalers in Nashville, Tennessee, he points to his childhood. Growing up, Fasse spent weekends on Georgia’s Lake Allatoona and summers on the Gulf Coast in Sarasota, Florida, where he whiled away the hours behind the wheel of his father’s 1979 15-foot Boston Whaler Striper. After the violin earned him a scholarship to the University of Miami, whenever he wasn’t studying or practicing, he was on the water—backcountry fishing in the Everglades or island hopping in the Bahamas. “There’s always been this underlying theme of boats in my life,” he says. 

But he admits he’d relegated his dad’s old Whaler to the realm of childhood memories until he moved to Nashville and his dad offered it up as a way to explore the lakes and rivers around his new hometown. “That was what started it all,” Fasse says. “I got it here, and I realized there’s something nostalgic and special about this boat.” The skiff’s timeless aesthetic and quality craftsmanship reminded him of the seventies-era Land Cruiser he’d previously restored. And though he’d never attempted a top-to-bottom boat restoration, he dove in, consumed with breathing life back into his dad’s beautiful little boat. He soon discovered he wasn’t the only one with a passion for vintage Boston Whalers.

photo: Courtesy of FassēCo
A FassēCo Whaler on the Cumberland River.

“There’s a huge community around the old boats,” Fasse says. “There’s a massive Facebook group called Everything Boston Whaler. Jeff Rohlfing is the moderator and a real guru.”

Fasse befriended Rohlfing and began tracking down some of the original Boston Whaler dealers who remained in business for parts and advice. Before he knew it, restoring Whalers—notably the smaller (13-, 15-, 17-, and 18-foot) trailer models built between 1960 and 1990, before the company changed hands—went from a hobby to a career. He founded his restoration business, FassēCo, in 2018, spurred on by the joy he witnessed the boats spark in complete strangers. “I couldn’t go to the boat ramp and not have a conversation with someone,” he says. “I also got a lot of thumbs up driving down the road.”

photo: Courtesy of FassēCo
A mahogany hatch.

The Stripers, Montauks, Outrages, and Sports that Fasse rebuilds aren’t meant to be museum pieces or exact replicas of factory originals. Instead, he specializes in what vintage car nerds refer to as “resto-mods,” which seek to restore a car’s classic design features, but also add some modern upgrades. For Fasse, that means more reliable motors and mechanics and tweaks such as the addition of custom SeaDek, which quiets the boat and makes the floors easier to clean and maintain. “It’s a really fine line, though,” he says. “You have to be thoughtful about every single screw that goes back on the boat. Any change should look like it could have been original.” Using fair trade hardwoods, Fasse and a few other local Nashville woodworkers also painstakingly restore the wood detailing that’s a hallmark of classic twentieth-century Whalers. 

photo: Courtesy of FassēCo
Fasse with his wife, Julia, and daughter, Willa.

Today, Whaler-crazy clients from across the U.S. as well as such far-flung destinations as Australia, the U.K., Colombia, and Martinique seek out Fasse’s work. A handful of clients bring him their own vintage hulls to restore, but most opt to have FassēCo. source the hull for them. “We’re really choosy about what we select for our clients,” he says. “There are plenty of old Whalers out there, but not all of them are restorable. Of the boats we look at, we probably only buy 2 percent of them.”

Once the hull is procured, the complete restoration process takes about ten weeks, depending on the number of other projects in the works. (He’s currently booking summer 2022 build-outs.) And for folks who already own an old Whaler and are considering a renovation but aren’t sure if they want to attempt it themselves, Fasse offers hourly consultation services to help wade through the specifics. “These are really personal projects,” he says. “These boats aren’t impulse purchases. They’re lifelong heirlooms—and that’s priceless.” 

photo: Courtesy of FassēCo
A trio of FassēCo Whalers.