Sonny Somelofski turns from guide to boat builder

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By Joe Moskowitz
Charles “Sonny” Somelofski is known by many locals as a hunting and fishing guide and the man, who along with his wife, Katherine, ran the Tremperskill Store, the place to get bait, gas, and more on county Route 1 in Andes. They sold the store and Sonny has decided to return to his Long Island roots, sort of. He is now in the boat building business.

He does his work in a garage on Main Street in Margaretville. It is a slow process. But it gets faster with each boat. He says it took him 11 months to build the first one. That included time off to winter in Florida and a steep learning curve. He says when he told his mother he was going to start building boats she said, “but you failed shop class.” Sonny says that’s not true, but he had to learn quite a bit about woodworking and boat building.

He uses as much local wood as he can, birch, cherry, spalted maple, larch. He says he does have to use western cedar, which doesn’t grow around here, but he says at least he buys it locally. He gets it from Gary Mead who has a woodworking business in Margaretville.

Lots of input
Sonny says he gets visitors popping in who offer suggestions. One of them was Michael Kudish. Mike now lives in Arkville but he taught Somelofski when Sonny was a student at Paul Smith’s College. When he told his former professor that he was building Adirondack boats, Kudish said they don’t build them in the Catskills. Somelofski said, “They do now.”

Before long Sonny will take a break and head to Maine. He attends what amounts to a men’s summer camp for boat builders. It will take years to complete his group’s project. But there is no hurry.

When he gets back, he says he will have to get a trailer. The boats are surprisingly light. They are about 17-feet long, but only weigh about 120 pounds. But they still have to be taken to the water.
He won’t launch them in the reservoir. He says they would be the first ones to be stolen and steam cleaning, which is a Department of Environmental Protection requirement, wouldn’t be good for the wood.

Meanwhile, he says if anyone wants to watch or has any helpful hints, they are welcome to drop in. He is in no hurry.