Building high-end boats is a passion project for Herbert “Burr” Shaw III ’83
by Lori Ferguson
As a young boy, Herbert “Burr” Shaw III ’83 was enchanted with boats. His happiest hours were spent sailing and building models. Meet him now and one realizes little has changed.

As head of design for Hinckley Yachts in Trenton, Maine, for the last 20 years, Shaw is still following his passion, albeit on a bigger scale. He says there have been many career highs, but none greater than designing and building a custom picnic boat for the late philanthropist and banker David Rockefeller.

Custom Picnic Boat
One of Burr Shaw’s passion projects was a custom picnic boat, shown here under construction.
“David came to us in 2008, following the recession,” Shaw recalls. “No one was building boats — we went from 315 employees to 25 — and he stepped up with a project to keep the company afloat.” Rockefeller ordered a custom picnic boat: 55 feet long with two 1,300-horsepower diesel engines, a fly bridge and countless options, including a bespoke hydraulic platform to lift a wheelchair.

“When the platform was done, it was beautiful — a marvel of machine-polished stainless steel and teak — and the operation was flawless,” Shaw says. “David loved that boat, and I loved the opportunity to focus on a single project and take it to that level.”

These days Shaw is exploring an exciting new facet of boatbuilding: additive manufacturing, better known as 3D printing. “We’re working with a team from the University of Maine, which includes my two sons, and it’s incredibly exciting,” he says. “Building a boat via 3D printing allows for reductions in weight, cost and time to market — it’s blue sky!”

The courage to pursue passion projects is a quality that Shaw associates with his Bucknell experience. “My time there was hugely formative, not only because of the value of my chemical engineering degree, but also because it’s an unbelievable place,” he says. “I met a lot of people there with tremendous passion. In later years, I recalled those experiences and it drove me to rediscover what I loved.”