T S Marine in Crisfield
Not too many businesses in Crisfield, but this one does business all over the world.
Boat engines arrive at T S Marine in Crisfield from all over the US and from Canada and Prince Edward Island. They come from across oceans, all the way from Japan, the French West Indies, England, Costa Rica, even Bahrain.
T & S sells and services Cummins and Caterpillar marine engines and transmissions. Steve Walston and Tim Tyler opened the business 17 years ago in the building where Steve’s late father Wally ran a seafood transport company. A third partner, David Stone, joined them in 2004.
The diesel engines weigh anywhere between 1,500 and 5,000 pounds. They are shipped to T & S via commercial carriers or loaded on trailers or in the beds of pick-ups.
Clients include an assortment of boat equipment and engine locaters and brokers –who resell them – and yacht and large boat owners who’ve heard of T & S from satisfied customers. Eighty percent of the clients are Maryland watermen – one example is John “Moto” Motovidlak who comes all the way from Tilghman Island for years when his boat, the Dawn Marie needs repairs.
According to Walston, T & S (unlike so many Crisfield area firms) is not just a seasonal operation. On the contrary, the business is growing he said, “as the current recession forces boat owners to repair or use reconditioned parts rather than buy new. We’re busy even in winter because so much of our business comes from Florida and the Caribbean.”
T & S employs eight people, including two just hired last month. Some work with both engines and transmissions, while others work on one or the other or wash parts.
“It takes a lot of training to work here,” Walston said. “Some of it is on the job but there are also continuing courses we take as Caterpillar and Cummins upgrade their products.”
The T & S “shop” is huge. It has to be, with so much work coming in.
Asked if heating the place, is very expensive, Walston says “It’s not as costly as you might think. The shop has a heating system that burns used engine oil – a bonus in this business.
“Air conditioning in hot weather, that’s another story.”
Work and Some Play
On average, it takes two weeks and several workers to repair a single engine. Sometimes, the repairs are off-site, on board someone’s stranded boat. “The worst experience I’ve had in all 17 years we’ve been in business,” Walston said, “was on board a metal Department of Natural Resources boat on a Crab and Clam Bake day. We were down below the washboard, working in the classic clam bake weather – a temperature of 100 degrees, and humidity close to 100 percent – with no air blowing in! It was just terrible.
“Another awful rescue job brought Dave all the way to the Western Shore of Virginia, to a town called Hopewell to fix ‘engine trouble.’ The trouble was that the boat was out of fuel.”
But it isn’t all work and no play at T & S. With a crew of eight guys, some of whom grew up together, there are always practical jokes.
A favorite is to roll a lit fire cracker under the (occupied) restroom door. One time, the crew jacked up the back wheels of Steven Thomas’s pickup truck when he went into the shop and then watched him get back in and go nowhere.
On another day, long-time staffer Sterling Clough went to lunch and came back to find that “his” eyeglasses had been painted yellow. What he didn’t know was that the glasses were just cheap stand-ins from the dollar-store up the road.
Some of the best days involve seafood feasts. The staff keeps two huge steamers handy – watermen often arrive toting not only their engines but coolers full of shrimp, clams, crabs or oysters. Clough remembers some crabs “that came from up the Bay and were nine inches across.”
Frequent visitors to the T & S shop are Walston’s daughter Lindsay and his son Christian.
He describes her as a “skinny, little 20-year-old with pretty blonde hair and perfectly manicured nails who’s also a junior drag racer.” She was inspired, at age 12, to take up the sport by Clough, who has spent four decades on the track.”
Now Lindsay and her brother Christian both have dragsters and race at the Route 13 strip. Hers is a 1967 Camaro which Dad is currently restoring.
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Sterling poses with a disassembled engine.
Tyler and Walston direct workers as new shipments arrive.
Walston takes a break from his busy schedule to give an interview.
Tyler concentrates on tedious work.
A place for everything and everything in its place.
That is one clean work area.
Motovidlak, left, watches as workers put the finishing touches on his engine.
Walston poses with daughter Lindsey, holding a photo of her 1967 Camaro.