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From speedboats to superyachts: Owner Jeffrey Shapiro on his life in boats

27 July 2021• Written by Grace Trofa

Grace Trofa reveals one man’s journey from boat-loving hippie to marina owner

When I turned 13, my dad, Seymour, told me he had this big present for my bar mitzvah. He showed me this 11.5-metre boat named Sero, which was the name of our shirt company, and then he said, let’s take a walk. 

When I noticed this 5.2m Chris Craft speedboat named Sero Too, I jumped up and down and gave him a big hug. He bought the 11.5m for the family and the smaller one for me. Next, he enrolled me in a power squadron course. 

Image courtesy of Charl Jordaan/Yachtingimage.com

My dad enjoyed drinking and he had one eye. He could not dock our family boat to save his life. When he came in to dock the first time, he must have bumped into three or four boats. After the third attempt, he said, “You can’t do any worse than I did, see if you can do this.”

I was 13 and a half, had never docked a boat before, but the force was with me and I didn’t hit anything. From that point on, I always ran the boat in tight situations. I was a hippie in the 70s and didn’t want to go into the family shirt business. We were in my dad’s office one day talking about my future, when a realtor came in trying to sell him property.

Three generations: Kris Shapiro (right) with son and grandson
Image courtesy of Kris Shapiro

At the time we had a 19.8m boat, and every Sunday we would go to this particular marina because it had a restaurant. My dad told the agent he was interested in this marina for sale in Clinton (Connecticut) to send him on a goose chase, but it turns out the marina was for sale.

My father said, well maybe you should go into the marina business. Lying in bed that night, I thought it wasn’t such a terrible idea. I loved boats and it was not a ton of money, half a million at the time in 1974. My dad said I’ll give you $100,000 cash, get a mortgage for the whole half million and then you sink or swim. I was 22 and I have been here for 46 years.

Image courtesy of Charl Jordaan/Yachtingimage.com

Our research lab studies the marina life and we tag fish. Before I switched to philosophy, I was a biology major in college and my wife, Mary, has a Yale Master’s degree in molecular biology.

She was a cocktail waitress at the marina’s restaurant when I met her. I am a vegetarian and I used to come in and eat the celery in the garnish container. She reported me to the manager, not knowing I owned the restaurant.

Image courtesy of Charl Jordaan/Yachtingimage.com

My father loved this 32.3m Lazzara, which we bought three years ago. We took it out every Sunday with like 50 people on board. The Coast Guard pulled us over because they thought we were running a ferry service.

The 32.3m Lazzara Cedar Island is named after the marina Shapiro owns

When I heard the sirens, I thought, I wonder who they are running after. It was me! My father explained they were all friends. He passed in January; he was a lot bigger than life.

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