AMERICAN THIS OLD HOUSE HOST; A CIRCUMNAVIGATING BOATER FAMILY; SHARK MAN’S DAUGHTER EDITED BY ANN DERMODY
STEVE THOMAS: HANDYMAN TO WATERMAN
“This Old Boater” shows the pros a thing or two
Thomas and his family live on an island in Maine where they com- mute on one of their three boats.
STEVE THOMAS HAS ALWAYS HAD A KNACK for fixing things. When he was 10, his family moved to Southern California and he bought a defunct surfboard. “It was 10 bucks and needed a new fin, so I fixed it up and went surfing,” he recalls. When he was 14, he decided he wanted to go sailing, so he bought a small
sailboat for $42, fixed that up, and off he went. After studying philosophy
in college, he headed out in the Victoria to Maui race in a Valiant 40, and
then sailed the boat back to Seattle. That was followed by a stint in the
Mediterranean as first mate on a 103-foot schooner, followed by another on
an 89-foot Italian motoryacht, and a third on a 75-foot ketch.
The DIY skills came from his father who used to buy and rehab old houses to accommodate his growing family. As the oldest of six kids, Thomas soon got into the business, too.
After coming back from Europe, he bought his first house for $14,000, fixed it up, and
sold it to a college buddy, and so began a career of buying and renovating houses, between
sailing gigs. Various carpentry and skippering jobs followed, until a fascination with ancient
Micronesian navigation began. That resulted in his book and PBS documentary, “The Last
Navigator.” While he was editing the documentary, he got a call from a publicist who
happened to ask him what he was doing next. Thomas told him he was in the middle
of renovating his attic. “He said, ‘I didn’t
know you knew about that sort of thing.
Did you know they’re looking for someone
at “This Old House”?’”
Beating out 412 other candidates, he
landed the presenter’s job in 1989 and
stayed until 2003, based mostly in Boston.
His boating career continued apace. By the
early 1990s, he was competitively racing
Shields sloops, both nationally and locally.
From there it was on to center-console sport-
fishers, because his son wanted to fish more
than he wanted to sail.
“If your kid has a passion for being
on the water, you feed that passion,” says
Thomas. Around the same time, he and his
wife Evy bought an old camp on an island in
Maine, where they still live. Not surprisingly
it was a fixer-upper, which he renovated (of
course), then built a barn and filmed his latest show, “Renovation Nation.”
“There was no dock or anything in the