Battlewagons by Resmondo

From Perdido Beach, they built what one local captain calls the best charter fishing vessels ever. Today, the brothers running Resmondo Boat Works are doing more than repairing boats; they’re keeping their father’s legacy alive.

Resmondo boat
The Sea Hunter is a 62-foot Resmondo boat operated in Orange Beach by Captain Ricky McDuffie.

Every now and then, a Resmondo boat will come in for repairs. For brothers Joey and Ronnie Resmondo, the occasion is an opportunity to greet a couple of old friends. First, there’s the boat itself, which, depending on the year of its construction, the pair might’ve helped build. But more than anything, it’s a chance to rub shoulders with the shadow of their father, who built boats on this same patch of sand in Perdido Beach for six decades. 

“Sometimes you see things and you think, ‘Wow, that’s kinda neat the way he built that,’” Joey says, beneath the 125-foot-long metal-roofed workshop. 

“I was working on a boat yesterday,” Ronnie chimes in, “and was just trying to find a spot where he had marked something or written something, ’cause his writing was distinct. But I was just thinking, ‘Man, he touched this back in ’63.’ I think we take it for granted sometimes.”

At first handshake, there’s no doubt the two men are brothers, but they share much more than physical likeness. At just one year apart, they also share a lot of the same memories of growing up on the site of a boat-building enterprise. The first job they were entrusted with was scraping barnacles off the metal railway running from the shop and into Palmetto Creek, located on this side of the Alabama-Florida line. Wooden boat owners prefer beaching their vessels by rail, as moving a wooden boat by sling can subject the hull to potentially harmful pressure. 

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“I always tell people we started at the bottom,” Ronnie jokes about barnacle duty. “But there was always the temptation to go for a swim or jump in a boat and do something. It was a good place to grow up.” In that regard, the boys took after their father.

“My dad — if some fish were around, he was going to go fishing,” Ronnie adds. “He could drop something and go. That might be why he lived so long.”

Two men standing in front of a Resmondo boat
Brothers Ronnie (left) and Joey Resmondo stand beside a boat built by their father in 1963. It was impaled on a piling during Hurricane Sally and came back to the boatworks for extensive repairs. Photo by Summer Ennis Ansley

His name was Leon W. Resmondo, but everyone knew him as Buddy. Born in 1924, he grew up in Perdido Beach where his family ran a little dairy farm. During the Depression, boatbuilding was a matter of necessity, so a 9-year-old Buddy helped his father build a shallow-draft dory boat for fishing the local waterways. 

After serving in the Pacific as a Navy gunner during World War II, Buddy returned home and went to work building boats in earnest, picking up techniques from local crafters and eventually setting up a shop of his own in 1956. From a little pole shed on this very spot, he began building his custom wooden boats.

“He designed everything he ever built,” Ronnie says. “Drew it out, drafted it out on paper. As a kid, I can remember, someone would come here and order a boat, and he’d be up late at night. I could see him in there at that table. And sometimes I’d get up the next day, and there the design was. All laid out.”

As Buddy’s reputation as a craftsman grew, so did the size of his boats. From small personal vessels, he expanded into building custom, Coast Guard-certified commercial fishing boats. For the boys and their sister, Lynn, it wasn’t your typical childhood.

“There was always a boat being built throughout our whole lifetime,” Joey says. “I don’t think the shop ever sat empty. It was just a continuation of one boat after another.”

The work was certainly endless and not always aided by the young boys. Buddy enjoyed telling the story of the time Ronnie got his hands on a hammer and drove a fistful of nails into the stem of a boat-in-progress. But the brothers grew, along with the business, and by the time they graduated from high school, Resmondo Boat Works employed seven workers, including their mother Donna who ran the office.

Over the years, local charter boat captains have found Resmondo boats to be more than worth their salt. In fact, if you go to the beach today, you’re likely to spot a Resmondo, easy to distinguish by the enclosed, forward-leaning bridge. The brothers explain that they first created that look in 1987, the same year they switched from building wooden to fiberglass boats. 

“When you lean those upper windows forward, you eliminate some glare,” Joey explains. “It also gives you more room in your wheelhouse — you can keep your console and all your instruments forward.”

Aside from the opportunity to add custom features, charter boat captains were also attracted to Resmondo boats for the large amount of fishing space provided on the boats’ deck, as well as the business’s track record of building vessels that are Coast Guard-certified. 

“For any boat that was to carry more than six passengers, the Coast Guard had to be involved from the time we had a boat drawn. We’d have to send the plans over to Washington for them to approve it, and once they stamped it, then we could build it.”

Men cleaning a large Resmondo boat
Charter Captain Mike Rowell’s Orange Beach-based Resmondo, Annie Girl, gets a fresh paint job. The 62-foot Annie Girl was built in 2002.

Captain Bobby Walker of Summer Breeze Charters doesn’t mince his words about Resmondo boats: “Everybody knows they’re probably some of the best charter fishing boats ever built — anywhere.”

Walker should know. The 50-year charter fishing veteran is part of a long working tradition in Orange Beach — a tradition that includes his father and grandfather. In 1983, Walker was shopping around for a new boat and thought he had settled on an East Coast builder. 

“Then I talked to Buddy Resmondo about building a boat, and he told me that he could build a whole lot better of a boat than what they build up there for less the price. So that’s where it started.” That first boat, Summer Breeze I, led to a second boat, Summer Breeze II — the best review a charter boat captain could give.

“There are probably six, seven Resmondo boats here in Orange Beach still. A couple of them left and went to other places,” Walker says. “But any of the guys running those boats are gonna tell you the same thing. They wouldn’t want a different boat. They’re battlewagons is what they are, built tough. And the day in, day out work we put them through, they’re right there with you.”

It’s been about 25 years since Joey and Ronnie bought the business from their father, about 17 years since they built their last big charter boat. These days, it’s a two-man operation focused solely on boat repairs: fiberglass blisters, worn out bearings, hurricane scars. And while they work on vessels of every kind, it’s always a special day when an original Resmondo arrives on the lot. 

Two men working on a Resmondo boat
Photo by Summer Ennis Ansley

In the years before Buddy’s death in 2016, at the age of 91, he spent his time doing the things he loved; he continued building boats and chasing fish.

“He would come down here every day, just like normal,” Ronnie remembers. “He had a jig set up to build those little boats, and here we were working on big ones, too. And he would go fishing. He’d just get in his truck, pull down there on that bulkhead, get out and take off either trout fishing or mullet fishing. He’d go by himself.” Standing still, even as an octogenarian, wasn’t in Buddy’s nature.

“One time I think I made a mistake by telling my dad, ‘You don’t need to go down there and work today.’ And I couldn’t have said anything worse to that man because it was in his mind and his whole body that that’s what he did — work.” 

Ask any charter boat captain piloting a Resmondo through the Perdido Pass, and they’ll all tell you the same thing. His boats work, too.

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