Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the May/June issue of Lake Texoma Life.
Whether it’s got a 3,600-horsepower engine and F-16 fighter jet windshields or a single motor and simple sail, Texoma-area boat repairman Leon Derbery can fix it.
Derbery is the owner and founder of Derbery Performance Marine in Pottsboro. With nearly 40 years of professional racing, engine building and repair work to his name, he and his staff have handled projects and watercraft of every size.
“Performance boats are basically our forte,” Derbery said.”But we do yacht repairs, we do diesel repairs, light generator repair and we build a lot of stock engines.”
With his youth spent around a racetrack watching friends and family members compete, Derbery said his passion for performance machines began on land.
“I drag raced cars for years and years,” Derbery said. “Somewhere along the way it just started to turn into a real passion for boats, for engines and going fast. I decided I wanted to do it for a living and everybody told me I was crazy.”
Derbery’s facility sits off Highport Road and welcomes clients into a lobby where a large chrome engine block the size of a washing machine (and then some) sits just inside the front door. Magazine articles and awards line the walls, detailing Derbery’s related speed records and mechanical mentions throughout the competitive community of high-speed boat racing.
“There was a time here when I had 10 to 12 employees, and we were building 10 motors a day,” Derbery said of his shop’s peak engine-production days. “Not only that, but we’d ship all 10 of them out of here each day. That kept up for about eight years, and then the economy took a turn (in 2008).”
Nowadays, Derbery Marine runs with the help of a more streamlined crew, but the owner said he and his staff see themselves as some of the most knowledgeable and capable technicians in the region, and that they still accept business and boats from as far as away as Michigan — business based on their good reputation.
“I’ve got a complete machine shop back there,” Derbery said. “We can build anything.”
Derbery said the bulk of his engine building is requested by competitive clients who look to push their boats to between 100 and 200 miles per hour in all out sprints and through races courses, while the repairs apply to everything from personal watercraft to cruiser boats.
“If you want to get into the stuff that goes really fast, boy you better have some deep pockets,” Derbery said.
As he roamed across the floor of his shop, Derbery said he understood the desire to go fast, and it was always his goal to push the limits as a professional racer and mechanic.
“We set a record when everybody thought there was no way a 32-foot boat called the Beyond Reason could run 150 mph,” Derbery said. “Well, we did over 160 mph in a standing mile. Started off at a dead stop, and at the end of the mile the radar showed as 162 mph and the GPS showed us at 164 mph.”
With his racing days nearly 20 years behind him, Derbery said he still enjoys the chance to take his client’s boats out to test his repairs and the satisfaction of knowing that his work helps people enjoy different varieties of the sport he loves.
“Being out on the lake, sitting out on the boathouse watching the boats go by and seeing one I just built is a great feeling,” Derbery said. “And when the customer gets it back and gets to take it out and test it for the first time since they brought it in — that’s real rewarding.”
Derbery said he sees retirement somewhere down the road but thinks he’ll always work on boats and that he’ll carry the lesson he’s learned from building and bettering them.
“Anything worth doing is worth doing right,” Derbery said. “I think that holds true for anything in life.”