Leopoldo Colombo was born in Griante in 1917 and started working at 12 years old as an apprentice at the Cranchi boatyard on Lake Como where he learnt to build wooden boats of up to 12 metres long.
During the 2nd World War he was exonerated from military service to build craft for the war cause – slow cruising torpedoes built from wood and guided below the water by a frogman.
Then in 1943 in an old cellar in the village of Griante, he founded the boat-building company of the same name. The first wooden boats produced were 12 foot dinghies, Snipes and other boats reaching up to a maximum of 5 to 6 metres in length.
Over the years, Leopoldo’s sons Giorgio and Roberto (born in 1952 and 1956 respectively) began working in the boatyard. Giorgio started work at the boatyard when he was 16 while attending an evening school for mechanical design and Roberto joined the yard in 1976. Leopoldo retired in 1996 due to ill health and in 1999 he was awarded the distinguished title of “Nautical Pioneer” in recognition of his long career dedicated to building wooden boats and him being a master craftsman. The award was given to him during the 10th edition of the National Union of Boatyards and Nautical Industries held in Genoa.
Leopoldo spent his last years in a nursing home but never lost his interest in boats and the work his sons were undertaking. He died in 2007.
By following in Leopoldo’s footsteps, Giorgio and Roberto carried on the family tradition of constructing and restoring wooden boats, but they also brought important innovations to the company, such as new classic style crafts like the Catboat and Lobster and introducing a high precision machine called “Computer Numerical Control” for cutting wood for the boats.
Giorgio Colombo is one of only two boatbuilders on Lake Como who holds the prestigious qualification of “Master Craftsman”, awarded to him in Genoa in 1998.
The Colombo boatyard has built wooden boats with sails or engines, cruisers or open boats of up to 20 metres long, based on either designs or client’s personal specifications. This created the need for a larger boatyard to accommodate the increased volume of work, as well as the size of the boats. Their new boatyard, which they moved to in 2004, is situated in Grandola ed Uniti, Como and is spread over a covered area of 700 sq.metres with 2,800 sq. metres of outdoor space.
Since 1943, the Colombo boatyard has built over 400 dinghies – in fact in 1993 they managed to build 17 in one year alone due to the popularity of this small craft. The Colombo Leopoldo boatyard won recognition with its first important trophy in 1995, when a Colombo wooden dinghy called “Principe” skippered by Corrado Isenburg, won the 12p Dinghy Italian Championship.
The Colombo boatyard has been exhibiting their craft at the Genoa Boat Show since 1974, as well as attending numerous other exhibitions over the years, such as the boat shows in Friedrichshafen Germany , Barcelona and Lugano abroad and Lariofiera at Erba Como, and for the past three years at the Craft show in Milan.