BEI's roots go back to R.A. Stearn, Inc. (RAS). Richard Stearn came to Sturgeon Bay in the early years of World War II as a young naval architect for Leathem D. Smith Shipbuilding Company. After Mr. Smiths untimely death in June of 1946, Mr. Stearn started his own design company. Among R.A. Stearns many design projects were the first integrated Tug & Barge (ITB), the BADGER & SPARTAN car ferries, numerous repowering of Great Lakes bulk carriers in addition
to many conversions to self-unloading bulk
carriers, all done at Smiths successor shipyard,
Christy Corporation. RAS did the early designs for Marine Travelift of Sturgeon Bay. The boom days of shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay came in the 1970's & early 1980's when new Great Lakes bulk carriers & ocean barges were built in Sturgeon Bay by Bay Shipbuilding Company, the successor to Christy Corporation. These new vessels ranged in length from 630 feet to 1000 feet. Six of the "Thousand Footers" were built here, all designed by RAS.
Following Mr. Stearns death in 1985, the company was sold to the naval architectural firm of John J. McMullen and Associates of New York City (JJMA) in 1986. JJMA retained the name of R.A. Stearn, Inc. until 1996 when the design firm was sold to Joseph P. Fischer and renamed Bay Engineering, Inc.
Upon his retirement in 2019, Mr. Fischer sold BEI to Travis M. Martin, who continues the legacy of marine design in Sturgeon Bay, with Mr. Fischer as a consultant.