Business View Magazine interviews Randy Ramsey, President of Jarrett Bay Boatworks, as part of our focus on the boating and maritime sector.
Jarrett Bay Boatworks, based in Beaufort, North Carolina, is a premier builder of custom sport fishing boats. The company was founded in 1986, and over the past three decades, it has constructed and delivered over 90 sport fishing boats and serviced tens of thousands of vessels.
Recently, Business View Magazine spoke with Company Founder and President, Randy Ramsey. The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.
BVM: Can you talk a bit about how and why you founded your company?
Ramsey: “My career actually started early on as a charter captain, running fishing trips. When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a charter fisherman. I was very successful doing that and was actually one of the youngest licensed captains ever in the United States – I was licensed on my 18th birthday. But, I knew, very quickly, that I had to supplement that income and I started working for some local boat building companies and gained some valuable experience doing it. But it certainly wasn’t where my passion was.
“In 1986, it occurred to me that the boat that we had that was operating charters wasn’t doing the work; it was old, it had been built in 1967, it was slow, it was smaller than most of the boats being used in that time frame. And we had been watching a real change and upgrade in our local fleet; the boats were getting larger and faster; they were riding better in the ocean; they had more capability. And I knew that in order to continue to stay productive in my chosen field, I was going to have to improve our boat.
“So, a few of us set out in a rented building in a little community called Williston, North Carolina. That building was a pole barn, built out of telephone poles and tin. It had dirt floors and when it rained it leaked on us and if we had an occasional snow, it snowed in the building. But we started building our first boat. That boat was 52 feet long. It took just over a year to build it. The name of that boat was Sensation; we launched it and it came out pretty good.
“As we finished that boat, another guy came along and said, ‘I’d love to have one of those boats.’ And we said, ‘When we’re not charter fishing, we’ll build a boat for you.’ So a second boat was built and it also came out pretty good. By the time we finished that boat, we had sold boats three and four, and then, very quickly, five, and six, and seven. We soon had an opportunity to move to another location, and when we got up to boat number twelve, it occurred to me that we had accidentally put ourselves in business and the charter fishing had to go by the wayside. And every day, since then, we’ve been coming in and building very high-end, custom, sport fishing boats.”
BVM: Why is the company called Jarrett Bay Boatworks?
Ramsey: The Company’s name came from that first body of water that first building was on; it was called Jarrett Bay. When we started building that first boat, we were trying to buy some materials. A company said if we don’t have a company name, we can’t sell to you. And I was gazing out the back doors of that old tin shed and saw that body of water and I said, ‘Fine. If you’ve got to have a name for our company, our company is Jarrett Bay Boatworks.’ And it stuck.”
BVM: Obviously, you’re not still working out of that old shed, right?
Ramsey: “We moved from that location to Marshallberg, North Carolina. We quickly outgrew it and we developed the Jarrett Bay Marine Industrial Park, where we are today. We developed a 175-acre site. Our company operates on about 45 acres of that in a 135,000-square-foot building. A good portion of the rest of the park, we sold off to other vendors. The idea we had for this park was for us to become an anchor tenant and allow other industries to come in that were complementary; industries that might do marine electronics, or soft goods, rebuild engines, work on transmissions. The idea behind that was if you, as a boater, come to our park, you could talk to a single service manager, whether you wanted to rebuild your engine or repaint your boat, put a new top on, get new electronics, or just have routine maintenance done. The park has been a real success and many people throughout the country have tried to duplicate what we’ve managed to do here. We’ve been here 20 years, now, and we’ve seen exponential growth, throughout; we currently operate with about 175 employees.”
BVM: What characteristics differentiate a Jarrett Bay boat from boats built by other companies?
Ramsey: “A lot of boats are built on a production line. And while they’re very nice boats, you, as a customer can’t say, ‘I’d really like to move the galley over here’ or, ‘I’d really like to add two refrigerators.’ While they do some customizing, it’s very limited. What we’re offering is your ability to customize. We manufacture every door jamb, every drawer, every cabinet, every sofa; any portion of that boat that is built is manufactured onsite, and the components are installed here. It’s all put together by our craftsmen.
“We’re also offering the opportunity to use high-tech materials that are considerably lighter than those that are built on a production line. Being lighter helps our boats have increased speed, more fuel efficiency, and even the possibility of a smaller engine to go the same speed. The thing that really sets us aside from some of our competitors is the amount of engineering we do on each and every boat to ensure a boat’s performance before we ever start it. We know within small percentages how fast the boat will go, how it’s going to float; we know its fuel range.
“So, we manufacture extremely high-end, all-custom boats for very discriminating customers. Most of our customers have owned numerous boats and they’re working towards building something that suits the way they fish or their specific needs. It’s like watching a family going from a starter house, to a medium-grade house, and finally graduating to a complete custom house that’s built around the way they live.
BVM: A lot of boat companies suffered during the Great Recession. How did Jarrett Bay survive those times?
Ramsey: “During the economic downturn there was great stress on our industry. We’ve been around long enough that we’ve seen a number of recessions. This last recession, of course, was much deeper and lasted longer than anyone expected. Unfortunately for us, at the point that it struck, most of our customer base were folks that were developers and house builders, and they were the hardest hit. If we had simply been dependent on new boat building, it would have been extremely difficult for us to survive.
“But our company is pretty diverse, as boating goes. We do manufacture sport fishing boats, but we’re also in the boat repair business; we service about a thousand boats a year and that has really helped us get through some difficult times. In the worst of the recession, people weren’t doing much maintenance on their boats, but they were doing some. Our repair yard is capable of working on boats from 20 feet to 140 feet in length, and our buildings allow us to put boats as large as 140 feet, inside, which gives us a very unique capability, particularly in the mid-Atlantic. That ability to feed on the others in the industrial park, to work back and forth with customers, and to offer any number of types of repairs to their boats, certainly helped push us through that difficult time.
“One other thing is we are also partners in a company called Blue Water Yacht Sales. We own half of that company. That company’s got nine offices across the mid-Atlantic, and we represent about nine high-quality manufacturers, as well as brokers, and we sell about 400 boats a year. So, between the new boat building, the boat repair work, and our sales organization, we offer every step in the boating industry – buying, selling, repairing, and manufacturing.”
BVM: Now that the good times have returned, is there anything new on your company’s agenda?
Ramsey: “One thing on the front burner is we are going to launch a 90-foot boat, this fall, that we’ve been working on for about three years. Her name is Jaruco. She’s being built for a gentleman from Massachusetts. This 90-footer is a boat that we believe is the most technologically advanced sport fishing boat ever built. Almost every component of the boat is closed cell foam and carbon fiber in order to reduce weight, right on down to having carbon fiber outriggers, and fishing chairs, and helm chairs, and hatches.
“This boat has had significant amounts of testing done to the hull before it was built and even during the process, and it’s had more engineering than any custom sport fishing boat ever built. We’ve had our three in-house engineers and architects working on it almost full-time; there’s been an outside propulsion engineer, an outside weights engineer, and an outside materials engineer working on it, as well. This boat will be an ABS (American Bureau of Shipping)-certified boat, one of, if not the only sport fishing boat that has gone down that route. And she will have some technology that has never been done before by any of our competition in this particular segment of the market. It’s really been an amazing journey to try and deliver the most advanced fishing boat ever.”
BVM: What are some of your company’s long-term priorities?
Ramsey: “Certainly, one of our goals is to continue to improve our boats. I’ve said for decades, if we don’t improve every day, then we’re not doing our job as a company. So, we want to look towards methods, look towards materials, and ensure that each boat we build is better than the last. We also want to ensure that we are continuing to deliver boats that will accomplish the owners’ needs and desires in a way that is comfortable and safe.
We want to continue to diversify, find ways to increase efficiency in the boats we build. We are constantly improving our facilities, constantly improving our tooling to do just that. And as a closely-held company, we want to ensure that we are providing for the legacy of the company. And as people retire, we have folks coming in behind them who will be the leaders of the future.”
BVM: What else would you like our readers to know about Jarrett Boat Works?
Ramsey: “We tell people all the time that we manufacture boats for them, but the boats always ‘belong’ to the people who build them, here. And each person we work for really does become a part of our family. It’s a cliché that’s used too often over the last few years, but we have felt that way since we started. You’re not just another number, here. We care about you and your family and how you use your boat.
“And while we remain very true to tradition, we’re always pushing the envelope and we’re always pushing the edge to ensure that we’re on the forefront of technology. We don’t want to forget where we came from, but we also don’t want to be left behind. So, each and every boat that we deliver, or each repair job that we do, is using the very best materials and the very best methods available to ensure that our boats are going to retain value, and the repair work is going to be as good as the original or better.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Jarrett Bay Boatworks
WHAT: A premier builder of custom sport fishing boats
WHERE: Beaufort, North Carolina