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When you think about custom sportboats and the builders, you’re most likely to conjure images of North Carolina’s Outer Banks or the east coast of Florida. Not often does a small community named Bear, Delaware, come to mind. Enter the Floyd family—they’ve been building boats under the F&S Boatworks banner there since 1996, starting with Jim Floyd at the helm. When it was time for Jim to wind down and tap a successor, he looked no further than his nephew, John Floyd. At the time, John was fresh out of the University of Delaware with undergraduate and master’s degrees in finance, but he did return to his true calling: boatbuilding.
Q: How did you go from a career in banking right into building boats?
A: I always knew this was what I wanted to do, but I also knew growing up around boatbuilding, that it wasn’t very well organized. Some of these boats were being built in a pole barn behind a guy’s house. It would be unrecognizable to people today who are used to going to our yards and seeing these well-oiled operations that we have. I wanted to learn how to run a business, I wanted to learn the ins and outs of finance, and I didn’t want to come into a situation where I was surprised by things. I just feel so much better prepared to negotiate these large contracts and figure out pricing schedules. These are multiyear projects with big budgets. It takes a lot of management skills just to run everything and handle the day-to-day operations. I don’t know what I would have done without that background because I use it every single day, whether it’s preparing my financial statements or figuring out payroll—it’s just that it’s so critical to a successful business.
Q: How did you get started in boatbuilding?
A: I had been working off and on part time since high school. My Uncle Jim wanted me to get a business background, but we also knew that eventually, the day was going to come when he was going to start planning his exit, and we wanted a nice transition. When I came on in 2014, it was full time. I went right on the floor, and all I did for the first four years was build hulls. After I did that, I started branching out and spending time with each of the departments. I worked with our carpentry crew putting in furniture, then with our mechanical team doing an engine room. My uncle is one of those guys who’s all about character building, so there was a good four years of nothing but block sanding, glassing and epoxy. I still don’t have the hair back on my legs because I would get so covered in epoxy in the summers that when you peeled it off, it was like getting waxed. But I don’t regret any of it. It was a great way to earn the respect of your team. They know that you’ve been there and done that with them. And it’s a way to learn the process because it has to be second nature to you. You have to understand each piece of the construction process, and if you haven’t done it with your own hands, you’re not going to understand it the way that the guys on the floor do.
Q: How did F&S end up in this little town in Delaware?
A: Well, this is where my uncle lived, and honestly, when he was first looking to open the business, he was looking right near the ocean, but Delaware does not have a lot of facilities. The ones that are near the coast are usually state-owned. Here on the canal, we had access to a marina that wanted him to move there. They had a travel lift that at the time could handle what we were building; we’ve since outgrown that. We also had access to some of the deepest water right here in front of the shop, which is always maintained and it’s easy to run in.
Q: How did your family get started in the sport-fishing business?
A: My father is the one who was the first in my family to become addicted to sport fishing. He and his buddy built a couple of Scarboroughs back in the late 1980s and early ’90s, including the first Sea Toy. That sparked this love in me and my uncle. My uncle is five years younger than my father, and then he started fishing after that. The next thing I knew, Jim had moved down to Hatteras Island full time and was running and mating on boats down there.
Q: What do you think is the biggest advancement in boatbuilding recently?
A: I would say it would have to be the introduction of CNC technology. When I say CNC, I mean the CNC milling machines that everyone’s familiar with, but also all of the laser machines that we use to do cutting and engraving. They’re based on CNC platforms as well. Technology has really changed the way we look at things, whether it’s just basic mold building and simple construction, or advanced shapes and techniques. We can do so much with that machine, and it’s so precise that it gives us not only the ability to make the most intricate and precise cuts, but it also allows us to replicate everything. Human beings are capable of amazing things, but we can’t touch that kind of precision.
Q: If you were in a roomful of high school students who wanted to build boats, what advice would you offer them?
A: I’d say to go get a job with one of the guys who are doing it right now because there are not that many who are, and even fewer are the true masters of the craft. Whether you’re talking about guys like Paul Spencer or John Bayliss or Michael Rybovich, to name just a few, those guys aren’t going to be around forever, and there’s only a handful of them to begin with, so if you want to build boats, I would say get there as soon as you can and just soak up everything they have to say.
Q: If you could jump on a plane to chase your dream fish, where—and what—would it be?
A: I’m going to have to say the Azores with Capt. Marty Bates. My No. 1 bucket-list item is a grander blue marlin, but if you’re footing the bill, I might just have to go chase a grander black off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Q: When you aren’t building boats, what else do you like to do?
A: I’m an avid duck hunter. I’m a big decoy collector and a decoy carver, and calling is another passion of mine. But just general waterfowl hunting—ducks and geese. I also enjoy training my wirehaired pointing griffon, Marlin. I love spending time with my wife, Katie, and my boys, Parker and Mason. My family is my true passion.