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Industry Updates on COVID-19 Outbreak

Updates from marine industry executives in the midst of COVID-19

April 20, 2020
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Collage of marine industry professionals
A cross-section of the marine industry gives their thoughts on their businesses as well as the recovery following the coronavirus pandemic. Marlin Magazine

Randy Ramsey, Jarrett Bay Boatworks

Randy Ramsey, Jarrett Bay Boatworks
Randy Ramsey, Jarrett Bay Boatworks Courtesy Jarrett Bay Boatworks

Obviously, our primary concern right now is for the health and safety of our team, our customers and their families, while we do our part to stop the spread. Currently, we are still under normal operations at Jarrett Bay, but we have taken many additional precautions to reduce the possibility of any in our midst becoming infected. Like most companies, we have mandated additional personal protection gear, continually disinfect our buildings, tools, doors and work spaces throughout the day, and are limiting the number of people in spaces. We have also asked vendors and visitors to communicate by phone and email when possible.

This is an issue that will have an effect on the entire industry, but this isn’t the first major challenge we have faced. We have seen some reluctance from customers moving forward on new projects, but I think that is a natural reaction when we face uncertainty. We have committed to our employees that we will help them in any way we can and we have no plans for reductions in our workforce. As this passes, I am confident people will be anxious to get back to the life they enjoy, which largely includes boating and fishing.

The boating industry is strong and we will weather COVID-19. I hope we can all look at this as an opportunity to learn and improve our industry’s preparedness for the unexpected, as well as make improvements for the personal well being of ourselves and all those we care for. —Randy Ramsey

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William Royster, Los Sueños Resort and Marina

William Royster, Los Sueños Resort and Marina
William Royster, Los Sueños Resort and Marina Courtesy Los Sueños Resort and Marina

It was a sad time for us here because the third leg of our Signature Triple Crown would have finished last weekend. Many of you are likely already aware that we have overlaid the third leg of 2020 Triple Crown on the third leg of the 2021 Triple Crown, so next year’s series will be a very exciting one.

Under the circumstances, we are doing ok. We are following the Costa Rican and US directions on how to stay safe and help eliminate the spread of this terrible virus. At this time, we are keeping only two of our restaurants open since we still have hundreds of homeowners here waiting this out in their homes and condominiums. If you have to be quarantined, it’s best to spend your time in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I believe Costa Rica will suffer through 2020 and will rebound in early 2021 because of the country’s natural beauty and wonderful people.

We wish our condolences to everyone that has lost someone at this terrible time and hope for a rapid recovery in the very near future. —Bill Royster

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John Bayliss, Bayliss Boatworks

John Bayliss, Bayliss Boatworks
John Bayliss, Bayliss Boatworks Courtesy Bayliss Boatworks

I am happy to report that Bayliss Boatworks is alive and well, and as of this week, we have not yet experienced any serious interruptions to our work schedule. We have a very like-minded group of employees, and we have all remained very determined and committed to our projects and their timelines. It has truly been a blessing to enter the facility each day and just go to work doing what we love. We have a great group of men and women working together, so it’s been a great diversion from some of the negativity out there. Of course , we are adhering to the recommendations of our government officials by scheduling and distancing various crews a little differently , but that has been pretty easy.

I think we are all being reminded again just how special this vocation really is, and how lucky we are to be building and servicing these awesome machines. And I think those of us (especially our customers) who are fortunate enough to fish these boats around the world are REALLY developing a new appreciation for the next billfish they see in their spread! It is sad to see what has happened around the world to so many people, but from our point of view we will remain strong and more committed then ever to preserving all aspects of the sport we love. —John Bayliss

Jeffrey Lobo, LPG Apparel Co; Lobo Lures

Jeffrey Lobo, LPG Apparel Co; Lobo Lures
Jeffrey Lobo, LPG Apparel Co; Lobo Lures Courtesy LPG Apparel Co.

Let’s face reality: This disease is serious, and it is going to utterly impact the health of the fishing industries economy. To give you a brief synopsis, this disease appears to have originated from a food market in Wuhan, China. It is believed that bats could potentially be the culprit of the disease. This is the point at which the coronavirus jumped species. From here the disease rapidly spread through China and ultimately jumped continent after continent with no prejudice for who it affected. As the disease spread the media caused panic here in the US, and ultimately Wall Street was affected by the COVID-19 in a way no one could have anticipated. We have been riding a rollercoaster ride of massive downs and small ups. With a combination of state closures and mandatory business closures we are seeing a significant impact on the economy.

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With all this we’re sure to see it affect the fishing industry as generally we are heavily subsidized by disposable income. Many of the big-game fishermen are small business owners from restaurants to construction. Many of these industries will be heavily impacted financially by this pandemic. Fishermen, by nature are patriotic and humble, often putting others before themselves. Many of these business owners will do all they can to keep their employees and their families supported through the hard times, even when it means the expense of their own livelihood.

Now as we look into 2020 and this pandemic, we see the urgency to yet again evolve. Several weeks back it was as though someone flicked a switch on our business. Almost instantaneously we gradually lost sales and saw the economic pressures from this disease. It wasn’t only affecting the health of people, but it was taking a mental toll on the whole population, creating a widespread panic that affected the economy. We’re going to have a long road to recovery, but we’re Americans and we serve the greatest and most patriotic industry out there. We feel that as a community we will get through this hardship and come out stronger as we always have. —Jeffrey Lobo

Will Drost, Maverick Sportfishing, Los Sueños, Costa Rica

Will Drost, Maverick Sportfishing, Los Sueños, Costa Rica
Will Drost, Maverick Sportfishing, Los Sueños, Costa Rica Courtesy Maverick Sprotfishing

First and foremost, we wish good health and safety to all our clients, our friends in the industry, and our employees. As I write this, I am here on the Louisiana coast, sort of feeling like I’m either riding out a Cat 5 hurricane that never makes landfall or caught in a perpetual eye wall. Yes, this pandemic has crushed tourism for us in the near term, but we want our customers to know we will be here when this is over. We ask them to please consider our hard working crews and their dedication to the sport of catch and release billfishing. We are promoting a “postpone, don’t cancel” campaign in our emails and social media platforms.

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Operationally, our employees are working as if it were our maintenance season, which is generally around November. Maintaining safe social distancing and cleanliness, our crews are performing focused maintenance on all our equipment and our Fly Boat fleet. Preparing for a busy season that would normally be peaking now is not an easy thing to do, but we continue to do so.

Like the catastrophic damage of a hurricane, here in Louisiana we also faced the BP oil spill disaster, which claimed lives and crippled fishing-related tourism. What seemed to me at the time like an insurmountable disaster, we were able to rise from it with new perspective and strength. I learned a great deal from that experience and this will be our resolve moving forward for our operation in Los Sueños Resort and Marina in Costa Rica.

The fishing and boating industry has faced many hurdles but as a group we are strong and resilient. Like the cleanup after a storm or a spill, my focus (and the focus of our captains, crews, and owners) is to be on the front lines of recovery. Let’s go fishing! —Will Drost

Chip King, Shearline Boatworks

Chip King, Shearline Boatworks
Chip King, Shearline Boatworks Courtesy Shearline Boatworks

COVID-19 is having a tremendous impact on all of us, both personally and professionally. During these difficult times, an open line of communication between all of us is paramount in coming out stronger on the other side. So, we thought we’d share some things that we have going on here at Shearline in order to keep that communication open.

First, we are still working! Our industry falls under the Essential Business category of North Carolina Governor Cooper’s executive order, allowing us to continue to come to work every day. However, we take the responsibility of maintaining our crew’s safety seriously, so we have made some adjustments to our operation that we feel are necessary to keep us safe during these difficult times.

As we continue work on current projects, we are experiencing some disruption in supplies. Several of our vendors have understandably shut down their operations for various periods of time. While we are still able to make progress on most of our projects, please be aware that this list of vendor closings is growing every day and that this will certainly impact our lead times and scheduling. They are our partners in building the best boats possible, and we are supporting those vendors the best that we can.

Our newest arm, Shearline Brokerage, has modified strategies to help interested buyers check out our inventory of boats for sale. We are offering virtual tours via FaceTime, as well as answering specific questions over the phone and email. Interested buyers can get all of the information they would in person, as well as a detailed tour, from the comfort of their home. For folks interested in selling their boat, we are completing consultations digitally, as well. We would be happy to walk you through the process of listing your boat with Shearline over the phone or on a Zoom conference call.

We are grateful that we are able to continue doing what we love, even if we have to make some adjustments to our operations. We will keep you updated with any additional adjustments we deem necessary as we move forward. We look forward to smoother waters ahead and, as always, we thank you for your continued support. —Chip King

Sam Peters, Release Marine

Sam Peters, Release Marine
Sam Peters, Release Marine Courtesy Release Marine

On March 26, Release Marine and Marine Tables Inc. temporarily suspended our production and operations. Our hope is that we can resume on April 6th under the extreme safety precautions we had been taking, but with the current state of COVID-19 in our region, this is still to be determined. Like many companies in our industry and around our country, we had seen a steady growth in business over the last few years as the US economy had continued to grow. Once we’re allowed to get back to work, we have a lot of orders in process and on the schedule that need completion, and we’re going to do everything possible to try and stay on track for our customers.

We are also optimistic that once this pandemic is behind us, the stimulus plans will be enough to bolster the economy so our industry and our country can continue to prosper. Realistically, there are still a lot of unknowns ahead for all of us. All we can do is take it a day and a week at a time and adjust accordingly as this crisis continues to evolve. Release Marine is a small business with a family mentality, and everyone here is vested in making sure we come through this as strong as we were beforehand. Stay safe, everyone. —Sam Peters

Ellen Peel, The Billfish Foundation

Ellen Peel, The Billfish Foundation
Ellen Peel, The Billfish Foundation Courtesy The Billfish Foundation

During the present Covid-19 pandemic, the TBF staff is working from individual employee’s homes to minimize health risks to all while keeping the mission moving forward. Office calls, email and social media postings are checked regularly.

We fear, not a single entity in our sport fishing and boating community will be untouched, making it very important to maintain contact and be available to help one another however possible. Once this crisis passes, our appreciation for what was normal will be greatly enhanced and then with new knowledge from the experience, we can improve our industry’s ability to deal with future crisis, including evaluating and implementing measures to help the most vulnerable. —Ellen Peel

Pat Healey, Viking Yacht Company

Pat Healey, Viking Yacht Company
Pat Healey, Viking Yacht Company Courtesy Viking Yacht Company

We’ve faced many tough times in our 56-year history, and our previous experiences have taught us lessons that will help us through this period. Dealing with the coronavirus has been a unique challenge, and one that developed quickly and gave us little time to prepare. Being in the state of New Jersey, we’ve been extremely cautious to protect our boatbuilders. Our decision to temporarily suspend operations in New Gretna and Mullica was done in the best interest of the entire Viking family: our workers, our customers, our dealers and our vendors. The key to weathering these storms is to keep innovating. New product is the lifeline to future business, and that’s why it has been important for us to continue running our 5-axis profiler during the interruption of production.

Now more than ever, it’s important to let our customers know we appreciate their patience and understanding, and we will come back stronger. Looking ahead, we know we have to adapt and stay flexible because circumstances are changing day by day. When we do beat this thing, we’re going to celebrate our return to the boating and fishing lifestyle by taking our show on the road. We plan to work with our dealers and hold regional events this summer to kick off the boating season in Florida, the mid-Atlantic, New England, the Great Lakes and other areas. The message is simple: Let’s all come together and get back to doing what we love. —Pat Healey

Julia Milbert, MAN Engines

Julia Milbert, MAN Engines
Julia Milbert, MAN Engines Courtesy MAN Engines

MAN Engines is part of the solution to secure the essential industries. Not only do we power sport-fishing boats and yachts, but we also power hundreds of commercial fishing vessels, tractors and harvesters that are essential now more than ever. In addition to driving vehicles and vessels, our engines also power generators for hospitals, greenhouses and much more. Our operations must keep running and therefore, MAN workshops, the central warehouse and spare parts warehouse will all remain open and fully operational (in accordance to guidelines set forth by local authorities). We stay close to the customer—at a healthy distance.

Our employees are continuously informed and trained on how to protect the health of themselves and our customers during ongoing operations. Because we are a technology-driven company, our team was previously equipped with cloud-based applications. This allowed for a seamless transition as our team shifted to work remotely.

MAN Engines is using this time to continue work with ongoing projects and take on new projects, and we’re receiving positive feedback from our customers, as well. Our next big, local event on the pleasure craft side is the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (Oct. 28th – Nov. 1st), where we plan to introduce new solutions how to keep things moving. That’s where our focus lies right now. —Julia Milbert

Jennifer McQuilken, Cummins Marine

Jennifer McQuilken, Cummins Marine
Jennifer McQuilken, Cummins Marine Courtesy Cummins Marine

Since early January, when we learned about the coronavirus, we’ve had a global cross-functional and cross-business team evaluating the impact of the virus on our employees, our operations and our communities. Over the past few months, this has not stopped and we continue to work on this every day.

Our priority during the COVID-19 pandemic is to keep our people safe and our manufacturing, warehousing, tech center and service sites open to provide critical support to our customers and communities around the world. As we announced earlier this month, we asked our employees who can work from home to do so. Reducing the number of people in our facilities enables the company to focus its safety efforts at the facilities where employees must be on site to perform their jobs.

Cummins and our suppliers contribute to protecting our critical industrial sectors and emergency response operations. The products and services we provide are covered as critical manufacturing, and essential operations defined by the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Critical Infrastructure Sector guidelines.

For example, on the rivers of the U.S., there are more than 1,000 boats powered by Cummins working overtime to deliver critical supplies and resources to communities from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes. Our engine platforms also support firetrucks and ambulances responding to emergencies. We provide stand-by and commercial generators keeping healthcare and other critical companies running during times of increased capacity. We provide back-up power for cargo ships keeping the supply chain moving for commodities and supplies many of us take for granted, and we power farm equipment needed to keep our grocery stores stocked as well as important mining and construction equipment.

Our service workshops around the country also ensure that these products continue to work when they are needed most. While our service technicians would be able to continue to do this work, we must also have access to parts and tools necessary for completing this work and the warehouses that supply these parts must also remain open. We are in a strong financial position, and we deal with a variety of headwinds and cyclical markets routinely, and we have always taken actions to overcome these and emerge stronger as a company and we will do the same during this challenge. — Jennifer McQuilken

Carmine Galati, Galati Yacht Sales

Carmine Galati, Galati Yacht Sales.
Carmine Galati, Galati Yacht Sales. Courtesy Galati Yacht Sales

I’d like to begin by sending my best wishes to all our customers, employees, industry associates, and their families that everyone is and remains in good health. As Galati Sales began to celebrate our 50th anniversary in the marine industry this year, the entire world was hit with a storm that forced its way upon our livelihoods, our lifestyle, and most importantly, our health. Unfortunately, this pandemic will in some way affect everyone on our beautiful planet. Though we will continue to go above and beyond in abiding all state, federal, and international mandates and CDC guidelines, we will not be sitting idly by.

This challenge, like many before it, will eventually pass. It is Team Galati’s mission to continue to support and serve our customers, employees, and vendors to the best of our abilities. We will emerge a stronger, smarter, and overall improved company.

This virus is undoubtedly a terrible tragedy that will resonate with mankind long into the future.

Though these current circumstances are distressing, they do present an opportunity to spend time with our families and loved ones. We hope everyone will take this time to focus on and enjoy all the things in life that matters most. Let’s all embrace this opportunity to accomplish things we could not do before, and make a conscious effort to be a better neighbors and citizens. The challenges of this universal pandemic will bring us together, and together we will overcome.

One of my favorite quotes is, “We can’t change the direction of the wind, but we can adjust our sails to always reach our destination,” —from Cora Hatch in 1859—seems to be quite fitting for this time. We at Galati Yacht Sales are focused and committed to adapt to achieve our goals. Take care and stay well. —Carmine Galati

Heather Maxwell, Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament, Manteo, North Carolina

Heather Maxwell, Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament, Manteo, North Carolina
Heather Maxwell, Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament, Manteo, North Carolina Courtesy Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament

While this is such a difficult time for everyone, at Pirate’s Cove we truly feel blessed that Tournament Week 2020 is still a few months away. Today, we are working on additional benefits to highlight our sponsors—we feel that offering even more focused exposure this year to lift up our industry partners is paramount to all of our success. Social distancing at our dinners and parties may be challenging but the important things like family, friends and fresh softshell crabs are easy. The staff, board of directors and volunteers at PCBT send our prayers out each day and while we wait for this crisis to end we will keep an eye on the Gulf Stream: the spring yellowfin run provides the best forecast for our summer billfish bite. Hope to see you on the docks this summer! —Heather Maxwell

Michael Rybovich, Michael Rybovich & Sons

Michael Rybovich, Michael Rybovich & Sons
Michael Rybovich, Michael Rybovich & Sons Courtesy Michael Rybovich & Sons

We run a crew of very talented, irreplaceable craftsmen here at our yard. Each of them has families—immediate and extended—that rely on them to remain healthy and focused on providing a good life for all. Our first priority is making sure our crew is safe, with all they need to get through these peculiar times. We are here to help not only our staff, but those in our community as well.

Thanks to Governor Desantis, we are grateful to be in full operation as an essential business. The crew is in good spirits and the service yard is busy with repairs, re-powers, and general maintenance. As one would expect, new construction inquiries have fallen off, reflecting the market contraction. We anticipate this to be temporary and look forward to a gradual return to the conditions in place before the virus scare. We are operating on that premise and believe the unique relationship between custom boat building and sport fishing is not going away.

As we weather this storm of uncertainty, our employees, customers, and boat crews at the yard are doing a remarkable job of maintaining safe common sense practices, a clear head, and a sense of humor, which is the best medicine on earth. The fish are fine. They’re still out there and they don’t care. And as far as we know, they don’t eat bats. —Michael Rybovich

John Fitzgerald, Saunders Yachtworks

John Fitzgerald, Saunders Yachtworks
John Fitzgerald, Saunders Yachtworks Courtesy Saunders Yachtworks

In the blink of an eye, the threat of COVID-19 has caused us to radically change so many of our company practices and policies to remain productive in our work. A month ago, we didn’t even know what social distancing or flattening the curve meant! In truth, I immediately missed the handshakes, pats on the back, and hugs that had been essential to my work life. Phone calls, emails, and texts are not the same as looking a customer in the eye and making a deal or congratulating an employee in person. On the other hand, how critical were all of those meetings? Saunders Yachtworks keeps responding to customers, turning out great repairs, completing services, and delivering refits… all without meetings!

Much of our company confidence is born from the survival of past crises. We know what it takes to get through hard times, even when it’s a situation we have never faced before. Throughout the last month, I have been so encouraged by being at work and with our team of employees. As a family-owned and operated business, we know our employees and understand the mental health challenges of living with uncertainty. We take comfort in and are grateful for the work. So many other industries were not able to keep working through this time, and we are very blessed to have the opportunity to support ourselves through our own efforts. There will certainly be tough times ahead with this disease and for the economy and we have to be honest about our fears.

At the same time, I am energized by gratefully living one day at a time! At Saunders Yachtworks, social distancing means that we have don’t have the luxury of casual, excessive words. So, we talk less, work more, and listen harder. We will continue to take care of our people and stay productive. We will follow the scientists and the faithful. We will embrace the challenges of the post-coronavirus world and know that our lives will actually never be the same. Together, we will watch out for each other, and we will be here for our customers so everyone can enjoy life on the water. —John Fitzgerald

Capt. David Salazar, Casa Vieja Lodge

Capt. David Salazar, Casa Vieja Lodge
Capt. David Salazar, Casa Vieja Lodge Courtesy Casa Vieja Lodge

I’ve been in Guatemala since the country shut down its borders on March 16. This was both admirable to take such a strong stance, and hurtful to businesses like ours, but currently with only triple-digit cases of COVID-19, they definitely did their part to protect their country and hopefully that means we’ll be back to business quicker than the neighboring countries.

Our entire Casa Vieja Lodge family has been affected, from the mates that cooked your fresh-caught mahi sandwich, to the captain that helped you release your first sailfish, to the woman that brought you fresh Guatemalan coffee in the morning, or the smiling driver that transported you safely to the lodge, and the many more staff that works tirelessly behind the scenes to make your five-star angling experience a dream come true. We fish for our livelihood, our sanity, and our passion. We fulfill people’s dream with a bend of a rod. We are all in this together.

We don’t know when we will fish again, but my wife and I promise you we will soon. We are all in this same boat drifting from one day to the next. If possible, secure your fall/winter bookings now, as this will be the best place for some post COVID “blues.” —Capt. David Salazar

Patience is a form of action, according to ACY’s Dominick LaCombe.

Dominick LaCombe; Dominick LaCombe, Jr., American Custom Yachts

Dominick LaCombe (left); Dominick LaCombe, Jr. (right), American Custom Yachts
Dominick LaCombe (left); Dominick LaCombe, Jr. (right), American Custom Yachts Courtesy American Custom Yachts

During these uncertain times, we are fortunate that American Custom Yachts has been able to remain open for business. Over the past 29 years, we have seen many ups and downs in our industry, and we know the tough times will only make us stronger. We are blessed that our team is able to keep busy with a number of ongoing service projects, large and small, as well as the construction of our new 68-foot Hard Top Express. As we find ourselves changing our course on a daily basis in order to protect our employees, vendors and clients, we must remember, “Patience is a form of action.” We believe this will be the ultimate lesson learned during this pandemic as it will be the key to our future success, not just as a company, but as an industry as a whole. We encourage you to join us in focusing on the many positives that have and will come from these trying times. We have already witnessed families and friends becoming closer (although not the literal sense) and the amount of gratitude and kindness we have personally witnessed is indescribable. Hope is the only thing stronger than fear, which means more to us today than ever before. —Dominick LaCombe, Dominick LaCombe, Jr.

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