ABBRA – American Boat Builders & Repairers Association

ABBRA Presents Annual Awards and Names Thunderbolt Marine Boatyard of the Year

ABBRA Names Thunderbolt Marine of Savannah, GA Boatyard of the Year
Presents Awards to Industry Leaders in Massachusetts and Rhode Island

Fort Lauderdale, FL – January 27, 2014 – The 2014 Boatyard of the Year Award was awarded to Thunderbolt Marine of Savannah, Georgia at the American Boat Builders & Repairers Association (ABBRA) Boatyard Business Conference Awards Dinner held in Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida from January 22nd – 24th. Given to a service or repair facility that demonstrates excellence in all facets of their company through commitment to customer service, quality management, stewardship in environmental and safety issues, and positive vendor and employee relations, this award is one of ABBRA’s most prestigious Awards of Excellence.

Thunderbolt Marine is a full service repair facility that serves yachts up to 200 ft. with hauling capabilities of 160 tons by travel lift and 1,150 by syncrolift. It is located 12 miles from the sea buoy on the Wilmington River, just outside the historic City of Savannah, Georgia.  Ralph Heil is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Thunderbolt Marine whose hands-on management style has taken Thunderbolt Marine into the forefront of the marine repair and refit industry. Since the yard’s return to yacht repair in 2003, he has focused on building a successful team, upgrading facilities, and developing both local and international clientele. According to Heil, “At Thunderbolt we are extremely conscious that before committing to work, we need to be certain that goals expressed in the scope of our work orders are achievable both in terms of world class execution and quality and then meet or exceed the customers’ expectations. The key issue in a resource organization is to ensure that quality expertise, labor, materials, tools and equipment are in place before undertaking the work.  Another aspect of Thunderbolt’s resource driven approach to repair is recognizing the importance of calculating the costs for a given scope of work before making commitments and establishing expectations, then ethically executing a clear and thoroughly documented agreement with professional pride and integrity leading to satisfied repeat clientele.” Heil acknowledged the commitment of his team at Thunderbolt Marine, thanking them and his family for their tremendous support and roles in making the vision a reality.

Thunderbolt Marine joins a group of several other distinguished boatyards such as Front Street Shipyard in Maine, Jarrett Bay Boatyard in North Carolina, Newport Shipyard in Rhode Island, and Keefe Kaplan Maritime in California that are recipients of the ABBRA Boatyard of the Year honor.

Award of Excellence for Customer Care

The Award of Excellence for Customer Care was presented to Saltworks Marine, a full service boatyard in Marion Massachusetts. In making the presentation ABBRA Awards Committee Chair and Past President Pam Lendzion said, “Founder and owner of Saltworks Marine, Dan Crete, has been working in the boatyard industry for 22 years and is well established in the Marion marketplace. Saltworks is a new, family oriented boatyard focused on providing a quality service for a fair price. In his new business Dan is hands on using all the skills he has developed working in the Boatyard industry. It’s important to Dan that his customers know he has their best interest at heart, and, he is happy with his work when he exceeds his customers’ expectations; and word has it, that this happens on a regular basis.” She added, “Dan’s business is growing organically. He says the governor for the growth of his business is quality. He will not take on more work than he can do well and building trusting relationships with his customers is a top priority. Communication and education help build strong relationships with Saltwater Marine’s customers, and, when it’s time to pay, the relationship between boat owner and boatyard is honored.  After he diagnoses a problem, he makes sure the customer understands the work that he recommends. He includes his clients in the repair process if they want to know more and offers extensive training to yacht owners from systems education to boat handling.”

 Excellence in Environmental Practices
The Award for Excellence in Environmental Practices is given to a boatyard or repair facility that focuses on environmental stewardship. This year’s award is given to Conanicut Marine in Jamestown, Rhode Island which recently completed installation of a new solar photovoltaic system, making it the largest renewable-energy facility to be developed in Rhode Island’s marine trades to date. The system will not only provide 100% solar power to the 10-acre Taylor Point yard, but will also provide power to the National Grid under the Rhode Island Distributed Generation Program. The yard uses only 15% of the energy being produced and 85% is sold back to the power company. Additionally, for the past 30 years, the Conanicut facility has been equipped with two cisterns with a combined 13,000 gallon capacity to hold water collected from his facility’s roof. Rain water is the main source of all non-potable water used on-site. The facility also uses a very efficient reclamation system for boat wash water, has an indoor wash pad and contained bays preventing contaminants from staying in the environment.

Award of Excellence for Commitment to Training 

This Award is given to the boat builder, repair business, or individual that has demonstrated a significant commitment to training and professional development in the recreational marine industry. Wendy Mackie, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA) is awarded the Award of Excellence for Commitment to Training for her efforts which have spanned from her previous role as the Regional Director of My Turn, an organization focused on developing youth from 14-21 years old and placing them in jobs, to her current efforts in her role as Executive Director of RIMTA. Pam Lendzion in her awards’ presentation said, “Wendy is an expert at identifying and accessing the funding streams available for job development. She uses this expertise for the benefit of the marine industry in Rhode Island by acquiring training grants to develop career awareness and job development training programs designed to attract young people to our industry. In 2013 RIMTA developed and implemented a pre-apprenticeship program that was designed to provide the participants a clear-eyed view of the skills set needed for the jobs available in the boatbuilding, service, and repair industry. They were able to recruit, train, and place eight program participants in jobs with Rhode Island marine businesses.  Wendy, with the support of her team at the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association, is a champion of the marine industry and her work not only benefits Rhode Island but the Industry nationally.”