Photo courtesy of St. James Boatworks
Photo courtesy of St. James Boatworks

St. James Boatworks Brings New Meaning to the Fishing Life

There’s a proverb that aptly sums up the principle on which Jim Roberts, owner of St. James Boatworks in Miami, Florida, bases both his professional and his personal life. That is, ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’ Roberts’ parents gave him this gift of guidance and he gives it away today in how he treats his craftsman as well as in how he lives the quiet private side of his life helping those in need.

“I approached my father with the sincere desire to buy a boat when I was in 6th grade,” says Roberts, a Miami native. “My parents didn’t know much about boating. So, when they spotted me $1200 to purchase my first boat, a 20-foot open fisherman, and lent me an additional $800 for repairs, they teamed me up with a local ‘boat builder’ to teach me the ropes. What my parents, who hailed from the deep south of Mississippi, also provided me was the value of a strong work ethic and the knowledge that I could achieve anything if I embraced my dreams with passion and had the courage to get up after I fell with relentless determination and persistence. It was this same southern upbringing that taught me to treat others as I would like to be treated and to be the change I wanted to see in this world.”

Roberts and his more seasoned partner rebuilt this first boat, which entailed a complete reconstruction of the power head as well as minor glass and teak work, then sold it, paid back his parents, split the profits and purchased another broken beauty. The two had rehabbed and sold a dozen boats by the time Roberts graduated from high school.

“It was these same boats that took me to remote places throughout the Bahamas and the Caribbean where I witnessed an eccentric mélange of poverty and joy, beauty and brokenness, and in special places, fierce gratitude in the harshest of circumstances. Somewhere between the intersection of shanty towns and casinos, mega yachts and makeshift skiffs I felt right at home and had the desire to pour my life into the lives of the broken and broken hearted,” Roberts explains.

Photo courtesy of St. James Boatworks
Photo courtesy of St. James Boatworks

Roberts launched St. James Boatworks nine years ago out of his love for the ocean, his appreciation for the Carolina maritime design, and what he felt in his heart for the hurting. He is quick to tell about how his shallow draft vessels are steeped in the tradition and heritage of Carolina maritime design. Local lineages like the Merritts and Rybovitchs; the godfathers of Carolina boat design such as Warren O’Neal and Omie Tillet; current Carolina greats that are legends in their own rights such as Randy Ramsey, Paul Spencer, John Bayliss, and many others have all influenced Roberts’ work. He is passionate about what he feels as his obligation to carry on these builders’ legacies of relentless innovation in order to create game-fishing boats that transcend aesthetics and function to enhance the lives of their owners.

To this end he’ll be launching several exciting new models in the latter portion of this year and first quarter of 2016. Roberts is less likely to tell you about his charitable works in South Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. This is because it’s a private personal part of his character that plays on his talents as a builder but runs much deeper than his role as a businessman.

Several times throughout the year Roberts and his crew head down to the islands to help those in need. They assist a school in the Dominican Republic as well as several farms and coffee plantations that provide jobs for local farmers, harvesters and delivery drivers. They also have a water filtration company that provides clean water to remote areas plagued with dysentery and other water borne disease. Plus, they have a business accelerator program that teaches young men and women skill sets required for success in their own business aspirations.

Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime accurately describes what Roberts strives to accomplish. “In return,” he says, “more times than not, it is our hearts that are broken by the inexplicable joy and affection
we receive.”

For more information: www.stjamesboats.com

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