Jason Fletcher has always loved the sea. No wonder it’s become the lifeblood of his livelihood as founder and managing director of Grenada Marine.
“I remember sailing whenever I had a chance and I loved it!” Fletcher recalls. “I still get a sense of excitement whenever I am at sea. I hope I never lose this and that I am able to pass it on to my children.”
After completing school, Fletcher bought himself a small fishing boat and started fishing commercially. This led him to sell fish, which headed him into building and buying commercial fishing trawlers. Fletcher’s ‘Caribbean Seafoods Limited’, was based in the old Grenada Yacht Services (GYS), now Port Louis Marina in St. George’s. The GYS property was then in dilapidated condition, so Fletcher found himself selling fuel and offering general services to visiting yachts, all the while running his own fleet of fishing boats.
A few years later Fletcher attempted to purchase GYS, however the deal ultimately fell through. When that door closed, another opened when Fletcher’s good friend showed him a ten-acre parcel in the beautiful sheltered bay of St. David’s.
“I instantly had a vision of what would become Grenada Marine,” Fletcher explains. “Having already convinced my bankers of the viability of the yachting industry, they again had my back when I approached them with a plan to build a boatyard ‘in the bush’.”
Fletcher, along with close friends and family members George Radix, Stefan Fletcher and Patrick Brathwaite, started Grenada Marine in 1998. They hauled their first boat almost one year later in July of 1999. It was an opportune time to embark on such a venture. By the late 1990s, due to the trend of increased hurricanes in the northern Caribbean, insurance companies created an exclusion zone for yachts for storm season. Grenada was the first destination south of this zone and this proved instrumental in convincing Fletcher’s bankers and investors about the viability of the project. Today, there are approximately 600 to 800 pleasure craft in Grenadian waters at any given point in time and 95 percent of these are sailboats.
Over the past 14 years, Fletcher and his team have completed many interesting projects. For example, they have designed and fabricated custom transoms on a Brazapi 50, refitted and repainted two Spronk catamarans, and Awlgripped Swans, Hinckleys, Catanas, Outremers and most recently a Sunseeker 64. Most impressively, when Hurricane Ivan in 2004 toppled 32 boats out of the 200 that were in storage at the time, Fletcher and his team rebuilt 25 of them to the satisfaction of owners, insurance companies and in some cases manufacturers.
“Lately,” Fletcher says, “our focus has been on more accurate estimating and quoting, proper scheduling, supervision and project management from haul through to launch. One of our principles is that we stand behind our work; if a client is not happy we do what it takes to solve the problem and remedy the situation. Our endgame is to have a happy, satisfied customer; a well repaired, efficiently maintained boat, and fully paid projects that have returned the projected profit margin.”
In the future, Fletcher is hoping to build a small service marina, upgrade the restaurant and leisure facilities, and perhaps even put in a ‘customer club’ or accommodations with a pool area and deck to relax. Meanwhile, he and his team continue to build on their extensive sales dealerships and service agencies, such as Volvo Penta, Raymarine, Yanmar and Mastervolt.
What does Fletcher enjoy doing when he’s not working?
“Sailing and fishing,” he says. “I cherish the time that I am able sail in a few regattas or enter a few billfishing tournaments. Although I dream of it, I do not have much cruising experience. My boating has mainly been within Trinidad, Grenada and the Grenadines. I’d love to explore the wider Caribbean region and then one day perhaps even a circumnavigation – who knows!”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.