Wood-built boats ruled the waves in Puerto Rico and the wider Caribbean back in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. It took the vision of one man, Mario Castro, a dealer for Cummins-brand engines, to foresee the next trend on the water would be fiberglass boats. Today, grandson Wally Castro owns and operates the third generation of the family boating business. Castro, at his namesake Wally Castro Marine located at Marina Puerto Del Rey in Fajardo, has put his signature stamp on the yacht sales and service company and wider marine industry, as did his father, Wally Castro Sr., before him. In doing so, the Castro family have long promoted boating in Puerto Rico and surrounding U.S. and British Virgin Islands.
“My grandfather liked to have the latest and he was the first in Puerto Rico to bring in a fiberglass boat. No one wanted to buy the boat because they thought that since it was plastic it would break and sink. He ended up modifying it by putting jet engines on the back and a hose with nozzle on the front and finally sold it to the fire department,” Castro explains.
My vision is to give the best service possible to keep families in boating.
Castro’s father continued the fiberglass trend by taking on a line of ‘wiener’ boats. Narrow and long, like the nickname for the dachshund breed of dog of the same build, the craft were fitted internally with foam to make them unsinkable. Castro was a young boy at the time and remembers a promotion for the boat that showed it full of water, yet still floating. From there, the then named Industrial Marine Services company, located in Santurce with its small showroom at the Cangrejos Yacht Club, added brands such as Sea Ray, Hydra Sports and Bertram.
“The brand that turned us around was the Phoenix Marine 29. It was the first twin diesel, with cabin room for six adults, a generator and air-conditioning. That’s the boat young professionals would buy and take their families out for the weekend. My father would get 12 to 14 boats together and everyone would go to Culebra. That’s how the first culture of rafting up started,” says Castro.
It was his father that schooled Castro in the boating business.
“I always joke that I never played basketball in school, instead I played with tools in the marina. After school, I’d work with my father on the warranties and servicing. He was my best teacher. Later, I started my own company, a brokerage, within his company. I really enjoyed servicing the used boats and then selling them,” he says.
Castro’s father passed away in 2005. After that, he took his company to Fajardo and used his inherited foresight to grow the business.
“I saw a change in the industry. People wanted high end boats, so we became dealers for quality brands and brands that represented a wide variety of what people enjoy on the water. For example, Boston Whalers are ideal for cruising and entertaining. Regulator and Wellcraft outboards and Jarrett Bay and Bertram inboards for sports fishing. Nor-Tech offers speed and Riviera are luxury motor yachts. We are also dealers for Belize, SeaForce IX and Blackfin,” says Castro.
There is no better way to spend family time than on a boat. If you are at a hotel, it’s easy for each family member to go in different directions. But on a boat, you can spend a lot of quality time together
The most recent highlights in Castro’s career is his company being named the No. 1 Boston Whaler dealer in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2017, a distinction he’s earned six other times in the past decade and achieving the world’s first sale of Boston Whaler’s 420 Outrage in 2015.
Castro’s professional and personal contributions span beyond the showroom and service center. He is the founder of Christmas in July, an event that saw 229 boats rendezvous in Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda, in the British Virgin Islands. He took a page out of his father’s pioneering raft up days to create a week-long event that filled marinas, restaurants and shops as well as fulfilled what he loves best about boating.
“There is no better way to spend family time than on a boat. If you are at a hotel, it’s easy for each family member to go in different directions. But on a boat, you can spend a lot of quality time together,” he says.
Family is definitely important to Castro. His two oldest daughters now also working in the family business, along with 19 other employees who collectively make the company full service from new sales to resales, warranties and servicing. Wally Castro Marine is a certified Raymarine and Garmin dealer as well as service dealer for Mercury and Suzuki outboard engines.
Castro is also building for the future – literally. The company broke ground on a new showroom and office complex in Puerto del Rey in early 2018. This building, expected to open in February or March, will put the entire business under one roof and will make it the largest facility of its kind in Puerto Rico.
“Technology is the next big trend in the marine industry,” Castro says. “We will soon offer a phone app that connects directly to our service department. After all, my vision is to give the best service possible to keep families in boating.”