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Portrait of a modern yard - Soundings Online

Portrait of a modern yard

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The name J&J Marine Fabricating was a bit deceiving. Although the Somerset, Mass., company’s roots were in fabrication, its operation quickly became far more encompassing than that name implied. So it’s now simply J&J Marine.

The name J&J Marine Fabricating was a bit deceiving. Although the Somerset, Mass., company’s roots were in fabrication, its operation quickly became far more encompassing than that name implied. So it’s now simply J&J Marine.

Read the other stories in this package: The full-service future   The yard that changed Newport

Name tweaking notwithstanding, company founders Jeff Botelho and Steve Anderson have assembled the components and environment to offer the refined level of service, maintenance and, of course, fabrication that many of today’s high-end boats — and clientele — require. Both Botelho and Anderson say they are committed to providing that high level of service and, as such, are in-house all day, every day.

In addition to commonly available services — haul and launch, commissioning and fitting out — J&J installs engines and running gear, fabricates custom towers, rebuilds interiors from structural woodwork to upholstery, performs extensive fiberglass repairs and modifications, and offers complete painting services for yachts to 90 feet in a state-of-the-art spray booth. It also provides mobile services for welding, mechanical and general yacht repair in order to service clients’ needs. J&J is an authorized service facility for Grand Banks, Cabo, Sabre, Hatteras and Back Cove (it also has about 75 slips).

Along with a brokerage business, the company also builds the handsome 24-foot Avid, a single-diesel New England bass boat and day cruiser; it is the sole importer of the upscale Osprey 37 Cabrio from Dutch builder Wajer; the 24-foot diesel Captain’s Launch, also from Wajer; and it recently became a dealer for Ocean Yachts.

And all this for a company that is about 5 years old and employs nearly 50 workers.

“We wanted to have every marine trade under one roof, so we wouldn’t have to outsource anything,” Anderson says. The reason? “Controlling the quality and the delivery time.” Scheduling, he notes, is key.

“The beauty of it is the customer deals with one person, the service coordinator,” says Anderson, 52, a longtime boater, and successful commercial and residential developer who came out of retirement to partner with Botelho in J&J Marine. “And if you’re not getting the right answers, the owners are on site.”

J&J is on the TauntonRiver, about 18 miles by water from Newport, R.I. The marine center sits on property rich in working history. The site was home to a shellac factory from the early 1900s to about 1995, when it closed. Before that, a foundry operated on the property and, even earlier, a shipbuilding operation. During the American Revolution it housed munitions.

Anderson says he used all the skills he learned renovating old homes and mills to turn the dilapidated shellac factory into the foundation for J&J Marine. “It was a mess — and the deeper you went, the worse it got,” Anderson recalls. But, he adds, “I was very comfortable with taking old buildings apart, so my comfort level was high.”

Botelho, who ran a successful tower and canvas business before he and Anderson became partners, wasn’t so sure at first. “My comment was, ‘I think you’ve lost your mind,’ ” says Botelho, who is 46. “But he said he could make it happen, and I trusted him.”

To renovate the property and build a large marine service complex, the pair had to weather law suits, jittery bankers, and the bureaucracy of the Army Corps of Engineers. All that took about three years. “It’s such an incredibly difficult task,” says Anderson.

Organization and efficiency are keys to the success of any business, and the J&J facility is set up with that in mind. Management meets daily with the various shop foremen to ensure that the entire staff is in sync and work is proceeding as scheduled.

The facility layout is designed to streamline the workflow while providing clean, comfortable conditions for employees. The J&J operation includes 90,000 square feet of indoor work space, and the main building has separately zoned air conditioning and heating to provide a consistent year-round work environment. The interior is painted bright white, and floors are clean and epoxy-painted. During a recent visit, I found most equipment was either new or recently refurbished, and maintained in good working order.

The building is divided into specific workshop areas without impeding the natural workflow. Each shop area is accessible through both internal and external doors, providing cross-ventilation and allowing workers ready access to other shops within the building, as well as to the boatyard. There is an abundance of light — natural and artificial — throughout the facility. The building is wired for computer networking, Internet access, security cameras and alarms. Plans are under way to allow clients to view job progress through a password-protected, secure online account, where they can receive updates and view pictorial progress.

The parts room and tool crib are well-organized and staffed by two full-time employees who provide parts, materials and tools to the technicians. This creates the basis for accurate billing to the customer, in addition to assuring that parts and materials inventories are constantly replenished. In fact, by the time you read this, bar coding and scanning capability will have been implemented, further enhancing the department’s capabilities.

The canvas/upholstery shop was the first to move into the renovated facility, in 2002. It consumes 5,000 square feet and is filled with low, expansive tables for pattern-making, cutting and assembly work. The tables are surrounded by wall-mounted racks of material and padding, with ceiling-mounted spools of binding and additional material. Below-table storage is organized down to the huge, custom roll-out drawers that contain the EZ2CY and Strataglass enclosure materials.

Tom Coutts manages the staff of five that is responsible for all of J&J’s tower seats, custom cushions and interior upholstery work, including matching draperies. There is a separate room where individual patterns are stored for each job. Creating and keeping patterns specific to jobs enables replacement of any panel without the need for the boat to be on-site.

The woodworking department’s four full-time employees are directed by Bob Cabral. They use shapers, surface planers, joiners, lathes and computer-driven sanders in the 7,500-square-foot shop to turn out everything from cabin soles to intricate interior trim. To match the shape of existing trim or create custom touches, Anderson relies on his experience in residential molding and trim reproduction to design many of the cutters, which are also fabricated in-house. The woodworking shop typically stocks more than 2,500 board feet of teak, ash, maple and mahogany. When Soundings visited, the shop was completing a T-top with inlaid teak bullnosing for a Roth Bilt boat.

Botelho’s tower and T-top designs are different than many others in that they are typically void of conflicting lines and display a clean look with an almost seamless flow. The tower fabrication shop is set up to efficiently turn his designs into quality products that grace more than 100 Cabos the world over. You’ll also see J&J towers on Regulator, Hatteras and Duffy boats, to name a few, and Botelho designed and fabricated the T-top for the new 25-foot Hunt center console.

T-tops and towers are designed to include such accessories as outriggers, electronics and enclosures. Attention to detail in the fabrication process is evident in the cleanly radiused holes for wiring, and in the clean, constant weld beads. The tower fabrication shop employs six full-time workers and is equipped with several hydraulic benders for fabricating the aluminum Schedule 40 tubing. Among them is a Greenlee used for shaping and preset radiuses, and a Roll Bender used create the true arc at the top of the tower. A Hosfield bender is used for stainless steel tube bending. Miller heli-arc welders seem to be in every corner of the shop, along with band saws and sanders.

At the time of our visit, there was an aluminum tower under construction, a center console T-top in the design and early fabrication phase, a replacement bow rail and stanchion assembly just completed, and a substantial aluminum powerboat mast/arch with a full array of electronics mounts being completed. The 9,000-square-foot tower shop has 35-foot-tall ceilings that allow indoor tower and T-top installations.

Adjoining the tower shop is the fiberglass shop, which is devoted to the production of hardtops and other components. The highlight of this area is the Dustron dust control booth, which draws contaminated air through four banks of 24 filters, recirculating the filtered air out the front of the booth and directing dust, smoke and fumes back toward the filtering area. This was a busy place during our visit, with a hardtop being set up on the vacuum bag table, another partially completed unit having the edges shaped, and a third top having several electronics box modifications performed. All this work should have made for a very dusty and malodorous area, but that wasn’t the case thanks to the Dustron.

Again, keeping the environment clean and workers healthy and comfortable is an important part of the J&J business plan, according to Anderson. The latest mold being worked on was for the hardtop on a full tuna tower for a Cabo 52 Express. The mold measures more than 22 feet long and 17 feet wide, with the completed Cabo top measuring 2 inches thick.

Paint work became an issue for J&J. The company had installed a 40-foot-by-40-foot spray booth that was being used to paint the hardtops and fiberglass components for towers and T-tops. It also could be used to paint vessels smaller than 45 feet, but the demand for painting larger boats was increasing. In January 2006 J&J completed a 125,000-cubic-foot spray booth that can handle boats to 90 feet.

Temperature, humidity and airflow in the sealed spray booth are fully controllable through a computerized panel operated by the painters during the course of the job. Gas-fired heaters providing more than 6 million BTU can be used to quickly raise the booth temperature by as much as 80 degrees in one minute, while the extensive floor, wall and ceiling insulation helps maintain a working temperature of 100 degrees.

Airflow is controlled by 48-inch tubeaxial fans that can draw outside air into the booth at a rate of 120,000 CFM. Anderson explains that air can be drawn from either side of the larger building that houses the booth and other service bays, depending on the wind or dust conditions outside. The fresh air needs to be brought up to working temperature before it enters the booth, which the heaters are capable of accomplishing with an air flow of 60 CFM.

Positive pressure of 0.5 psi is maintained inside the booth when it is in operation, keeping outside contaminants from marring the finish being applied. The painters working inside the booth each have their own supplied-air respirator system, as well. There are more than 600 individual light bulbs within the spray booth, each behind sealed glass that is monitored for integrity to avoid risk of fire or explosion.

J&J integrates its own vessel transport company into the picture with a tractor, a Brownell 35-ton over-the-road hydraulic trailer, and a Waltron long-haul trailer that is adjustable from 47 to 53 feet. It can truly build, sell, service and transport yachts, all from under a single roof.

“There’s a lot of service work out there,” says Botelho. “People just want to be treated fairly.” For more information, go to www.jjmarinefabricating.com .