Made on Island
- November 30th, 2009
- in Yachting
Nautool – It’s a phrase I personally like to hear: "Made on Island." It’s becoming increasingly rare in an age of imports, and to have a business that developed and continues to grow strong on island is a mark of growth within the community. Nautool have managed just that, to grow and adapt with the economy and still have original ideas that emerge into handcrafted metal, an old skill from an older world.
1980 was a very significant year for BVI-based Mike Masters. It was the year the yacht trade boomed, and it was the year that Nautool Machine Ltd. was incorporated. Of course, the two are inextricably linked, and Nautool has since seen its skills expand into construction and fine furniture.
In 1979, having just read in a guide about how a sleepy little archipelago called the British Virgin Islands was about to become a sailing Mecca, young Mike Masters packed all he owned into one suitcase, bought a ticket and set off. He thought the BVI would be a perfect place to set up a sailing school, and he envisioned a little ‘put-up’ outfit operating off one of Tortola's pristine beaches.
A few drinks in the Village Cay Marina Bar with one Alby Stuart of Tortola Yacht Services wiped out all ideas of his little beach-hut sailing school for good. Alby discovered that Mike had a background in technical design and metalworking and was convinced these skills were going to be very much needed in Tortola's new(ish) yachting industry. He helped Mike find a workshop near his boatyard and helped him acquire some tools for his trade. It’s almost 30 years on, and Mike has never looked back. Why should he?
Talking to a relaxed Mike in our Road Town office, he seems more laid back than I ever thought myself to be and smiles. “Every job is custom, every job is special, that’s what gives job satisfaction and makes it worthwhile.” I can only nod and agree, 30 years of that business attitude will go a long way, anywhere.
"We make a good team," says Mike of his management. "Design-wise, Dennis is the more technically minded. I tend to be the free-hand thinker. Together, though, we have managed some fantastic projects in a variety of materials, all with very positive results. Last year we helped build a horse riding arena in South Sound, Virgin Gorda. How’s that for diversification."
Today, 30 years on, Nautool is recognized as one of the most outstanding designers of metal furniture and railings. You've seen them in bars and restaurants and properties everywhere and walked up and down their staircases. Yes, Nautool is the company that makes them. That’s about as old school as it gets with metal, and you have something in your hands that will last. Still wondering where it came from? Right here, made on island.