Photos courtesy of Luke Pearson

Construction Foreman RV Hodge Takes Us Behind the Scenes at Jarrett Bay Boatworks

Sep 9, 2023 | Jarrett Bay Boatworks, Magazine, News | 0 comments

If you hang around a highly successful business long enough, you’ll probably hear a lot of entrepreneurial tips being shared. Not all advice may be applicable across various industries, markets, and eras, however there is one saying that always seems to ring true—‘It’s all about the people.’

That’s why we’re focusing this issue of OnBoard magazine on hearing from some of the individuals behind the brands. We wanted to get an unvarnished view from the factory floors, not the C-suites or marketing departments. That is what led us to connect with RV Hodge, currently the New Construction Foreman at Jarrett Bay Boatworks, and an employee of the company for nearly twenty years.

RV Hodge, the New Construction Foreman at
Jarrett Bay Boatworks
Originally hailing from Minnesota and the Land of 10,000 lakes, Hodge came to Jarrett Bay by way of Alaska, where he lived and adventured with his wife, Jennie, and young family before moving Downeast to North Carolina. He looks every bit the part of a strapping outdoorsman and seasoned shipwright, and in fact, his experience in boat building now stretches beyond his work at Jarrett Bay to include helping create small work boats for missions use. He and other volunteers have hand-built several vessels donated to Northwest Haiti Christian Mission by the not-for-profit organization Missions Navigation. And that’s just one of his many hobbies.
Beyond the bristly, lumberjack-like appearance, you’ll find a talented, thoughtful and creative mind who puts God and family first, and delights in inspiring his children and grandchildren with stories and riddles. He’s written and published several books of fiction, including a fully illustrated children’s series, The Adventures of Boathouse Mouse. He’s nothing short of a boat building Renaissance man of many talents and interests!

Always Teaching

When asked about his favorite parts of the job, Hodge reveals, “I love the daily demand for creative solutions necessary to build custom boats. I love the systematic progress that is evident each day. And I love that we build an incredible product. But at this point in my career, I think my favorite part is teaching my trade, which I love, to the next generation.” But he quickly concedes that this is also the most challenging aspect of his work days. “Every employee has a different level of skills and understanding, and each has a different level of passion for building boats. It can be frustrating at times, but profoundly satisfying when someone catches on to a complicated concept and levels up their abilities,” he says.

While he likely would have been just as happy doing his thing on the construction floor in relative anonymity, Jarrett Bay’s management had other ideas. When the company set out to develop a digital video series showcasing their construction and service work, RV was tapped as an ideal spokesperson; knowledgeable, presentable, articulate and playful. Thus, his career as a vlogger and Youtube personality began as host of the Jarrett Bay Insider.

It was yet another challenge he accepted with enthusiasm and grace, and just the right amount of self-deprecating humor. Describing himself as an “extreme introvert,” Hodge explains, “It has been an unexpected experience finding myself in front of the public later in life. It has been exciting, fun, nerve-wracking, and at times awkward. But I am thankful for the opportunity to share the amazing craft of boat building with the world.”

Indeed, he is now taking his teachings from the shop floor in Beaufort to a world of potential new viewers on the internet. Since launching the series in Spring 2018, Jarrett Bay’s channel has compiled over 1.6 million views and 85,000 watch hours. The most popular Insider episode to date, was a walkthrough of the completed 84’ Reel Development, garnering over 260,000 views on its own.

Surely, receiving comments and questions from complete strangers on the internet can be harrowing at times, but to-date the Insider team, including Producer Luke Pearson of Lift Films, reports it’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience. The only thing bordering on criticism has been the persistent demands for more, and much longer episodes; the fans and subscribers can’t get enough!

Jarrett Bay’s 67’ Sport Yacht Privateer

Uniquely Crafted

To distill down what makes Jarrett Bay special to customers and distinct from their competitors, Hodge puts it succinctly,

“We build the boat that the customer wants.”

This is evidenced by the sheer variety of vessels they’ve built over the years. Browse the “custom fleet” history on their web site, and you’ll see plenty of Carolina-style convertibles, but also express boats, center consoles, and yachts of widely varying sizes and concepts, all built to specifically meet their owners’ intent and purpose.

Few requests are too unique or different for Jarrett Bay’s design team to explore, and work together to plot out a solution for. Hodge says one recent build that stands out as an apt example, is the 67’ Sport Yacht Privateer. “The trunk cabin was a distinct change for us. It was an ingenious solution to needing extra head room for an extra tall customer. Ironically, at the early concept sketches, I didn’t care for it. However, as we ironed out the design it really grew on me. In the end, I really liked the combined look of a sportfisherman with old-school yacht—an updated version of the ‘old days.’”

There’s little doubt that Jarrett Bay dares to take on projects that other production and custom builders shy away from, whether it’s for fear of production difficulties, design preferences or other unknowns. It’s this fearless appetite for accommodating owner’s wishes and complex problem solving that has allowed the company to emphasize the truly in their ‘truly custom’ marketing language.

Another one-of-a-kind boat that tops Hodge’s list of favorites is the 46’ Walk-around Express, Grander, now named Stella June. “I loved that it was a serious fish-hunting machine in a compact package,” he says. It was unique for a number of reasons, but the most readily apparent was its unusually dark exterior color scheme, which the owner actually asked the construction employees to provide their input on!

Reel Development, an 84’ Sportfisherman built for a Bluewater customer of Clark Sneed’s, also highlights his list, “This boat was, and remains, a visual showstopper. Every part of the boat is a classic beauty. Every detail in every room invites the eye to explore further,” Hodge says. He also points out it is a serious fishing and traveling machine with an already impressive list of accomplishments fishing throughout the Caribbean, Pacific side of Costa Rica and Baja Mexico.

Keep Improving

Hodge’s thoughts on the Jarrett Bay brand reinforce other takeaways from viewing the custom fleet as a whole, “from inception to completion, we are constantly improving, and we never cut corners.” As far as boat manufacturers go, Jarrett Bay occupies an interesting space—still deploying traditional concepts and materials in some areas (such as a cold-molded wooden hull and stringers), while pushing the envelope with innovative technologies in others (see the proprietary carbon fiber construction and experimental foiling system of the 90’ Jaruco). At Jarrett Bay, it’s all part of the evolution of fine boat building—learning and innovating on each hull, and then applying that knowledge to the next one.

Largely, it is the commissioning owner’s wishes and budget that drive some of the decision making on materials and construction processes, but utilizing some new tools can also come at the behest of company leadership. In a recent episode of Jarrett Bay Insider, Hodge introduces their CNC router, which is being used to cut the jig stations and stringer surfaces to be laminated for hull 68, a new 90-footer getting underway this year. He explains how this once laborious and tedious process of shaping the installed stringers with dangerous hand tools is now made more quickly, safely and precisely by the computer-aided machine.
Luke Pearson films a recent Jarrett Bay Insider episode demonstrating the CNC router replacing hand tools to shape stringers