Bertley Carrette of Layou is one of Dominica’s top fiberglass boat builders and plans to export this item to the region to showcase Dominica as the number one island for unique fiberglass boats.
Carette, the owner of Hope Boat Building and Fishing Enterprise, is also a fisherman by profession. His love for the sea is a result of living in a coastal community.
“I was raised in Layou, which is a fishing village, every day all you see is fish. My uncle had a boat so I would say it was in my blood,” he said.
Carette started fishing at a young age, during which time he was planning to eventually own a boat. However, as luck would have it, the Mathieu Dam burst, leading to a tributary in the career path for the young fisherman.
“A Grenadian working with the company shipping sand from Layou, built a boat to fish in his off time,” Carrette said. ” I was put in contact with him and that is how I learned. I was building wood and fiberglass boats in 2002. He brought me to Grenada to show me how they built boats and since then the passion just kicked in.”
He has now upgraded. building strictly fiberglass vessels which he considers more economically practical.
“With wood and fiberglass boats, within two to three years it starts to dry rot and depreciate. But with fiberglass, you have a boat for pretty much all your life. It is a one-time cost, and you have no serious maintenance to do after,” he said.
Being in the boat building business for approximately 20 years, Carrette says the high price of materials drives up the cost of boats which is a lot to pass on to customers.
“In truth and in fact the material is taking most of the money. That is starting to take a toll on me. For example, I used to pay $3,150.00 for a fifty-five-gallon drum of resin. Recently I paid $6, 175.00 for one drum,” Carrette said.
Another challenge is that business places no longer store material, therefore the ordering and waiting process is an additional setback.
Though the cost of the boats is high, Carrette can vouch for their viability in Caribbean waters, hence the reason he wants to export them.
“The boats we make now have built-in coolers, a cabin to store dry goods, and a centre cooler for other items. The boats are really good for our markets but the cost is high,” he said.
Carrette’s workshop suffered a major blow from Hurricane Maria as the entire structure was destroyed; however, he was able to get back on his feet and resume boat building. The COVID-19 pandemic threw another curveball his way as everything came to a halt. He sees some sort of relief in sight with a project that was announced almost five years ago.
“I extended the workshop to accommodate the World Bank project, but that project has a lot of setbacks with the Navy Architect who is supposed to help us with the construction of the new molds. But it looks like it will get on stream soon,” he said.
In his decades on the sea, he has seen more individuals enter the fishing industry but some for the wrong reason.
“Some said after Maria only farmers and fishermen got assistance, so a lot of people who were not into fishing joined in, hoping if something happens they will get assistance. But it doesn’t work like that, because we the fishermen really go through it hard,” he said.
In the near future, Carrette sees himself exporting his valuable commodity to help fishermen around the region.
“I want to take it to the next level. I want to be the first boat builder to be exporting pure fiberglass boats from Dominica. That is my plan and I will see it through”
Carrette is ready for the World Bank project to begin so there are more fiberglass boat building options available to the country’s fishermen.