By Dorie Cox
After 26 years at Bradford Marine, former president Paul Engle has retired. He was at the helm of the Fort Lauderdale shipyard through many changes, including expansion into the Bahamas, and the addition of the yacht sales department and fabrication shops.
Since the beginning of this year, Engle has worked with the yard’s new owners, father and son John and Michael Kelly of Fort Lauderdale Yacht Harbor (FLYH), as they revitalize the business. CEO John Kelly described Engle as instrumental in the ownership transition and said he is “an amazing mentor.”
“Paul has been incredibly humble about his accomplishments for both Bradford and the industry,” Kelly said by phone. “We look forward to building upon his legacy.”
Chief Operating Officer Michael Kelly will remain as COO and will serve as the company’s new president, John Kelly said. There are no other “changes to command,” he said.
Bradford Marine began in Florida in 1966; Engle joined in 1993 after about 15 years at sea. He earned his captain’s license at age 24, worked as mate and engineer, and culminated as captain of Feadships M/Y Highlander, 162-feet, and M/Y Enterprise, 152-feet.
Capt. Keith Moore, who for 18 years has been at the helm of M/Y Lady Sheridan, a 190-foot Abeking Rasmussen, met Engle at Bradford in the early 1990s and has watched the growth. It was Engle’s yachting background that melded an understanding of captains’ needs with a yard perspective, and “he took it to the next level,” Capt. Moore said.
“He was a visionary, he brought a new sense of enthusiasm,” Capt. Moore said. “He knew where to take the company and how to do what it took.”
Engle’s travel experience also guided what he saw as a need for expansion. The addition of Bradford Marine Bahamas in 1997 has enhanced both the large yacht industry and the island nation, Engle said.
“It was instrumental for them in the Bahamas to have a place to service their commercial fleet, the navy, fishing boats,” Engle said by phone. “And the Bahamas gave us an opportunity to service our existing customers that bought larger yachts that couldn’t transit up the New River.”
Located on Grand Bahama Island, the 47-acre, full-service shipyard in Freeport has a 1,200-ton drydock, a 150-ton Marine Travelift, and access to a 27,000-ton drydock for yachts up to 500 feet in length. Plus, the facility has 25 feet of water depth.
“After all, the country of the Bahamas consists of islands and lots of boats,” Engle said. “I never got tired of doing tours around the yard a couple of times a day. I don’t think the customers were ever tired to see it either – how boats were repaired, watching the different skills and trades. It is a good formula, and the company has a great reputation.”
Capt. Moore has brought yachts to the Bahama yard for years.
“What he did in the Bahamas is unbelievable,” Capt. Moore said. “The best bottom crew that’s ever been around.”
In Fort Lauderdale, Bradford has the capacity to haul up to 250 tons and house yachts up to 180 feet. The facility, which is on the New River, has more than 11,000 linear feet of in-water dockage under cover. It was here that Engle saw a different need – that of in-house yacht sales.
“I think it was a natural process to start that,” Engle said of Bradford Marine Yacht Sales. “Lots of times the customers wanted to stay in one location to sell their boats. It was easy to list them at the same place. It was practical in that regard.”
Bradford Vice President Jimmy Floyd has been friends with Engle since 1981, and he credits Engle with hiring him during a career change.
“I went to lunch with him to run ideas about the industry by him because I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Floyd said of a meeting in 2009. “Paul laughed and said, ‘Hang out at Bradford ’til you find out what you want to do.’
“My intentions were not to go to a shipyard. I went to help out for a couple months,” Floyd said with a laugh. “That was 10 and a half years ago.”
A large change since the yard’s inception was the diversification of fabrication shops under Engle’s tenure, Floyd said. Engle was instrumental in adding welding, fiberglass, hydraulic, engine, propeller, and electrical shops.
“We brought in new tools and techniques, we needed to branch out from being a paint shop,” Engle said. “We brought in lots of trades, expertise, naval architects, engineers, the mindset was for them to be in-house to control quality and timelines to really satisfy customers.”
As to the future of Bradford, John Kelly said the company continues to move forward on yard improvements including infrastructure and services such as Wi-Fi.
“We’re working with the town of Davie and county of Broward for the work toward bigger upgrades,” he said. These include parking and traffic configurations, as well as yard security.
“We are in their approval process and hope to start bigger upgrades of construction in the fourth quarter,” Kelly said. As these changes take place with the new owners, Engle was asked what his legacy might be.
“I think that the customer retention and employee retention speak for themselves,” Engle said. “I was able to recruit and work alongside some of the finest tradesmen in our industry, and be their friend and supervisor at the same time.”
Capt. Moore said Engle brought other elements to the equation, “Paul made it enjoyable. We have pressures of the job, but he made it fun. He’s a people person, he gets it. Ask him a question, you got a straight, honest answer. He always came through.”
When asked about his personal plans, Engle said he will take time to play golf and tennis, boat, fish, and do woodwork for the next few months and “regroup” after that.
“I love the yachting industry and its people, so I do intend to continue to be involved and contribute to it in some capacity,” Engle, 61, wrote in an email.
Engle can be contacted via email at email@example.com.
Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments are welcome below.