FAIR HAVEN – Jim Cerruti feels being near or on the water is where he belongs.
“How do you not enjoy being by and around the water, being around the boats every day?” said Jim Cerruti on a particularly picture-perfect June morning as he extended his arm toward the variety of boats that line his 75 DeNormandie Ave. boatyard’s 80 slips and 60 moorings.
Fair Haven Yacht Works, which Cerruti has owned and operated for the past 17 years, has been in business since the 1920s, originally building different styles of boats, as well as storing and serving them.
Now, along with winter and summer storage, the Cerrutis offer full service for boats and boat owners, mechanical work, fiberglass and woodwork and painting at the location. Boat building hasn’t been done there for more than a half century.
Jim and his wife Molly bought the business in the late 1990s, becoming the location’s fourth owners since it was established. When it became available, “I couldn’t pass it up,” he said.
“I’ve been around water my whole life,” owning his own boat since he was 7, he said. As a kid he worked in a boatyard in Lavallette. Later, he spent 15 years as a merchant marine, which allowed him to sail around the world a couple of times.
After that he took a job working for the Texaco oil company. He found working out of an office for a large corporation was not a good fit.
“After all my time at sea, working in the corporate world, working on land … was hard on me.”
“I knew he wasn’t happy,” said Molly, who encouraged him to buy Fair Haven Yacht Works.
When they bought the business it had become rundown, they noted. “I had one goal to fix it up and make it a thriving business,” Jim said.
They worked not only to restore the location but also expanded it from slips, moorings and winter storage to include mechanical repair work and the other services. “It’s paid off for us,” he said.
“It’s been all good,” said Molly, who works alongside her husband.
The Cerrutis, who live in Fair Haven – Jim is a member of the town’s volunteer fire department – have seen daughter, Andrea, 22, and son, Chris, 20, grow up around the business.
There have been some downturns, they noted. Super Storm Sandy banged them up, causing some damage to the facility that required them to work continuously and feverishly to ensure they had a 2013 season. The Great Recession did even more damage, as business fell off. It has taken this long to rebound, Jim noted.
One of the joys of the business for Jim is dealing with first-time boat owners, getting them accustomed to life on the water. He likes working with them to keep their boats in good shape so it will be ready when they want to take it out.
He tells them, “You have to be aware of what’s going on around you; get to know your boat as much as you can.”
But he had another piece of advice he offers, maybe even more important, he suspected. “You know what I tell new boat owners?” he said, seeing how stressed they can be in the beginning. “Relax, I tell them. This is fun. You’re here to unwind. Enjoy yourself.”
What those who don’t already own a boat may not realize, Jim believes is, given the range of crafts available on the market – or even by what is at his marina, which range from about 15 to 65 feet, “Everybody can own a boat.”
And, they should, as far as he’s concerned. “There’s nothing better than it.”