The History of Island Nautical
The Early Years
As a young man growing up in Tampa, Florida, Clint Johnson learned about making sails from his parents, and in 1939 he bought an existing sail loft from local sail maker Jimmy Turner. After building sails for over twelve years, though, Clint was ready for new challenges, and in 1952 he retired from sail making.
But making sails had gotten into Clint’s blood and he soon tired of retirement, so by 1962 he was back making sails again, this time at a loft now named Johnson Sails Incorporated (JSI) “Red Arrow” sail logo was first created. JSI was not just a local Tampa Bay area supplier, though, and JSI “Red Arrow” sails were soon seen on boats all around the country, especially after becoming standard equipment on most boats built at the near-by Irwin Yachts manufacturing facility.
JSI also branched out into other marine fields, and soon began fabricating the complete interior and exterior cushion sets and canvas products for all vessels made by Irwin Yachts, among other commercial customers, as well as supplying cushions and canvas products for private boat owners.
Clint Johnson Retires (Again)
By 1978, after building hundreds if not thousands of sails (cushion sets and canvas products), Clint was once again ready for retirement. A willing buyer for JSI was found in Larry French, who moved JSI to a location on Gandy Blvd. in Pinellas Park, Florida.
Clint Johnson had opened small marine rigging and mast fabrication departments at JSI, but under Larry French, JSI grew even larger, and in addition to sails, cushions, and canvas products, JSI began supplying marine rigging and complete Spar sets (mast, booms, etc.) for OEM customers as well as private sailors and customers around the world.
With the opening of a large ship’s chandlery, over the next 22 years the Gandy Blvd. -located JSI developed a reputation as a true Marine Super Store, where anything and everything a sailor might want or need could be procured.
In addition to custom and OEM sails from the sail loft, the JSI Ship’s Store offered a huge range of items – everything from off-the-shelf goods and hardware from vendors around the world to custom goods that were built to an individual customer’s specifications in the spar, rigging, cushion or canvas departments.
JSI also became a major supplier of OEM goods for a variety of boat manufacturers such as Catalina Yacht, Hunter Yachts, Kadey-Krogen Yachts, Endeavour Yachts, and Manta Catamarans among many others.
The Internet Age
In 2000, an Internet company named Sailnet based in Charlestown, SC , which had been hosting a web page for JSI, bought into JSI with a bold plan of expanding the company more fully into the digital age.
JSI/Sailnet went through a period of rapid expansion through sales created by the national (and international) exposure generated by the increased Internet presence, but when the tech bubble burst, JSI/Sailnet found itself somewhat “upside down”, and in 2003 the Sailnet/JSI partnership was broken up, with the JSI manufacturing facility in Florida bought by Mark Plock (head of Doyle/Ploch Sails), Bill Wright (a long-time Manufacturing Manager at JSI) and Ken Clark (who has spent years at JSI as an Operations Manager).
The New JSI
JSI introduces the new “Island Nautical” brand in 2011, with a new Store and image. "Traditionally catering to the local sailboat industry and sailboat owners, Island Nautical will now offer services and equipment for powerboaters, as well," says owner Bill Wright.
In 2013 Robert Ingwall bought out JSI and renamed it keeping the brand name. Island Nautical Enterprises Inc. was created!
Island Nautical started leasing out space in 2018. The Yacht Riggers moved in and bought out the rigging department. Gulf and Bay Divers also moved in and grew quickly adding dock building.
In 2019 Robert sold the building. The Doyle Sailloft staff moved on. T-Bone the head sailmaker is now at Northsails in Saint Petersburg whom we recommend!
Katja Kendall and Thomas Cody took over Island Nautical’s canvas department and went by Gotcha Covered Marine in 2018, and in 2019 the cushion department keeping the Island Nautical name.
End of 2019 the new owners Katja and Tom found Island Nautical a new home! Now located at 1000 30th St South, Saint Petersburg FL. With over 10,000 sq feet of work space including a frame department, showroom, and offering outdoor storage. Island Nautical is still going strong with a combined experience of over 55 years of canvas making. In 2020 Gotcha Covered Marine merged with Island Nautical’s cushion department keeping the JSI / Island Nautical brand name offering custom made canvas and cushions.