River Services / River Supply
John Lyons, founding owner of River Services opened the doors in 1975 within the GA Port Authority as a small industrial supply store servicing and repairing life raft in conjunction with fire safety equipment needs. So successful was he, that John’s son Hal, expanded the operation in 1994 by relocating and adding a retail store (River Supply) in Thunderbolt, only 1/2 a mile from our facility and within easy access for the boating community.
The company grew exponentially, so Hal took on vendors such as Blue Seas, Awlgrip & Interlux, Pettit, Zodiac, Stearns and Perko. Hal’s brother Stephen took on the reins for the servicing aspect within the company which continued to thrive becoming FAA, DOT, Lloyds and Coastguard approved.
Working closely with Thunderbolt Marine Inc., River Supply and River Services have been instrumental in providing several services for yard tasks and operations, while delivering expert advice, guidance and vendor support. This close relationship has made it possible for River Supply / River Services to provide quality products at competitive prices allowing for discounts to TMI and their customers.
We see it as a win-win!
Johnnie, known primarily for his rigging skills and his longtime association with the marine industry in this area, had a background in automated door systems, electronics and hydraulics before starting up his own business (Beasley Marine) rigging sail boats ranging from 24 to 64 feet which was of far more interest to him. Entirely self-taught, he went on to work as a rigging subcontractor for Palmer Johnson Inc., before becoming their Rigging Foreman and then with Hinckley Yacht Services before finding his place as Rigging Foreman at Thunderbolt Marine Inc. Recently Johnnie received a well-deserved promotion to Production Manager of the entire yard making us the beneficiaries of his years of experience
and knowledge in the marine refit industry.
Married to wife Michelle who is an RN and with one daughter, Johnnie now lives on Wilmington Island but was born and raised in Thunderbolt with his brother Mark (Foreman of the Metal Department). Both have witnessed the demise of the fishing industry on their doorstep which was once prolific in the neighborhood, but has been taken over by commercial enterprises and private residences. Johnnie was a volunteer fireman for 20 years. He enjoys camping and boating, but his passion of 30 years lies in boar hunting by bow and arrow.
Some months ago thanks to a visiting crew member, TMI was made aware of a charity for single mothers in our own area. With the holidays approaching and the spirit of giving so much on people’s minds, we hosted a drive to benefit those in need of the most basic items. An e-blast was sent out to all the customers in the yard and to all our workforce requesting canned foods, hygiene & paper products and other essential items to cope with daily life.
The motor yacht Copasetic was the first to kick the ball rolling. They pulled out all the stops with a very generous donation including basics, gift cards and fun items for kids, which challenged the rest of us to take it up a notch if we could. Soon piles and piles of much needed items and some luxuries were accumulating in the front office with daily deliveries from employees, the visiting yachts and even some subcontractors.
On the 22nd December, Judy Salzman (Project Administrator) and Karen Pranschke (Customer Services Rep) loaded up with help, two SUV’s filled to the brim with a remarkable amount and variety of goods to hand over to very worthy organization called SHELTER FROM THE RAIN based here in Savannah through a local church. We are understandably, extremely proud of how successful our call for help was and how enthusiastically everyone rallied around – and most importantly, we are so very grateful to all of those of who found space in their hearts to make such an unselfish gesture during a season when all too readily, we often only think of our immediate loved ones.
Thunderbolt Marine has been working closely with SeaHawke Rigging since 2015 to more ably cover the needs of some of the larger sail boats visiting the yard for service work. The internationally renown company established in 2011 by Tony Hawker from NZ and his team, bring a wealth of experience and professionalism to the industry and to Thunderbolt Marine’s customers. Having recently jointly finished a complete mast refit on a 92 footer, SeaHawke and TMI are currently working together on several other projects including an 85’ Holland Jachtbouw, a 105’ Windship and 121’ Camper & Nicholson. Additionally, SeaHawke Rigging has the ability to perform crane load testing and is a Harken authorized External Access System installer and tester. TMI and SeaHawke Rigging look forward to providing both present and future customers with their combined rigging expertise along with the support of a full service yard for all other projects.
Robert “Robbie” Douberly
Finishes and Varnish
Robert “Robbie” Douberly, the Head of the Finish Department at TMI is a Savannah native born and bred. His family has a history of boat building in Thunderbolt dating from the early 30’s to the 70’s. His Great Grandfather and his Grandfather built shrimp boats off the bluff in Thunderbolt, employing the Portuguese traditions and techniques of their heritage, only bringing the vessels into the commercial boat yard for the finer touches. His family made their home in Thunderbolt and Robbie’s Mother worked at the old convenience store located in what is now the Main Offices of Thunderbolt Marine. As a child, riding his bike through the neighborhood he would stop in at the store, look through the gates and marvel at the scope of work carried out on the yachts coming to Thunderbolt from around the world.
During Robbie’s early school years, the family moved to Texas but Thunderbolt called them back. While in high school to earn money on weekends and evenings, he learned the basics of painting and varnishing at local marinas as well as the yard based on the property that is now TMI. Like many young adults, Robbie was bitten by a travel bug and used his new found skills to secure work in various boat yards along the way, in the U.S. as well as a summer in Germany, which is his most memorable experience. He feels that these travels broadened the knowledge of his craft. Working pretty much every day of the first two months he was there, but taking advantage of a month of free time. Hitchhiking, he explored much of the country. His favorite time was spent in the small villages in the Bavarian Alps.
Robbie oversees four craftsmen, whose skills include a wide variety of finishes on furniture, walls, flooring and rails, including faux finish, spray and brush applications, satin and hi-gloss finishes and color matching of paints. With two prep/finish buildings at his disposal, there is little that presents Robbie’s team a problem. Robbie is knowledgeable in exterior painting & fairing as well, working with his brother Adam, the Head of TMI’s Paint Department. That experience along with his expertise with interior finishes and all varnish work, make him quite an asset to the company.
Robbie lives on nearby Wilmington Island with Michelle and their rescued Rottweiler, Zeke. He spends a lot of his free time involved in various local outreach programs and volunteer organizations like the local humane society, spending time with a good friend, walking the adoptable dogs as well as giving them much needed attention.
Canvas & Upholstery
Robbie is a true Savannah Native. Born in Savannah he, has lived here his entire life. Graduating from Savannah Technical College with an associate’s degree in Electronic/Computer Engineering he worked for Union Camp Chemical for 10 years as an Instrument Technician. Robbie discovered a need in the local marketplace for a qualified marine canvas shop after several unsuccessful attempts at finding anyone willing to travel to him and provide a quote for a flybridge enclosure for his 29ft. Wellcraft. Frustrated, he bought a used commercial sewing machine and built the enclosure himself. The rest, as they say, is history. Robbie started his own boat canvas & upholstery business, Sea Stitch, in 1992, running the business for 2 years while still working at Union Camp. Word spread quickly and the business grew. Not having prior experience in the canvas business, Robbie hired 2 very experienced custom canvas makers from the Jacksonville area. They taught him the tricks of the trade as the business grew, eventually establishing relationships with the large refit yards in Savannah at the time Robbie’s business became the go to shop for the mega-yachts in those yards and boat owners in the Savannah area. Robbie brought his experience to TMI, joining us in 2012 as Head of the Canvas & Upholstery Department. In his free time Robbie enjoys watching football, bass fishing and RVing with his family.
Frank is a Savannah Native growing up in his Dad’s machine shop. As a machinist, he’s worked in power plants in Utah, Montana, Texas, Louisiana, Florida and New York. Thankfully for us, Frank came back to Savannah. Frank’s passions are history and archaeology, studying both since high school and participating in numerous digs. He’s credited with finding a major Native American site in Bryan County GA. He has a beautiful collection of bottles and artifacts dating from before the time of American Revolution through the Civil War. He’s also found several treasures from the old Thunderbolt Casino, that sat on the site of The Crew Lounge at Thunderbolt Marine. (You can find more information about the casino on our website). Frank is a certified SCUBA diver and has been involved in excavating five shipwrecks, documenting one as Co-Author of ‘Tangled Machinery and Charred Relics, The Historical and Archaeological Investigation of The C.S.S. Nashville’.
Frank attributes the time in his father’s machine shop for his drive to “create things”. A few of Frank’s creations can be found on or around his work bench. There is an anvil he made from a piece of railroad rail (track), a knife crafted from a railroad spike. One of his more popular creations a Jeep replica golf cart is in use daily as his transportation around the yard. Keeping in line with custom cars, Frank customized a Jeep truck and is now building a hot rod.
Purchasing/Shipping and Receiving
Oscar was born in New Haven CT. His father was a P38 fighter pilot and after active service he remained in the reserves. Oscar’s family moved around a bit when he was a child landing in Reddington Beach Florida for his teenage years. Oscar was a Florida State Barefoot Water Skiing Champion. Always ambitious, through his junior high and high school years, Oscar worked on the beach renting chairs and umbrellas to the tourists.
After high school Oscar was drafted into the U.S. Army, proudly serving his country and earning the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service. Those who know Oscar well understand that service to his country is a part of his life of which Oscar is most proud. After two years in Vietnam Oscar returned to civilian life, continuing his education at St Petersburg College in Florida.
After college Oscar headed west to Houston TX, working as a rigger on Ocean Builder One , an enormous pipe-lay crane vessel used to setup offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Eventually Oscar found himself heading ashore, earning his real estate broker’s license and working as a loan officer until the downturn of the economy within the Houston area.
Texas’ loss is TMI’s gain as Oscar found his way to Savannah where he had (and still has) many friends and connections in the marine industry, working at 3124 River drive since 1993. He enjoys working in materials handling and taking on any of the challenges presented in meeting our client’s needs. Oscar loves the friendly small town atmosphere of Savannah. He loves meeting people and in his free time he takes advantage of all that Savannah offers.