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Industry mourns well-known Annapolis boatyard owner

The city of Annapolis, Md., lost one of the legendary figures on its maritime scene when boatyard owner and sailor Bert Jabin died Saturday. He was 83.

Jabin, who had been splitting time between homes in Annapolis and Miami, had long been battling cancer, according to a report in the Capital Gazette.

“My dad touched a lot of people’s lives around Annapolis. He was an icon for what he developed and was able to achieve,” Rod Jabin, who bought his father’s boatyard on Back Creek in 1998, told the Gazette.

Bert Jabin, born and raised in Miami, sailed into Annapolis as a teenager and fell in love with the Chesapeake Bay seaport. He dropped out of high school to work as a deckhand aboard sailboats.

Charles Dell, then commodore of the Annapolis Yacht Club, took Jabin under his wing and persuaded the wayward teenager to return to Miami and finish high school.

Jabin earned a high school diploma and, after serving in the Korean War, went to college on the GI Bill. He returned to Annapolis and worked at Maryland Shipbuilding in Baltimore before deciding to go into business for himself.

Bert Jabin’s Yacht Yard opened in 1959 on a small plot overlooking Back Creek. It was a completely undeveloped parcel and Jabin had to sink pylons, build piers and clear trees in order to have space to work on drydocked boats.

Over time, Jabin acquired 14 lots that either adjoined the original piece of property or one another. By the early 1980s, Bert Jabin’s Yacht Yard was a sprawling 20-acre complex — the largest facility of its kind in Annapolis.

“Bert came to Annapolis with nothing and built an empire. He worked extremely hard and earned everything he got,” said Ralph Decker, a fellow Annapolis Yacht Club member and longtime friend.

“Bert was an intense businessman. He was very fair with everybody, but you didn’t dare cross him,” he added. “I never exchanged a harsh word with Bert, but there were a lot of people around town that did. He did not suffer fools.”

Jabin also was successful as a sailboat racer, beginning in the Alberg 30 class and moving into other designs. He did well with a wooden 36-foot IOR boat named Rogue’s Roost, then skippered a Peterson 36 and a Frers 38 named Ramrod.

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