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Buffett Helping Boat Builder in Oil Spill Relief Effort

May 29th, 2010

A native of the Gulf Coast region, Jimmy Buffett is helping a Vero Beach, Florida boat builder in the oil spill relief effort: “Vero Beach boatbuilder, Jimmy Buffett team up to help recover oiled wildlife in Gulf”

The images of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are serving as a call to action for men and women who have built their lives on the water like Vero Beach boatbuilders Mark Castlow and Jimbo Meador, and Meador’s longtime friend, musician Jimmy Buffett.

Days after people began to learn about the magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, Castlow e-mailed Meador and Buffett who were in the Bahamas fishing for bonefish. Castlow’s message was simple: “We have to do something.”

Early next week, Dragonfly Boatworks, a small custom boatbuilding company, expects to ship a vessel designed specifically to aid in the recovery of oil-covered wildlife along the marshes of the Gulf Coast.

Named “S.W.A.T.” for Shallow Water Attention Terminal, the Dragonfly crew took the 17-foot skiff from Castlow’s original sketches to the finished product in just 28 days.

The boat is one of four Dragonfly will build and send to university researchers in the Gulf, Meador said.

“We’re trying to get a boat out there as quickly as possible,” said Meador, a lifelong waterman born and raised on Alabama’s Gulf coast. “We’re building it for them to use on oiled birds and wildlife, but we hope they don’t need it.”

The first SWAT is headed to the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory operated by the University of Southern Mississippi. The scientists there were chosen to receive the first one in part because it is Buffett’s alma mater.

The singer, songwriter, restaurateur and author is underwriting the construction costs of the four boats estimated at about $35,000 apiece. Dragonfly Boatworks also is donating much of the expense, and the company is in the process of trying to partner with an outboard engine manufacturer to help with the cause.

Taking feedback and suggestions from Buffett as well as from scientists involved in the recovery effort, Castlow and Meador incorporated many unique features to help on the water. The boat is expected to have a draft of 8 to 12 inches when loaded. A worktable sits in the middle of the deck and is coated with a sanitary gel coat and coarse surface to help keep oil-covered birds from slipping on the surface and adding to their stress.

“This whole disaster really got our ire up,” Castlow said of Buffett, Meador and himself. “We’ve made our livings from the ocean our whole lives. We’re just trying to get a tool into the hands of the people who have dedicated their lives to working with marine life.”

WPTV also has an article on Buffett and Dragonfly.

Tagged in Charitable Causes, Personal/Family