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Hear from The Original Flats Boats Creator

Hear from The Original Flats Boats Creator

A cruise through the Willy Roberts chronicles.

The original boat-of-choice for top professional shallow water guides was born, built and used by anglers and non-anglers alike, throughout the Florida Keys. Never a production skiff, these “boats that built the sport” were handmade, one-at-a-time, with the finest old-world craftsmanship, quality and originality — and they still are today.

Today, we proudly continue this Florida tradition for guides and fishermen from Texas to Maine, across the Caribbean, and anywhere anglers ply the skinny water. We continually introduce modern technologies to complement the beautiful classic lines and fishability of this masterpiece, while using the same painstaking attention to detail Willy used in every boat he built. As a result, we offer superior owner satisfaction and the highest quality flats skiffs and tenders built in the USA.

A tradition cast in coastal currents

A chronicle from Jean Wiggins, Granddaughter of Willy Roberts

Early years: 1914

Birth of a boat-building legend

William Henry Roberts was born in Key West, Florida. His lifelong journey began in this house on Whitehead Street, which still exists today.

A legacy set adrift: 1950s

Artistry takes shape

Willy begins creating wooden flats boats in a shop across the Overseas Highway from his Islamorada home. Complete with a woodshed overhanging a short, winding channel, countless skiffs went directly from workshop to water.

Childhood summers: 1960s

Idyllic days in Islamorada

My childhood summers were spent in the shadow of Papa’s craftsmanship, with the waterside shop as a playground for creativity and early lessons in boat-building.

Innovative craft: 1960s

Transition to fiberglass

As tradition met innovation, Papa ventured into fiberglass boat construction, a move signaled in jest by a hand-crafted ‘fiberglass’ tree—a symbol of changing times and evolving craftsmanship.

The final creation: Early 1990s

An era concludes

In 1990, a stroke curtailed Papa’s boat-building. He passed away on April 16, 1993, marking the end of an extraordinary era of boat-making. The last vessel, nearing completion at the time of his stroke, was finished by his son, my Uncle Myrnice. Today, it stands as a testament to his enduring legacy.

Legacies in guardianship: Late 1990s to Early 2000s

The voyage continues

In the early 2000s, a six-generation Florida family purchased Willy Roberts Boats. In the 2010s, two master boat-builder brothers from Brazil were added to the “family” team, ensuring the integrity and spirit of Willy’s original vision would continue to set the standard in the boat-building world.

The legacy today

Willy Roberts Boats: Preserving tradition

While many have sought to emulate our original designs, it’s only through Willy Roberts Boats the true essence of Papa’s vision and craftsmanship continues to navigate the waters of tradition and quality.