As anyone from the Great Lakes State knows, the freshwater of the Great Lakes is an integral part of your upbringing. Sailing, fishing, kayaking, and long summer days at the beach were commonplace throughout Josh's formative years. Growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Lake Michigan was only a stone's throw away from his family's home and their cottage in Northern Michigan. At an early age, Josh was introduced to sailing by his father. Criss-crossing Lake Michigan and day sailing were how the family spent many summers together. Those impressionable summers made a lasting impact that eventually would shape his future, though his path into the yachting industry was less typical than most.
While his passion for the water ultimately guided him to the yachting industry, another more significant calling early on in Josh's life would steer him in another direction for a while - the events of September 11 and a desire to serve.
As a sophomore in high school, Josh felt driven by a sense of duty and service after the attacks on September 11. So after graduating, he attended Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan, to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering while earning his commission through the ROTC officer training program. During his time at MTU, he developed a passion for flying, taking every opportunity to visit the local airfield; Josh amassed hours flying over the Keweannau Peninsula in a Cessna 172 and worked hard to earn a coveted slot in flight school in the US Air Force.
After college, as a newly commissioned 'butter bar' Second Lieutenant, Josh moved to San Antonio, Texas, to begin flight school at Randolph Air Force Base with the 562nd Flying Training Squadron. After the year-and-a-half-long program, he graduated at the top of his class. He was selected to fly the U-28A, which at the time, was a highly classified tactical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft for Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). This duty assignment would again bring him back to the water.
It was his move to Destin, Florida, where Josh attended advanced training and joined his first operational unit at Hurlburt Field, the 319th Special Operations Squadron. Though the deployment cycle was among the most demanding in the military, during his time at home, Josh found his way back on the water, sailing a hand-me-down O'Day along every inch of pure white sandy coastline along the Emerald Coast.
While on break from his third deployment, Josh met his wife Amber on the beach in Destin, Florida. Their first date was, of course, aboard his sailboat. He proposed a year and a half later while they were at anchor picnicking off Crab Island. From then on, sailing was a part of their lives and continues today.
After eight combat deployments and having spent nearly two and a half years in combat zones away from family, Josh decided to hang up the flight suit and look for a new career path. The following year would see him trade his combat boots for topsiders.
If you ask his father, he'd say Josh has never worked a day in his life, at least, not in the sense of work, actually being work. In high school, he worked at a local race track, helping pit crews flip expended tires into trailers and shuttling barrels of high-octane racing fuel between cars. In college, he had a summer job giving tours in the old abandoned Adventure Copper Mine and another working on a trail crew in Colorado, building trails to the tops of the 14'ers throughout the Chicago Basin. Work has always been fun, and Josh has always found a way to make his passion his profession.
So, how do you follow up an eight-year career flying spy planes? Contemplating this, Josh remembered his days sailing on the Great Lakes and his new passion for being on the water. He decided to find his way into the yachting industry. That decision was finalized about two years before he separated from the service. So, for those last years in the Air Force, Josh saturated his free time with learning, reading, and earning hands-on experience. During his last deployments to Afghanistan and Djibouti, Josh had stacks of books such as Chapman's School of Seamanship, every title written by John Kretschmer, and as many yachting magazines as he could get his hands on from the BX at Bagram Airfield. While home, Josh took up a weekend job assisting a local marina in Northern Texas, not for the money, but to learn the sales side of the yachting industry.
Six months out from his date of separation, Josh started networking in the industry. Calling every significant player or managing principal at the major yacht sales companies in the industry, Josh hit brick wall after brick wall until Josh connected with a gentleman named Vin Petrella, Executive Director of the Yacht Brokers Association of America. Vin's words of encouragement were that the industry desperately needed young blood and fresh perspectives and that the key to entering the industry was to find a good mentor. The advice Vin gave Josh during their hour-and-a-half-long conversation catalyzed his decision to commit to a future in the yachting industry.
After separating from the Air Force at the end of 2015 and shortly after moving to Fort Lauderdale, Josh met David Walters. Dave and his wife Betsy had been running their brokerage company since 1982. This small, boutique-style brokerage specializing in high-quality blue water sailing yachts has become well-known and respected in the industry. Dave, a former marine himself and self-taught in yacht design and construction along the way, recognized something in Josh and asked him to come on board under his mentorship. Dave and Josh worked alongside one another for the following year.
Several months into their partnership, Dave approached Josh about the prospect of taking over the company upon retirement. At 71 years old, Dave had spent 50 years in the industry. The plan was a five-year plan. Designed to enable Dave to taper off his time and settle into retirement. Unfortunately, a short time later, Dave was diagnosed with brain cancer. His time at the helm of David Walters Yachts and Josh's transition into managing the business came far sooner than planned. Over the next year, and until Dave passed, the two spent nearly every day together.
2022 Marked the 40th anniversary of David Walters Yachts and six years since Josh took the company forward. Under his leadership, the company has expanded from four brokers working out of a small office in Fort Lauderdale to twenty-four brokers working across eight offices and growing across the US and now the Caribbean. In those short years, the company has taken on several new brands, including Hylas Sail, Hylas Motor Yachts, and Italia Yachts. Revenue has grown exponentially yearly, making David Walters Yachts among the largest firms in the United States and the most prominent brokerage specializing in quality cruising sailing yachts.
Though the company has grown, the focus continues on providing personalized and professional services with a boutique style. Exactly as Dave had founded. While Josh has primarily transitioned from being involved directly with sales and brokerage to managing the Team, he stays deeply engaged with customers. He has an obsessive focus on delivering satisfaction and results to the customers of David Walters Yachts. Customers and clients will recognize his dedication, professionalism, integrity, and drive. His Team knows they can always rely upon his support and willingness to do things differently than most. His door is always open at his office in Annapolis, Maryland. Stop by Port Annapolis Marina and sit down to chat, or give him a call anytime at (616) 204-9658.