Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that Port St. Joe resident Donny McArdle is one of kind.
In September, McArdle received his master service technician certification from Yamaha, and because he’s the only boat tech in Bay and Gulf Counties to have earned it, his “one of a kind” status has been truly solidified.
McArdle is an employee of the Mexico Beach Marina, an authorized Yamaha dealer, and having a master tech on staff gives the shop added credibility and their customers, peace of mind.
“There’s some status in the fact that we’re able to offer that level of talent,” said Nate Odum, co-owner of the Mexico Beach Marina. “Donny can fix anything that breaks.”
McArdle elected to take the certification program, held in Kennesaw, GA., at Yamaha’s Southeastern headquarters. The program covered the setup and troubleshooting of Yamaha outboard motors and had something of a reputation for being extremely difficult. Even someone as talented as McArdle didn’t expect for it to be a cakewalk.
“The success rate on the first attempt is not high,” said McArdle. “You can know your stuff and still stress yourself out about it.”
The fact that McArdle took the final exam on Friday the 13th didn’t add to his confidence.
The exam included a written test that had to be completed within an hour-and-a-half followed by six practical application stations that had to be completed in 30-minutes each.
The five students who took the exam were under the gun and it didn’t make McArdle feel any better when two of his classmates failed the written test and were sent home.
As McArdle worked through his practical exams, another classmate was escorted from the room and upon completing his fifth station he was called into the hallway by his instructor.
McArdle feared that he’d done something incorrectly on a previous station and reached the end of the line, but his instructor informed him that he’d performed flawlessly on the first five stations and it was unnecessary for him to complete the sixth.
“I was relieved,” said McArdle, who had beaten the odds and passed the exam on his first attempt. “It’s not a ‘gimme.’ You have to be on your A-game.”
He received a plaque commemorating his certification which now hangs proudly in the Marina shop. Odum celebrated having the only master tech outside of Destin and Tallahassee.
“His work ethic is incredible,” said Odum of McArdle. “He won’t let the motor beat him. When other guys give up, he won’t.”
For McArdle, diagnosing an engine problem is a process of elimination, but he enjoys the problem-solving process. Before he was fixing boats, he spent quality time in his youth rebuilding car engines.
“I like to understand what I’m doing, and I enjoy it,” said McArdle.
Born and raised in Port St. Joe, McArdle has worked at the Marina for 28 years, getting his start as a fill-in forklift driver. In 1984 he was recommended to the previous owners, the Marquardts, by his then-girlfriend (now wife) Teresa, who worked in the shop.
After driving the forklift, he stayed on, helping to build structures on the property and began assisting the shop mechanics with the boat engines. From there, he began taking classes to get familiar with the motors that were regularly being serviced. To-date, McArdle has completed hundreds of hours of training on both Johnson and Yamaha motors.
As if being the go-to guy for technical problems wasn’t enough to keep him busy, McArdle has been a volunteer fire fighter for Port St. Joe for the last six years. Prior to that, he volunteered with the Overstreet fire department for nine years. He also is a part time EMT and plays bass guitar for the First Baptist Praise Team in Port St. Joe.
Though he and his wife moved to Orange Park, near Jacksonville for two years when Teresa’s job was transferred, they were excited to return to Port St. Joe and McArdle was ready to return to the Marina.
He watched his sons, Jarrod and Chaney, graduate from Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School and his youngest son Chaney was recently hired as the emergency services coordinator for the City of Mexico Beach.
“This is home,” said McArdle.