2014 Florida Folk Heritage Award
Bob Pitt was born in Sarasota in 1953. Inspired by his Bahamian heritage that included shipbuilders and captains, he developed a fascination for maritime history and carpentry. He learned sailing from his father, and by age seven was already helping with fiberglass boat repairs. He honed his skills as a member of the laminating crew at a boat building shop and as an apprentice under a Welsh shipwright. In 1978, Mr. Pitt moved to Bradenton and began his career as a boat carpenter. In 1993, he began assisting the Manatee Village Historical Park interpret their maritime history, creating curriculum for school tours and building a body of interpretive material. He also worked as a volunteer education coordinator for the Florida Maritime Museum in nearby Cortez, where he built and restored many historically accurate crafts, including a 19th century mullet boat, a Cuban refugee boat rescued from the Keys, and a Spanish longboat built for historical reenactments at the DeSoto National Memorial. With the help of Mr. Pitt, the museum implemented an outreach program to display these pieces throughout Florida and as far as Maine. Mr. Pitt continues to share his expertise in traditional boat building as the president of the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the Traditional Small Craft Association.