Education programs at Presquile National Wildlife Refuge benefit from the expertise of two distinguished individuals, Captain Mike Winn and Captain Robert Fields. Both United States Coast Guard Master Captains, they skillfully navigate the James River, imparting knowledge to all on board the Spirit of the James. Beyond their impressive qualifications, what distinguishes Mike and Robert are their infectious enthusiasm and authenticity. They are adept storytellers, weaving narratives of the river’s history and sharing their passions for the water. Their jovial personalities and sense of humor create an engaging and enjoyable environment for all around. Read more about them below!


 Captain Mike’s connection to the James River runs deep, rooted in childhood experiences when his father was involved in the boat business in the late 1950s. Mike’s work with the James River Association dates back to the early 1990s when he served on the Board of Directors. His journey took a new turn in 2021 when he joined JRA as a Captain for the Spirit of the James after selling Jordan Point Marina, which he had owned and ran for the better part of 35 years. For the last three years, Mike has found reward in introducing students to the river and igniting their curiosity. His motivation stems not only from his love for boating but also from the dynamic environment of the James River, which fuels his intrigue and appreciation for its rich history.

 Captain Robert is a seasoned Master Captain cruising the James River, Chesapeake Bay and Intra-coastal Waterway for over 38 years, 19 of which as a Master Captain owning and running a charter fishing business on the Bay, which allows him to bring a wealth of maritime experience to the Spirit of the James. After a 41-year-career as a Certified Master Mechanic, a serendipitous connection led him to his role with JRA. His personal connection to the water is marked by a love for boating, birdwatching, and exploration which includes owning a boat of some sort over 45 years. Though not an educator by trade, Robert finds joy in engaging with students. The thrill of witnessing students’ excitement as the boat sets off and watching their interactions with various fish species contributes to the fulfillment he finds in the role.

 Together, Mike and Robert contribute significantly to making the Spirit of the James a meaningful platform for learning. As they navigate the waters and share their passion for the river, they enrich our educational programs and instill a lasting love and respect for the James River. Join us in sharing thanks for these individuals who play a vital role in shaping future river stewards.