The newest winter storage building, 2,000 square feet, at the Hinckley service yard in Southwest Harbor was built in 2017. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE HINCKLEY COMPANY

Storms, bridge work complicate fall decommissioning at boatyards

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — The recent string of fall storms with high winds, and a detour around bridge work near the Southwest Harbor-Tremont town line, made life a little more difficult for the boatyards working to get customers’ yachts “put to bed” for the winter this year.

“With a storm a week, it’s certainly challenging,” Will Ratcliff, service manager at JW Boat Company in Hall Quarry said.

Poppaea, a familiar sight in cruising class races in the summer months, being hauled for the winter at JW Boat Company in Hall Quarry. PHOTO COURTESY OF JW BOAT

Having boats still on moorings when powerful storms hit makes owners and boatyard professionals nervous, with good reason. In Bass Harbor on Halloween, one sailing yacht crashed up against a dock and a trawler dragged its mooring.

“The first [storm] I think was the week after Labor Day,” Ratcliff said. “So we scrambled. I think we probably hauled 35 boats that week.”

But, he added, the extra urgency was also a good motivator. Now that all the boats are winterized and put away, attention turns to scheduling all the work that will need to be done on them between now and when their owners want them ready at the beginning of next year’s sailing season.

The winter service and storage business has grown in the last couple of years at JW Boat. Two years ago, the company had about 120 winter storage customers. The company took on about another 30 last winter, and this year is adding about 20 more, Ratcliff said.

“Our indoor storage has increased; we’ve made accommodations on campus to store most of the wooden boats in one shed that has a dirt floor. We insulated that this year so we can keep heat going there during the day.”

Some boats are also stored off-site.

Over at The Hinckley Company, the service yards in Northeast Harbor and Southwest Harbor are being “run as one team,” company representative Peter Saladino said.

The company built a new heated storage building in Southwest Harbor in 2017. The staff of 85 employees work on more than 300 yachts, according to a news release at the time.

“Most of the staff is in Southwest Harbor, and most of the hauling is done out of Southwest Harbor,” Saladino said this week. There is a Travelift at the Northeast Harbor yard, but he said it’s more often used during the season for short hauls to make repairs.

When moving boats to storage locations, both companies have had to “take the scenic route” and follow the detour around Seawall as Route 102 is closed for a bridge replacement project.

That has “added its own challenges,” Ratcliff said. “I didn’t realize how big a deal it was until I had to do it myself.”

For one thing, is was still tourist season, so boatyard employees trying to keep projects on schedule found themselves stuck behind visitors enjoying the leaves and driving a bit slower.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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