Boat yards in full force, prepare for busy summer
The only thing that has been predictable about the weather this spring is that it has been completely unpredictable. Despite the unusual weather patterns that have been the hallmark of the season, Jamestown’s boatyards are in full swing now as they prepare for a big summer season.
Over at Conanicut Marine, owner Bill Munger is feeling good about the upcoming season, despite the tricky start as a result of the weather.
“The weather did kind of go wacky over the last few weeks,” Munger said. “We had summer back in March. Nevertheless, we seem to be right on the button here. We’ve got enough indoor space to shuffle things around and get things done.”
All of the area boatyards are busy this weekend preparing boats for Friday’s start of the Newport Bermuda Race, and Conanicut Marine is no exception. According to Munger, he’s seen many of his regular customers, plus a few new ones.
“It’s always fun to see a lot of faces that we’ve seen for many years, and of course the new faces are always good too,” Munger said. “We’re clocking along right on schedule, no hiccups. We’re grateful that these folks still stop in to see us as they’re getting ready for the big race.”
While the upcoming America’s Cup World Series and Ocean State Tall Ships Festival are expected to generate increased activities for all of the local businesses, Munger reports that there is still some space remaining at the marina.
“For a couple of days during the America’s Cup, we are sold out, but we have some room for people who are flexible,” he said. “We still have some space during Tall Ships.”
Despite the difficult economy, Munger says that the success of this season will depend in large part on the same factors that usually affect his business. “We’re feeling positive,” he said. “If the sun will shine, people will be happy and everybody will be moving around. That’s what it’s all about.”
Operations at Jamestown Boat Yard were similarly affected by the weather this spring. According to Clem Napolitano, “We had spring in March, and then we had winter in May.”
Napolitano said that although his yard was thrown for a loop by the weather conditions, the same conditions that affected his operations affected his customers.
“They look out the window and see that it’s raining and it’s cold, and they don’t want to be out on the water,” said Napolitano, who is a managing partner at JBY. “So the fact that their boat isn’t out on the water gives us a reprieve.”
Napolitano went on to say that although the weather worked to the detriment of his yard by causing a delay in getting boats into the water, it also worked to their benefit because owners didn’t want their boats in the water. “It all evened out,” he said.
Napolitano also said that the difficult economy has resulted in some price pressure from customers. “We need the work because we keep 25 guys busy all year round, so we succumb to that pressure on occasion depending on what the workload is at the time.”
But he remained optimistic, saying, “We definitely see the economy changing for the better.”
Napolitano, like Munger, says that this week has been particularly busy as his yard prepares boats for the Newport Bermuda Race, an event that brings increased business, but not necessarily increased financial gain.
“It’s more hectic than profit,” Napolitano said. “Some customers come from out of town on a regular basis just to get prepared for this race, and to do their one month of cruising in the Northeast. It’s an accommodation for our customers. We’ll jump through hoops for them. It’s not really a moneymaker because it’s so hectic.”
Although moorings are not the primary business at Jamestown Boat Yard, Napolitano reports that moorings for June and July are booked more than they normally are as a result of interest in the two big events coming to Narragansett Bay.
As a result of its work on the Clingstone dock, and the boats associated with the property, Jamestown Boat Yard gets the use of the property for a stretch of time each year. This year that will allow the yard to bring customers and guests to the prime-viewing venue during the practice racing for the America’s Cup.
On the west side of the island, things are humming along at the Dutch Harbor Boat Yard, which was featured in the June issue of Yachting Magazine. According to owner Alison Eichler, the yard was able to get boats in the water earlier than usual this year, resulting in happy customers.
This summer’s special events are also having a positive impact on Dutch Harbor. “We are seeing earlier bookings for transient rentals because people want to make sure that they have a spot so that they can participate in all of these exciting events,” she said.
In addition to the traditional yard activities, there are some new developments at Dutch Harbor. The on-site restaurant is back in operation, but this year it has new management.
“The Shack is doing incredibly well with the new management from Jamestown Fish,” Eichler said
Also new at Dutch Harbor is the presence of Latitude Yacht Brokers, which has taken occupancy of one of the yard’s buildings. Latitude sells pre-owned cruising, racing and offshore yachts.
“We are really excited to have Latitude join the Dutch Harbor facility,” Eichler said. “They are a really professional, well-regarded operation, and they’ve done a beautiful job renovating the building that they’re in. They’ve made a beautiful space for themselves.”
Eichler, who was appointed by the governor to work on the state America’s Cup Host Committee, said that her work on the event has had a positive effect on her business.
“Being involved on the America’s Cup Host Committee has been very positive for Dutch Harbor,” Eichler said. “It has helped to raise our profile in the sailing community.”